Submitted to: Journal of Insect Physiology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: March 8, 2004
Publication Date: June 1, 2004
Citation: Park, Y.I., Bland, J.M., Raina, A.K. 2004. Factors affecting post-flight behavior in primary reproductives of the Formosan subterranean termite, Coptotermes formosanus shiraki (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae). Journal of Insect Physiology. 50(6):539-546. Interpretive Summary: The Formosan subterranean termite, a pest of great economic importance, infests wooden structures and live trees in several southern states and Hawaii. Colonies comprising of up to several million individuals are cryptic in behavior with only the winged adults swarming out of their nests between April and June. These winged adults, after a relatively short flight, drop their wings and form tandem pairs with female in the lead. Upon finding a suitable nesting place the pairs establish new colonies. Not much is known about the chemical and physical cues that mediate pairing. We discovered a chemical associated with a pair of glands present at the tip of the female's abdomen. We have shown that this chemical together with specialized hairs located on the sides of the female play a role in reproductive behavior. We also found that the above chemical may act as a nuptial gift provided by the female to the male. The information, besides providing a better understanding of the reproductive behavior in FST, can be useful to us and other researchers in developing strategies for disruption of this behavior to prevent formation of new colonies.
Technical Abstract: After swarming, reproductive dealates of the Formosan subterranean termite, Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki, run together in tandem. The tandem running is an age-related behavioral activity in C. formosanus. Less than 6-day-old, pre-flight alates, which were artificially dealated, did not evoke this behavior. Female age was more important than male age. Females and males, older than 35 days, did not exhibit this behavior. Mating status was not important for female and male dealates to form the tandem pairs. The titers of the tergal gland component, trilinolein, did not decline significantly and remained high, not only in virgin females, but also in mated females for a period of time after swarming. On the other hand, dealated males obtained increasing amounts of the female-specific compound, trilinolein, 7, 14, and 42 days after pairing. This suggests that trilinolein in the females might be transferred to the males as a nuptial gift in C. formosanus. In addition, females have structurally different lateral setae that may constitute a morphological factor involved in the tandem behavior in this species. Treating the setae with DMSO prevented the tandem behavior.