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ARS Home » Plains Area » Kerrville, Texas » Knipling-Bushland U.S. Livestock Insects Research Laboratory » LAPRU » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #342033

Research Project: Cattle Fever Tick Control and Eradication

Location: Livestock Arthropod Pests Research

Title: Social interactions in the central nest of Coptotermes formosanus juvenile colonies

Author
item Du, He - University Of Florida
item Chouvenc, Thomas - University Of Florida
item Osbrink, Weste
item Su, Nan-yao - University Of Florida

Submitted to: Insectes Sociaux
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/14/2016
Publication Date: 2/16/2016
Citation: Du, H., Chouvenc, T., Osbrink, W.L., Su, N. 2016. Social interactions in the central nest of Coptotermes formosanus juvenile colonies. Insectes Sociaux. 63:279-290.

Interpretive Summary: Where it occurs, the Formosan termite is the most devastating termite pest in the world, and is well established in the south eastern part of the United States. Whole colonies with a king and queen were studied in large ant farms to determine interactions of termites in their central nest. Young workers performed most of the grooming of individuals in the central nest, while older workers provided nest maintenance and sanitation by collecting fecal matter from most nest mates. In addition, older workers were mostly in charge of caring for the primary reproductives and the maintenance of the royal chamber. This study is the first to identify age differences in behavior, known as polyethism, in Formosan termites.

Technical Abstract: Juvenile colonies of Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki were investigated to determine the social interactions among all individuals near the central nest of a colony. The behavioral repertoire of whole colonies of subterranean termites has yet to be identified because of their cryptic nests. Colonies were placed in planar arenas, and their behavioral repertoire and activities were recorded with video cameras. All castes and larval instars were determined and behavioral interactions were monitored and described, including feeding behaviors, grooming, nest maintenance, and inactivity. When two termites interacted, it was also determined which one was the donor or the recipient of the act. An ethogram was constructed by calculating relative frequency of each behavior for first instar larvae, second instar larvae, first instar workers, second instar workers or older, queen, king, soldiers and pre-soldiers. Larval instars, primary reproductives and soldiers were mostly passive during interactions. Workers performed most of the tasks; however, there was a difference of task divisions among worker instars. Young workers (W1) performed most of the grooming of individuals in the central nest, while older workers (W2) provided nest maintenance and sanitation by collecting fecal matter from most nest mates. Additionally, older workers were mostly in charge of caring for the primary reproductives and the maintenance of the royal chamber. This study identified instar-specific activities and provides a first insight into caste and age polyethism in C. formosanus.