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The Lincoln index (Peterson method) is frequently used to estimate animal population size in mark-release-recapture studies. We tested the accuracy of this method to estimate termite colony size using logs infested with termites that were maintained in the laboratory. Termites were fed paper towels dyed either with 0.05% or 0.1% (w/w) of the dye marker Nile blue and released into their host logs in the laboratory. Following recapture a week later, estimates of termite population size for termites dyed with 0.05% Nile blue, and were approximately 3 times greater for termites dyed with 0.1% Nile blue. Concentrations of 0.1% Nile blue are not used in field studies because they result in higher mortality than 0.05% in laboratory trials. However, our data suggest that greater accuracy may be obtained using the higher dye concentration. The triple-catch method is frequently used in place of the Lincoln index in order to reduce standard errors of the estimate. However, our standard errors were lower than those of many published studies using the triple-catch method. The assumptions governing the efficacy of mark-release-recapture may be violated because of the potential model biases that result from developing marking techniques in the laboratory that are intended for field use.


© 1997 Anthony D. Curtis and Deborah A. Waller.

Published under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0) License.

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Curtis, A. D., & Waller, D. A. (1997). Problems with the interpretation of mark-release-recapture data in subterranean termites (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae). Sociobiology, 30(3), 233-241.


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