Research was conducted to identify various intercolony interactions in the termite Reticulitermes flavipes (Kollar). Experiments focused on two main interactions: intercolony fusion and intercolony gene flow via secondary reproductives. Particular emphasis was given to the possibility of intercolony gene flow via outbreeding in secondary reproductives.
Research on intercolony interactions showed that 50% of colony pairings resulted in behavior associated with merging. Colonies that merged shared physical space and resources and demonstrated no intercolony agonistic behavior. A new index for calculating the extent to which two colonies merge is proposed.
Microsatellite molecular data did not identify any intercolony gene exchange via secondary reproductives in R. flavipes. Microsatellite analysis of two variable loci could not resolve whether the sharing of alleles between non-nest-mates had occurred in three intercolony pairings that produced eggs and larvae. Ongoing analysis using other loci is presently in progress. This is, though, the first published report of intercolony fusion that resulted in the laying of eggs and the production of larvae.
These data shed light on intercolony dynamics in the termite, R. flavipes. Secondary reproductives may also play a role in gene flow between sympatric populations of subterranean termites. I also discuss how this information may lead to future applications in termite control.
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