Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki colonies are founded by a pair of alates, i.e. winged adults, formed each year during the swarming season, between late April and June. It is generally assumed that alates fly to the closest light source, drop their wings and participate in tandem running, where they pair up and found new colonies with their mates. This study employs microsatellite genotyping and assignment testing to determine whether colonies in nearby inground monitoring stations are the source for alates in swarm aggregations.
During a mass swarm event in June of 2003, alates from five swarm aggregations were collected with light traps from the French Quarter of New Orleans, La. Forty alates from each swarm aggregation were genotyped at eight microsatellite loci. Twenty workers each from 23 inground monitoring stations, active during the swarming season and closest in proximity to swarm aggregations, were sampled and genotyped at the same loci. First, the most genetically similar colony was identified for each individual alate using genetic distance-based likelihood calculations. Subsequently, colony membership of each alate was confirmed or rejected by testing whether its multilocus genotype was part of the colony’s genetic profile.
Preliminary data show that only a small fraction of individual alates could be assigned to colonies occupying nearby inground stations. The majority of the alates originated from termite infestations that are not accounted for by the investigated inground stations. This suggests that the majority of alates originate from either distant inground stations or sources other than inground stations, such as aerial colonies.