An American termite in Paris: temporal colony dynamics

Abstract

Termites of the genus Reticulitermes are widespread invaders, particularly in urban habitats. Their cryptic and subterranean lifestyle makes them difficult to detect, and we know little about their colony dynamics over time. In this study we examined the persistence of Reticulitermes flavipes (Kollar) colonies in the city of Paris over a period of 15 years. The aim was (1) to define the boundaries of colonies sampled within the same four areas over two sampling periods, (2) to determine whether the colonies identified during the first sampling period persisted to the second sampling period, and (3) to compare the results obtained when colonies were delineated using a standard population genetic approach versus a Bayesian clustering method that combined both spatial and genetic information. Herein, colony delineations were inferred from genetic differences at nine microsatellite loci and one mitochondrial locus. Four of the 18 identified colonies did not show significant differences in their genotype distributions between the two sampling periods. While allelic richness was low, making it hard to reliably distinguish colony family type, most colonies appeared to retain the same breeding structure over time. These large and expansive colonies showed an important ability to fuse (39% were mixed-family colonies), contained hundreds of reproductives and displayed evidence of isolation-by-distance, suggesting budding dispersal. These traits, which favor colony persistence over time, present a challenge for pest control efforts, which apply treatment locally. The other colonies showed significant differences, but we cannot exclude the possibility that their genotype distributions simply changed over time.

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Acknowledgements

This study is a part of G. Baudouin’s PhD research. We are grateful to Tony Dié and Matthieu Vachon of Pharmabois Company for providing some of the 2016 samples. We also wish to thank Claude Marès and Sylvain Genty of Paris City Hall for sharing their knowledge on termite infestations in the city and providing access to infested buildings. We wish to thank J. Pearce for her English editing services. This work was funded by a contract to A-G Bagnères between the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and the city of Paris (Direction du Logement et de l’Habitat).

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Correspondence to Anne-Geneviève Bagnères.

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Baudouin, G., Dedeine, F., Bech, N. et al. An American termite in Paris: temporal colony dynamics. Genetica 145, 491–502 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10709-017-9991-9

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Keywords

  • Social insects
  • Colony delineation
  • Reticulitermes flavipes
  • Urban pest
  • GENELAND