This study examined soil cation concentration gradients around decomposing logs and determined whether Reticulitermes flavipes (Kollar) (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae) builds galleries in soil substrates containing those cations versus soils without, presumably in an effort to forage efficiently. Soil samples were collected at different depths and lateral distances from decomposing logs containing termites, freshly fallen logs without termites, and bare soil locations at 10 sites to determine whether cation gradients existed in a forest floor. Analyses of cation gradients were significant for potassium, calcium, and magnesium; however, only potassium showed a significant gradient where concentrations decreased with depth and lateral distance from a decomposing log. R. flavipes was then tested in laboratory bioassays to determine if they were attracted to salt cation solutions. Linear foraging distance was significantly greater in artificial K2CO3 gradients than in controls. The results from this study suggest that potassium is found in gradients around decomposing logs and that R. flavipes is attracted to this cation.
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Vol. 104 • No. 2