- Focus Areas
- Agricultural Pest Management
- Ecology/Biological Control
- Evolutionary Biology
- Freshwater and Estuarine Entomology
- Insect Pathology
- Molecular Biology, Physiology, and Molecular Genetics
- Organic Agriculture
- Pesticide Technology, Assessment, and Policy
- Urban, Structural, and Green Industries Pest Management
- Research Partners
- Research Opportunities
- Spring 2014 Colloquium
- Fall 2013 Colloquium
- Fall 2014 Colloquium
- Focus Areas
Barbara L. Thorne
Research Professor and Professor Emerita
Evolutionary biology, termite biology, evolution of eusociality, genetics, urban and structural integrated pest management
PROGRAM DESCRIPTION: My research program focuses on the biology of termites, including studies in evolution, genetics, population biology, behavioral ecology, taxonomy, and systematics.
Termites are highly social insects that form complex colony structures
with some aspects convergent to, and others that differ from, the
paradigms of social organization and evolution established in the
phylogenetically distant Hymenoptera (ants, bees, and wasps). Our
current research projects center on novel theoretical and experimental
approaches to investigate the origin and maintenance of eusociality in
termites. Eusocial colonies are cooperative societies composed mainly of
subfertile or sterile members, regarded as an evolutionary paradox
because they seem to conflict with Darwin's concept of reproductive
self-interest. Recent results offer genetic evidence supporting the
theory of Accelerated Inheritance as a driver of eusocial evolution in
termites. In studies of the primitive dampwood termite Zootermopsis nevadensis,
we discovered that offspring from both original colonies can take
advantage of early death of some kings and queens in intercolony
interactions that naturally occur in the field. Following meetings
between neighboring colonies, established reproductives die, and workers
from both families can differentiate into new reproductives and even
interbreed. Because interacting colonies are unrelated, these results
demonstrate that cooperation can evolve due to ecological circumstances
without strong relatedness among individuals. These Accelerated
Inheritance opportunities provide selective incentive for offspring to
remain in their parents' colony rather than attempt the high risk of
dispersal and low risk of independent reproductive success.
There is also an applied aspect to the program. We integrate results of basic research with the development and testing of new technologies for suppression and control of termites. The goals of this approach are to more precisely target and effectively impact termites, thereby reducing pesticide use and exposure around homes. Evaluation of inspection and treatment programs using termite baits is an example of this link between basic and applied research.
CURRENT INVOLVEMENT WITH THE INVASIVE CONEHEAD TERMITE (Nasutitermes corniger) CONTAINMENT / CONTROL / ERADICATION PROGRAM IN SOUTH FLORIDA:
Since September 2012 I have served as Science Advisor for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' efforts targeting the exotic "Conehead Termite" (Nasutitermes corniger). This species was the focus of my Ph.D. research in Central America ‘back in the day,' and I have since studied it in South America and the Caribbean. When asked by the state of Florida to get involved in trying to put the brakes on this infestation I felt I had to do my best to step up and help out. Here is a brief status report from "Coneheadquarters" :
The exotic conehead termite, Nasutitermes corniger, was discovered in Dania Beach, Florida (Ft. Lauderdale metropolitan area) in 2001. These adaptable termites have potential to infest structures and natural habitats across a broad geographic range, with decisive economic consequences. Coneheads have expansive tastes, eagerly consuming dead wood from trees (including citrus), shrubs, roots, structures, and furniture as well as cardboard and other paper products. Eradication of this invasive species may be possible because older colonies build conspicuous foraging tunnels and nests, so unlike subterranean termites, careful inspection can reveal conehead activity.
Several neighborhoods and natural areas, all within Dania Beach, are the focus of Florida's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service's aggressive inspection, containment, and control efforts targeting these termites. The program has made substantial progress controlling the termite on residential properties, although continued vigilant monitoring is essential because, especially as young colonies, coneheads may occupy an area for years before showing visible signs of activity.
Eradicating coneheads from overgrown woodlands and wetlands is an immense challenge. The key strategy is to clear and remove enormous quantities of dead cellulose (trees, shrubs, grass, litter) that coneheads use for food and harborage. Removing debris from natural areas has helped deplete termite food, and also facilitates improved inspections and termiticide applications.
Intensive actions are urgent to halt the species before it spreads further and becomes a powerfully damaging, expensive, obnoxious, and permanent pest.
- Howard, K.J., P.M. Johns, N.L. Breisch and B.L. Thorne. 2013. Frequent colony fusions provide opportunities for helpers to become reproductives in the termite Zootermopsis nevadensis. Behavioral Ecology & Sociobiology 67: 1575-1585.
- Thorne, B.L. 2013. Rebooting Florida's Effort to Crush the Invasive 'Conehead Termite,' Nasutitermes corniger. Pest Perspectives Mar/April 2013, pp. 8-13.
- Johnson, S.E., N.L. Breisch, B. Momen and B.L. Thorne. 2011. Morphology and gonad development of normal soldiers and reproductive soldiers of the termite Zootermopsis nevadensis nevadensis (Isoptera: Archotermopsidae) ZooKeys, Issue 148, doi: 10.3897/zookeys.148.1672
- Johnson, S.E., M. Lenz, C. Vongkaluang, S. Chitibhapakorn, K. Chareonkrung and B.L. Thorne. 2010. Archotermopsis sp. (Isoptera, Termopsidae) of Northern Thailand: Gonad Development in Soldiers and Description of Neotenic Pair, with General Observations on Life-History, Sociobiology, 55: 145-152.
- Johns, P.M., K.J. Howard, N.L. Breisch, A. Rivera and B.L. Thorne. 2009. Nonrelatives inherit colony resources in a primitive termite. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A., 106:17452-17456. Highlight in Nature (15 October 2009, Vol. 461, p. 851) "When colonies collide" regarding this work. NSF's coverage of this research, Homebound Termites Answer 150 Year Old Evolution Question (includes slide show) PCT magazine featured the work in a short article Et Tu, Zootermopsis (March 2010, pp. 50-51).
- Long, C.E., B.L. Thorne and N.L. Breisch. 2007. Termite colony ontogeny: supplemental reproductive lifespan, female neotenic production and colony size in Reticulitermes flavipes (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae). Bulletin of Entomological Research 97: 321-325.
- Long, C.E. and B.L. Thorne. 2006. Resource fidelity, brood distribution and foraging dynamics in laboratory colonies of Reticulitermes flavipes (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae). Ethology, Ecology, and Entomology 18: 113-125.
- Long,C.E., E.L. Vargo, B.L. Thorne and T.R. Juba. 2006. Genetic analysis of breeding structure in laboratory-reared colonies of Reticulitermes flavipes (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae). Florida Entomologist89(4): 521-523.
- Long, C.E. and B.L. Thorne. 2006. Resource fidelity and brood distribution in laboratory colonies of eastern subterranean termites. Pest Control Technology, May 2006, pp. 62-68.
- Thorne, B.L., J.F.A. Traniello, M. Lenz and B.M. Kard. 2004. Search and Destroy: Termite Foraging Behavior and What it Means About Effective Termite IPM. Pest Control Technology, February 2004: 44-48.
- Thorne, B.L., N.L. Breisch and M.L. Muscedere. 2003. Evolution of eusociality and the soldier caste in termites: Influence of accelerated inheritance. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 100(22) 12808-12813.
- Thorne, B.L. and J.F.A. Traniello. 2003. Comparative social biology of basal taxa of ants and termites. Annual Review of Entomology 48: 283-306.
- Thorne, B.L. and J.F.A. Traniello. 2003. Light at the End of the Tunnel. Pest Control Technology, May 2003: 90-101.
- Long, C.E., B.L. Thorne and N.L. Breisch. 2003. Termite colony ontogeny: a long-term assessment of reproductive lifespan, caste ratios and colony size in Reticulitermes flavipes (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae). Bulletin of Entomological Research 93: 439-445.
- Long, C.E., B.L. Thorne and N.L. Breisch. 2003. Long Live the Queen: New University of Maryland Research Reveals Termite Colony Secrets. Pest Control Technology, March 2003: 78-82.
- Thorne, B.L., N.L. Breisch and M.I. Haverty. 2002. Longevity of kings and queens and first time of production of fertile progeny in dampwood termite (Isoptera; Termopsidae; Zootermopsis)) colonies with different reproductive structures. Journal of Animal Ecology 71: 1030-1041.
- Thorne, B.L. and M. Lenz. 2001. Population and colony structure of Stolotermes inopinus and S. ruficeps (Isoptera; Stolotermitinae) in New Zealand. The New Zealand Entomologist 24: 63-70.
- Long, C.E., B.L. Thorne, N.L. Breisch and L. Douglass. 2001. The effect of inorganic landscape mulches on subterranean termite (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae) foraging activity. Journal of Environmental Entomology 30: 832-836.
- Denno, R.F., D.J. Hawthorne and B.L. Thorne. 2001. Reduced flight capability in British Virgin Island populations of a wing-dimorphic insect: role of habitat isolation, persistence, and structure. Ecological Entomology 26: 25-36.
- Thorne, B.L. and N.L. Breisch. 2001. Effects of sublethal exposure to imidacloprid on the subsequent behavior of the subterranean termite Reticulitermes virginicus (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae). Journal of Economic Entomology 94: 492-498.
- Thorne, B.L. and B.T. Forschler. 2000. Criteria for assessing efficacy of stand-alone termite bait treatments. Sociobiology 36: 245-255.
- Klass, K.D., B.L. Thorne, & M. Lenz. 2000. The male postabdomen of Stolotermes: termites with unusually well-developed external genitalia (Dictyoptera: Isoptera: Termopsidae). Acta Zoologica 81: 121-130.
- Suarez, M.E. and B.L. Thorne. 2000. Effects of food type and foraging distance on trophallaxis in the subterranean termite Reticulitermes virginicus (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae). Sociobiology 35: 487-498.
- Suarez, M.E. and B.L. Thorne. 2000. Rate, amount, and distribution pattern of ailimentary fluid transfer via trophallaxis in three species of termites (Isoptera; Termopsidae, Rhinotermitidae). Annals of the Entomological Society of America 93: 145-155.
- Thorne, B.L. and M.I. Haverty. 2000. Nest growth and survivorship in three species of Neotropical Nasutitermes (Isoptera: Termitidae). Environmental Entomology 29: 256-264.
- Thorne, B.L., D.A. Grimaldi and K. Krishna. 2000. Early fossil history of termites. In: Abe, T., D.E. Bignell, and M. Higashi (eds.) Termites: Evolution, Sociality, Symbioses, Ecology, pp. 77-93. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, The Netherlands.
- Thorne, B.L., J.F.A. Traniello, E.S. Adams and M. Bulmer. 1999. Reproductive dynamics and colony structure of subterranean termites of the genus Reticulitermes (Isoptera; Rhinotermitidae): a review of evidence from behavioral, ecological, and genetic studies. Ethology, Ecology, and Evolution 11: 149-169.
- Thorne, B.L. 1998. Biology of Subterranean Termites of the Genus Reticulitermes. Part I, Research Report on Subterranean Termites, pp. 1-30. National Pest Control Association, Dunn Loring, Virginia.
- Haverty, M.I., M.S. Collins, L.J. Nelson and B.L. Thorne. 1997. Cuticular hydrocarbons of the termites of the British Virgin Islands (Isoptera: Kalotermitidae, Rhinotermitidae, Termitidae). Journal of Chemical Ecology 23 (4): 927-964.
- Thorne, B.L., N. L. Breisch, and J.F.A. Traniello. 1997. Incipient colony development in the subterranean termite Reticulitermes flavipes (Kollar) (Isoptera; Rhinotermitidae). Sociobiology 30: 145-159.
- Thorne, B.L. 1997. Evolution of Eusociality in Termites. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 28: 27-54.
- Thorne, B.L., E. Russek-Cohen, B.T. Forschler, N.L. Breisch and J.F.A. Traniello. 1996. Evaluation of mark-release-recapture methods for estimating forager population size of subterranean termite colonies. Environmental Entomology 25(5): 938-951.
- Thorne, B.L. 1996. King and Queen Termites: Just the Beginnings of a Complex Colony. Pest Control Technology, 24(5): 46-95.
United States Patents:
- Thorne, B.L. and J.F.A. Traniello. 1994. System for Termite Detection and Control. U.S. Patent #5,329,726.
- Thorne, B.L. and J.F.A. Traniello. 1996. System for Termite Detection and Control. U.S. Patent #5,555,672.
- Thorne, B.L. and J.F.A. Traniello. 1996. Methods and Compositions to Monitor and Control Termites. U.S. Patent #5,573,760.
- Thorne, B.L. 1999. Chemical-Free Method for Detection and Removal of Head Lice. U.S. Patent #6,006,758.
Awards and Honors:
- College of Life Sciences Teaching and Course Development Award, University of Maryland, Spring 2000
- Orkin Award for Research Excellence 1999
- Recognition for Outstanding Service to Returning Students, University of Maryland, College Park October 1998
- Member of the University of Maryland Urban Integrated Pest Management Team receiving the 1996 U.S.
- Department of Agriculture Secretary's Honor Award, Group Category
- Lilly Fellow, Center for Teaching Excellence, University of Maryland 1995-1996
- College of Agriculture, University of Maryland. 1995. Junior Faculty Award.
- Orkin Award for Research Excellence. 1995.
- Eastern Branch of the Entomological Society of America. 1995. Distinguished Achievement Award in Urban Entomology.
- Eastern Branch of the Entomological Society of America. 1994. Distinguished Achievement Award in Urban Entomology.
- Ph.D. 1983 Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University
- M.A. 1978 Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University
- B.A. 1976 Biology, Brown University