Termites in Anoxia?

The ability to survive changing environmental conditions has enabled certain insects to exist for millions of years. Termites, for example, have inhabited Earth for around 200 million years, and some species have the ability to survive periods of anoxia (Henderson 2001). Termites cost the United States close to 2 billion dollars annually (Kowalsick 2004). The reason for this is because landscape mulches are a source of cellulose, which attracts termites and may lead to house damage (Duryea et al 1999). In areas that flood for days or weeks at a time, termites can still pose problems to wooden structures. Therefore, it is beneficial to understand the physiology of termites and to explore how anoxic conditions affect the consumption rate of termites.

The Eastern subterranean termite, Reticulitermes flavipes, is native to the United States. It is one of the most common and widespread species of termites in the eastern region of North America and ranges from Toronto, Ontario to the gulf coast and eastward from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic coast (Krishna 1970). Along with the southern subterranean termite, R. virginicus, R. flavipes has the ability to forage for food 75 meters from the colony. Ninety-five percent of termite damage to wood comes from these two species (Duryea et al 1999).

Figure 1. Range of Easter Subterranean Termite