The Formosan subterranean termite, Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki, is an invasive species in many parts of the world, including the U.S. mainland. The reasons for its invasive success may have to do with the flexible social and spatial organization of colonies. We investigated the population and breeding structure of 14 C. formosanus colonies in Louis Armstrong Park, New Orleans, LA. This population has been the focus of extensive study for many years, providing the opportunity to relate aspects of colony breeding structure to previous findings on colony characteristics such as body weight and number of workers, wood consumption, and intercolony aggression. Eight colonies were headed by a single pair of outbred reproductives (simple families), whereas six colonies were headed by low numbers of multiple kings and/or queens that were likely the neotenic descendants of the original colony (extended families). Within the foraging area of one large extended family colony, we found genetic differentiation among different collection sites, suggesting the presence of separate reproductive centers. No significant difference between simple family colonies and extended family colonies was found in worker body weight, soldier body weight, foraging area, population size, or wood consumption. However, level of inbreeding within colonies was negatively correlated with worker body weight and positively correlated with wood consumption. Also, genetic distance between colonies was positively correlated with aggression levels, suggesting a genetic basis to nestmate discrimination cues in this termite population. No obvious trait associated with colony reproductive structure was found that could account for the invasion success of this species.
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Vol. 98 • No. 5