New Guinea contains many interesting species of tropical insects including arboreal species of termites. Rather than building nests on the ground, these termites build nests on the trunks and limbs of trees. These termites can be found infesting coconut plantations.
There are 3 primary species of arboreal termites, Nasutitermes princeps, Nasutitermes novarumhebridarum and Microcerotermes biroi. Nasutitermes novarumhebridarum has small colonies in dead or dying trees and does not compete with the other species found in healthy trees.
Nasutitermes princeps is both a larger termite and has larger colonies than Microcerotermes biroi. Nasutitermes princeps will travel beyond its foraging territory, attack and displace colonies of Microcerotermes biroi. This behavior leaves zones of coconut trees unoccupied by any of the arboreal termite species. However, exclusion may not persist long. Microcerotermes biroi reproduces by swarms of winged reproductives. The many termite pairs can start many colonies. They rapidly reinvade areas that are not patrolled by Nasutitermes princeps.
*Maurice Leponce, Yves Roisin and Jacques M. Pasteels. Structure and Dynamics of the Arboreal Termite Community in New Guinean Coconut Plantations. BOTROPICA 29(2): 193-203 1997