Marked termites were released in a linear-connected foraging arena, and the spatial heterogeneity of their capture probabilities was averaged for both directions at distance r from release point to obtain a symmetrical distribution, from which the density function of directionally averaged capture probability P(x) was derived. We hypothesized that as marked termites move into the population and given sufficient time, the directionally averaged capture probability may reach an equilibrium Pe over the distance r and thus satisfy the equal mixing assumption of the mark–recapture protocol. The equilibrium capture probability Pe was used to estimate the population size N. The hypothesis was tested in a 50-m extended foraging arena to simulate the distance factor of field colonies of subterranean termites. Over the 42-d test period, the density functions of directionally averaged capture probability P(x) exhibited four phases: exponential decline phase, linear decline phase, equilibrium phase, and postequilibrium phase. The equilibrium capture probability Pe, derived as the intercept of the linear regression during the equilibrium phase, correctly projected N estimates that were not significantly different from the known number of workers in the arena. Because the area beneath the probability density function is a constant (50% in this study), preequilibrium regression parameters and Pe were used to estimate the population boundary distance l, which is the distance between the release point and the boundary beyond which the population is absent.
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Vol. 101 • No. 2