Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 23, Issue 10, pp 2371–2381

Feeding Stimulating Signal in Labial Gland Secretion of the Subterranean Termite Reticulitermes santonensis


  • Judith Reinhard
    • Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und -prüfung, Labor IV.11
  • Horst Hertel
    • Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und -prüfung, Labor IV.11
  • Manfred Kaib
    • Universität Bayreuth, Lehrstuhl Tierphysiologie

DOI: 10.1023/B:JOEC.0000006680.96008.48

Cite this article as:
Reinhard, J., Hertel, H. & Kaib, M. J Chem Ecol (1997) 23: 2371. doi:10.1023/B:JOEC.0000006680.96008.48


The paired labial glands of the French subterranean termite Reticulitermes santonensis Feytaud are located in the thorax. In the head, the glandular ducts join with those of the water sacs. In feeding choice tests with two semicircles of moist filter paper as food, workers of R. santonensis preferred the semicircle treated with labial gland extract compared to the semicircle treated with water (control). The labial gland secretion carries a signal that stimulates gnawing and feeding by termite workers during food exploitation. The extract of the labial gland even elicited feeding behavior when applied without food (on glass plates). The content of the water sacs was not effective as a feeding stimulus and neither were different body parts except for the fat-body. Water sacs are thus not a reservoir for the labial gland secretion, but their contents may serve as a solvent or carrier for the phagostimulant signal. The signal is highly polar, heat-resistant, nonvolatile, and thus very persistent. There is evidence that the signal from the labial gland is not species specific. Instead, it might be part of a general strategy by termites to exploit food sources.

Termiteschemical communicationexocrine glandpheromonesfeeding behaviorfeeding aggregationphagostimulant
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© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1997