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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: TERMITES: CHEMICAL AND BIOLOGICAL CONTROL FOR INTEGRATED PEST MANAGEMENT OF INVASIVE SPECIES Title: Individual behavior of workers of the Formosan subterranean termite (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae) on consecutive days of tunnel construction

Author
item Cornelius, Mary

Submitted to: Insects
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: March 16, 2012
Publication Date: March 23, 2012
Citation: Cornelius, M.L. 2012. Individual behavior of workers of the Formosan subterranean termite (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae) on consecutive days of tunnel construction. Insects. 3(2):367-377.

Interpretive Summary: Task allocation among termite workers has been well documented for open air foragers and fungus-growing termites. Because of the cryptic nature of subterranean termites, the role of individual workers in tunnel construction has not been as well studied. This study examines the individual behavior of workers of the Formosan subterranean termite on two consecutive days of tunnel construction. In each trial, a group of 30 termite workers was observed continuously during the first 60 min of construction of a new tunnel on two consecutive days. This study demonstrated that specific individuals played a key role in tunnel construction on two consecutive days. These results indicate that there is evidence of task allocation by termite workers during the construction of a new tunnel. Increasing our understanding of the behavior of individuals in tunnel construction could eventually lead to the development of novel methods of termite control.

Technical Abstract: This study examines the individual behavior of workers of the Formosan subterranean termite, Coptotermes formosanus Shirkai, on two consecutive days of tunnel construction. In each trial, a group of 30 termite workers was observed continuously during the first 60 min of construction of a new tunnel on two consecutive days. On each day, an average of 68% of individuals did not participate in tunnel construction, 19% spent < 25 min tunneling, and 13% spent = 25 min tunneling. There were specific individuals that did most of the work in the construction of new tunnels on both days. An individual that spent at least 25 min tunneling on Day 1 was significantly more likely to spend at least 25 min tunneling on Day 2 than individuals that spent < 25 min tunneling on Day 1. When individuals were ranked based on the time spent tunneling on Day 1 and Day 2, there were individuals ranked as one of the top four excavators on both days in three of the four groups. These results indicate that there is evidence of task allocation by termite workers during the construction of a new tunnel.

Last Modified: 11/27/2014
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