Chemical Mediation of Queen and King Recognition and Other Royal Communication in Subterranean Termites (Reticulitermes flavipes)

Monday, March 14, 2016: 2:24 PM
Hannover Ballroom II (Sheraton Raleigh Hotel)
Colin Funaro , Department of Biology, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA
Chemical mediation of reproductive caste is common in many eusocial insects.

Functionally sterile workers identify and tend queens or kings within the colony using

unique volatile or contact based chemicals. Many of these signals in ants, bees and

wasps consist of reproductive-specific cuticular hydrocarbons. In termites, recognition

and tending behavior towards queens and kings is not well-studied and no recognition

pheromones have been identified to date. Egg recognition pheromones and cuticular

hydrocarbons indicating fertility have been identified in a few termites, but there is little

information regarding queen and king tending behavior. I investigated the recognition

and tending behavior of reproductive individuals in the eastern subterranean termite

Reticulitermes flavipes. In many termites, including subterranean species, individuals will

sometimes shake violently while remaining in place. Although this behavior sometimes

occurs in response to various stimuli, it occurs quite conspicuously and frequently in

close proximity to reproductively active individuals. Using behavioral assays and

classical chemical ecology techniques, we documented the strong behavioral response

of termites towards neotenic (secondary) queens, kings, workers, and soldiers, and

investigated the potential chemical sources for queen and king recognition.