Journal of Insect Behavior

, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 189–204 | Cite as

Queue Size Determines the Width of Tunnels in the Formosan Subterranean Termite (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae)

  • Paul M. Bardunias
  • Nan-Yao Su


We present a model of tunnel excavation by termites that requires no pheromone labeling of soil or work sites, but instead relies on tactile interactions and individuals who actively orient their movement. Potential termite excavators moved from the tunnel origin towards the distal end of the tunnel and formed a queue behind those termites at the digging face. Delayed termites excavated soil laterally from the tunnel wall at a position governed by their position in the queue of termites. By examining excavation under artificially induced conditions of longer and shorter queues of termites at the tunnel end, we showed that tunnel width increased with increased queue size and the rate of lateral excavation in a process we termed “digging pressure.”


Excavation tunnel queue coptotermes formosanus 



We thank R. Pepin and P. Ban for technical assistance and R. L. Yang for statistic analysis (University of Florida) as well as G. Seedahmed for review of the manuscript (University of Florida). This research was supported by the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station and a grant from USDA-ARS under the grant agreement No. 58-6435-2-0023.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Entomology and Nematology, Ft. Lauderdale Research and Education CenterUniversity of FloridaFt. LauderdaleUSA

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