Insectes Sociaux

, Volume 66, Issue 3, pp 403–411 | Cite as

Wood excavation, construction, and architecture in two Reticulitermes subterranean termites

  • L. Berville
  • E. DarrouzetEmail author
Research Article


Collective constructions are marvels of complexity, composed of networks of tunnels and chambers. However, it is difficult to study subterranean nests without using invasive techniques because the nests are built within pieces of wood and/or in the soil. Using computerized tomography scans and medical imaging software (OsiriX), we were able to observe nest creation, constructions, and architecture of two subterranean termite species. We monitor the nests’ growth in three dimensions built by two Reticulitermes species: R. grassei, a species native to Europe, and R. flavipes, an invasive species introduced from North America, over a several month period. Doing so, we wanted to know whether the construction of the nest could participate to the invasive success of R. flavipes. Although the two species displayed some similarities (i.e., nest creation, chamber size, and levels of wood consumption), only R. flavipes built interior structures. Some of these structures changed over time and thus might play a role in the trade-off between wood consumption, colony protection, and environmental homeostasis.


Animal architecture Tomography Reticulitermes flavipes R. grassei Self-organized structures Social insects 



We gratefully acknowledge J. Pearce for her English revisions. We would like to thank S. Dupont for rearing the termite colonies in the laboratory and D. Herbreteau for letting us use the CT scanner at Tours Hospital.

Supplementary material

40_2019_696_MOESM1_ESM.jpg (1.7 mb)
Supplementary material 1 Supplementary Figure 1. Two-dimensional DICOM scans of Reticulitermes nests. On the top right, a colony of R. grassei termites at T0 crawling out of the wood. On the top left, a colony of R. flavipes termites (colony n°3) at T3. On the bottom left, a colony of R. flavipes termites (colony n°1) at T5. And, on the bottom left, R. flavipes colony (n°4) at T7 (JPG 1699 KB)
40_2019_696_MOESM2_ESM.jpg (1.5 mb)
Supplementary material 2 Supplementary Figure 2. Three-dimensional images of R. flavipes nest (colony n°2) after 100 days, where sand-based can be distinguished (yellow). Here, areas in which wood is present have been artificially removed to allow the chambers (white) to observed (JPG 1555 KB)
40_2019_696_MOESM3_ESM.wmv (2.2 mb)
Supplementary material 3 Supplementary Video 1. Two-dimensional DICOM scans of R. flavipes nest (colony n°4) after 202 days (WMV 2224 KB)
40_2019_696_MOESM4_ESM.wmv (1.8 mb)
Supplementary material 4 Supplementary Video 2a and 2b. Three-dimensional images of R. grassei nest (colony n°2) after 65 and 202 days (WMV 1864 KB)
40_2019_696_MOESM5_ESM.wmv (1.6 mb)
Supplementary material 5 Supplementary Video 2a and 2b (WMV 1685 KB)


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Copyright information

© International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.IRBI, UMR CNRS 7261, University of ToursToursFrance

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