Quantitative variations of Constrictotermes cyphergaster (Isoptera) instars over time in a Neotropical semiarid ecosystem

  • E. F. Lucena
  • A. Vasconcellos
  • A. O. Lopes
  • F. M. S. MouraEmail author
Research Article


The presence and relative proportion of termite castes can vary according to both intrinsic characteristics of the colony and in response to external stimuli. Constrictotermes cyphergaster is a Neotropical termite that demonstrates high densities of arboreal nests in open vegetation ecosystems in Brazil. Numerical variations of the instars in 30 nests of this specie were analyzed over 1 year in the semiarid Caatinga vegetation of northeastern Brazil. The number of individuals per instar was estimated from five subsamples (5 ml) taken from each colony. The abundance of most instars varied significantly among the nests sampled within the same month. Between months, there was significant numerical variation in the numbers of second instar larvae, workers, presoldiers, soldiers and fifth instar nymphs. In the nymphal line, only the fourth instar was found in all months, whereas alates were only found in February, the month with the highest recorded rainfall. With increasing proximity of the swarming event, there was an increase in the differentiation of last two nymphal instars, with subsequent investment in the differentiation of apterous instars and the emergence of early nymphal instars. These results indicate that differentiation of the instars of C. cyphergaster is synchronized with the regional climatic cycle and the annual production of alates. However, there was substantial numerical variation between the instars of the colonies sampled at the same time points, suggesting that factors intrinsic to the colony can generate heterogeneous feedback along with responses to environmental factors.


Population structure Castes Swarming Annual cycle Neotropical region 



The authors gratefully thank the owner of the Fazenda Moreiras for logistical support during this study.

Supplementary material

40_2019_707_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (287 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 288 kb)
40_2019_707_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (28 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 29 kb)
40_2019_707_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (213 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (PDF 213 kb)
40_2019_707_MOESM4_ESM.pdf (190 kb)
Supplementary material 4 (PDF 191 kb)


  1. Bandeira AG, Vasconcellos A (2002) A quantitative survey of termites in a gradient of disturbed highland forest in Northeastern Brazil (Isoptera). Sociobiology 39:429–439Google Scholar
  2. Banerjee B (1966) A statistical study of the population of the tropical mound building termite Odontotermes redemanni (Wasmann). Insect Soc 13:29–38. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barbosa JRC, Moura FMS, Bandeira AG, Vasconcellos A (2012) Caste differentiation pathways in the Neotropical termite Armitermes holmgreni (Isoptera: Termitidae). Zool Sci 29:738–742. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bodot P (1969) Composition des colonies de termites: ses fluctuations au cours du temps. Insect Soc 16:39–53. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Constantino R (1998) Catalog of the living termites of the new world (Insecta: Isoptera). Arq Zool 35:135–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Constantino R (1999) Chave ilustrada para identificação dos gêneros de cupins (Insecta: Isoptera) que ocorrem no Brasil. Papéis Avulsos de Zoologia 40:387–448Google Scholar
  7. Cristaldo PF, Rosa CS, Florencio DF, Marins A, DeSouza O (2012) Termitarium volume as a determinant of invasion by obligatory termitophiles and inquilines in the nests of Constrictotermes cyphergaster (Termitidae, Nasutitermitinae). Insect Soc 59:541–554. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cristaldo PF, Almeida CS, Cruz NG, Ribeiro EJM, Rocha MLC, Santos AA, Santana AS, Araújo APA (2018) The role of resource density on energy allocation in the neotropical termite Nasutitermes aff. coxipoensis (Termitidae: Nasutitermitinae). Neotrop Entomol 47:329–335. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cunha HF, Brandão D (2002) Multiple reproductives in nests of the Neotropical termite Constrictotermes cyphergaster (Isoptera, Termitidae, Nasutitermitinae). Rev Bras Entomol 46:21–24. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cunha HF, Costa DA, Filho KES, Silva LO, Brandão D (2003) Relationship between Constrictotermes cyphergaster and Inquiline Termites in the Cerrado (Isoptera: Termitidae). Sociobiology 42:1–10Google Scholar
  11. Darlington JPEC (1986) Seasonality in mature nests of the termite Macrotermes michaelseni in Kenya. Insec Soc 33:168–189. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Darlington JPEC (1990) Populations in nests of the termite Macrotermes subhyalinus in Kenya. Insect Soc 37:158–168. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Forschler BT, Towsend ML (1996) Mark-release-recapture estimates of Reticulitermes spp. (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae) colony foraging populations from Georgia, U.S.A. Environ Entomol 25:952–962. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Godinho AL, Lins LV, Gontijo TA, Domingos DJ (1989) Aspectos da ecologia de Constrictotermes cyphergaster (Termitidae, Nasutitermitinae) em Cerrado, Sete Lagoas, MG. Rev Bras de Biologia 49:703–708Google Scholar
  15. Haifig I, Costa-Leonardo AM (2016) Caste differentiation pathways in the Neotropical termite Silvestritermes euamignathus (Isoptera: Termitidae). Entomol Sci 19:174–179. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kaiser P (1956) Die Hormonalorgane del’ Termiten mit del’ Entstehung ihrer Kasten. Mill Hamburgisehen Zool Museum Inst 54:129–178Google Scholar
  17. Lepage M, Darlington PEC (2000) Population Dynamics of Termites. In: Abe T, Bignell DE, Higashi M (eds) Termites: evolution, sociality, symbioses, ecology. Kluwer, London, pp 333–361CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Mathews AGA (1977) Studies on termites from the Mato Grosso State. Academia Brasileira de Ciências, Rio de JaneiroGoogle Scholar
  19. Mill AE (1983) Observations on Brazilian termite alate swarms and some structures used in the dispersal of reproductives (Isoptera: Termitidae). J Natural History 17:309–320. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Miura T (2004) Proximate mechanisms and evolution of caste polyphenism in social insects: From sociality to genes. Ecol Res 19:141–148. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Miura T (2005) Developmental regulation of caste-specific characters in social-insect polyphenism. Evol Dev 7:122–129. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Moura FMS, Vasconcellos A, Araújo VFP, Bandeira AG (2006a) Seasonality in foraging behavior of Constrictotermes cyphergaster (Termitidae, Nasutitermitinae) in the Caatinga of Northeastern Brazil. Insect Soc 53:472–479. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Moura FMS, Vasconcellos A, Araújo VFP, Bandeira AG (2006b) Feeding Habit of Constrictotermes cyphergaster (Isoptera, Termitidae) in an Area of Caatinga, Northeast Brazil. Sociobiology 48:1–6Google Scholar
  24. Moura FMS, Vasconcellos A, Araújo VFP, Bandeira AG (2008) Consumption of vegetal organic matter by Constrictotermes cyphergaster (Isoptera, Termitidae, Nasutitermitinae) in an Area of Caatinga, Northeastern Brazil. Sociobiology 51:181–189Google Scholar
  25. Moura FMS, Vasconcellos A, Silva NB, Bandeira AG (2011) Caste development systems of the Neotropical termite Constrictotermes cyphergaster (Isoptera, Termitidae). Insect Soc 58:169–175. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Myles TG (1999) Review of secondary reproduction in termites (Insecta: Isoptera). Sociobiology 33:1–91Google Scholar
  27. Noirot C (1961) Le cycle saisonnier chez les termites. In: Proc 11th Intern Congr Entomol., Vienna, pp 583–585Google Scholar
  28. Noirot C (1969) Formation of castes in the higher termites. In: Krishna K, Weesner FM (eds) Biology of termites. Academic Press, New York, pp 311–350CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Noirot C, Pasteels JM (1987) Ontogenetic development and evolution of the worker caste in termites. Experientia 43:851–852. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Nutting WL (1969) Flight and Colony Foundation. In: Krishna K, Weesner FM (eds) Biology of Termites. Academic Press, New York, pp 233–282CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Nutting WL, Haverty MI (1976) Seasonal production of alates by five species of termites in an Arizona desert grassland. Sociobiology 2:145–153Google Scholar
  32. Ohiagu CE (1979) A quantitative study of seasonal foraging by the grass harvesting termite, Trinervitermes geminatus (Wasmann), (Isoptera, Nasutitermitinae) in Southern Guinea Savanna, Mokwa, Nigeria. Oecologia 40:179–188CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Paraíba GDE (1985) Atlas geográfico do Estado da Paraíba. Grafset, João PessoaGoogle Scholar
  34. PROCLIMA (2018) Ministério da ciência e tecnologia. Programa de Monitoramento Climático em Tempo Real da Região Nordeste. INPE/CPTEC <>. Accessed 01 January 2018
  35. Rodrigues VB, Costa DA, Cristaldo PF, DeSouza O (2018) Lagged population growth in a termite host colony: cause or consequence of inquilinism? Neotrop Entomol 47:815–820. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Roisin Y (2000) Diversity and evolution of caste patterns. In: Abe T, Bignell DE, Higashi M (eds) Termites: evolution, sociality, symbioses, ecology. Kluwer, London, pp 95–119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Soki K, Josens G (1996) Mound population fluctuations in Cubitermes speciosus (Sjöstedt) (Isoptera, Termitidae). Sociobiology 27:11–28Google Scholar
  38. StatSoft, Inc. (2004) Statistica (data analysis software system), version 7.0.
  39. Thorne BL (1983) Alate production and sex ratio in colonies of the Neotropical termite Nasutitermes corniger (Isoptera; Termitidae). Oecologia 58:103–109. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Thorne BL (1985) Numerical and biomass caste proportions in colonies of the térmites Nasutitermes corniger and N. ephratae (Isoptera; Termitidae). Insect Soc 32:411–426. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Tong RL, Grace JK, Mason M, Krushelnycky PD, Spafford H, Aihara-Sasaki M (2017) Termites species distribution and flight periods on Oahu. Hawaii Insects 8:1–16. Google Scholar
  42. Torales GJ, Coronel JM (2004) Qualitative and quantitative composition of colonies of Microcerotermes strunkii (Isoptera: Termitidae). Sociobiology 43:523–534Google Scholar
  43. Torales GJ, Laffont ER, Arbino MO, Coronel JM (1999) Composición de colônias de Cornitermes cumulans (Isoptera: Termitidae: Nasutitermitinae) em diferentes épocas del año. Rev Soc Entomol Argent 58:189–196Google Scholar
  44. Truckenbrodt W (1978) About the time and place of appearance and the number of nymphs of Odontotermes stercorivorus (sj.) (Insecta, Isoptera). Insect Soc 5:303–313. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Vasconcellos A, Araujo VFP, Moura FMS, Bandeira A (2007) Biomass and population structure of Constrictotermes cyphergaster Silvestri (Isoptera: Termitidae) in the dry forest of Caatinga, northeastern Brazil. Neotrop Entomol 36:693–698. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Vasconcellos A, Moura FMS, Ernesto MV (2015) Térmitas em Ecossistemas Neotropicais: amostragens qualitativas e quantitativas. In: Lima MSCS, Carvalho LS, Prezoto F (eds) Métodos em ecologia e comportamento animal. EDUFPI, Terezina, pp 165–186Google Scholar

Copyright information

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

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Unidade Acadêmica de Ciências Biológicas, Centro de Saúde e Tecnologia RuralUniversidade Federal de Campina GrandePatosBrazil
  2. 2.Laboratório de Termitologia, Departamento de Sistemática e Ecologia, Centro de Ciências Exatas e da NaturezaUniversidade Federal da ParaíbaJoão PessoaBrazil
  3. 3.Universidade Federal do Sul e Sudeste do ParáMarabáBrazil

Personalised recommendations