Insectes Sociaux

, Volume 58, Issue 4, pp 513–518 | Cite as

Workers do not mediate the inhibitory power of queens in a termite, Reticulitermes speratus (Isoptera, Rhinotermitidae)

  • K. MatsuuraEmail author
  • Y. Yamamoto
Research Article


In social insects, the caste systems are based on reproductive division of labor; queens specialize in reproduction and workers primarily maintain the colony. Recently, a volatile pheromone containing n-butyl-n-butyrate and 2-methyl-1-butanol was identified as a termite queen pheromone that inhibits the differentiation of female neotenic reproductives (secondary queens). Although this volatile inhibitory pheromone regulates caste differentiation directly, the method by which it reaches members without direct contact with the queen in large colonies is not well understood. Therefore, additional mechanisms of indirect communication must exist, such as worker-mediated queen signal transport. We found that workers exposed to female reproductives did not mediate queens’ inhibitory signal in a termite Reticulitermes speratus. The experiment assessed worker transfer from direct to indirect contact groups and determined that the differentiation of new female reproductives in the indirect contact groups was not influenced by the direct contact groups, whereas direct contact with functional female reproductives and artificial queen pheromone did suppress neotenic differentiation. This suggests that worker transfer of the queen signal is unlikely and that for colony-wide inhibition direct contact by the majority of infertile members with reproductives or eggs, which emit the same volatiles as female reproductives, is necessary within a certain time interval.


Queen pheromone Caste differentiation Inhibitory pheromone Social insects Reproductive conflict 



We thank C. Himuro, T. Yokoi, and T. Yashiro for research assistance, and E.L. Vargo and L. Keller for helpful discussion. This work was supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (K.M.) and the Program for Promotion of Basic research Activities for Innovative Biosciences (K.M.).


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Copyright information

© International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI) 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate School of Environmental ScienceOkayama UniversityOkayamaJapan

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