Insectes Sociaux

, Volume 63, Issue 2, pp 279–290 | Cite as

Social interactions in the central nest of Coptotermes formosanus juvenile colonies

  • H. DuEmail author
  • T. Chouvenc
  • W. L. A. Osbrink
  • N.-Y. Su
Research Article


Juvenile colonies of Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki were investigated to determine the social interactions among all individuals near the central nest of a colony. The behavioral repertoire of whole colonies of subterranean termites has yet to be identified because of their cryptic nests. Colonies were placed in planar arenas, and their behavioral repertoire and activities were recorded with video cameras. All castes and larval instars were determined and behavioral interactions were monitored and described, including feeding behaviors, grooming, nest maintenance, and inactivity. When two termites interacted, it was also determined which one was the donor or the recipient of the act. An ethogram was constructed by calculating relative frequency of each behavior for first instar larvae, second instar larvae, first instar workers, second instar workers or older, queen, king, soldiers and presoldiers. Larval instars, primary reproductives and soldiers were mostly passive during interactions. Workers performed most of the tasks; however, there was a difference of task divisions among worker instars. Young workers (W 1) performed most of the grooming of individuals in the central nest, while older workers (W 2+) provided nest maintenance and sanitation, by collecting fecal matter from most nest mates. In addition, older workers were mostly in charge of caring for the primary reproductives and the maintenance of the royal chamber. This study identified instar-specific activities and provides a first insight into caste and age polyethism in C. formosanus.


Trophallaxis Proctodeal feeding Stomodeal feeding Wood consumption Grooming Brood care 



We thank R. Pepin for technical assistance and Aaron Mullins and two anonymous reviewers for useful comments.

Supplementary material

40_2016_464_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (293 kb)
Supplementary material 1 The Electronic Supplementary Material (ESM 1) includes the description of all behaviors observed in juvenile colonies of Copototermes formosanus, additional references, and the supplementary Figure S1. (PDF 293 kb)


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Copyright information

© International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. Du
    • 1
    Email author
  • T. Chouvenc
    • 1
  • W. L. A. Osbrink
    • 2
  • N.-Y. Su
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Entomology and Nematology, Ft. Lauderdale Research and Education Center, Institute of Food and Agricultural SciencesUniversity of FloridaFt. LauderdaleUSA
  2. 2.Knipling-Bushland U.S. Livestock Insects Research LabUSDA Agricultural Research ServiceKerrvilleUSA

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