Advertisement

Insectes Sociaux

, Volume 65, Issue 2, pp 281–288 | Cite as

Testing for aggression and nestmate recognition in the Eastern subterranean termite (Reticulitermes flavipes)

  • V. Simkovic
  • G. J. Thompson
  • J. N. McNeil
Research Article

Abstract

Social insect colonies typically have well-defined social and physical boundaries but in some cases, colonies may take-on a more diffuse form with no obvious nestmate recognition or inter-colony aggression. Why colonies adopt closed versus open societies is not well understood, but it is presumably related to the genetic or environmental identity of individuals. In this study, we use Canadian populations of the Eastern subterranean termite (Reticulitermes flavipes) to test for evidence of aggression and nestmate recognition. Specifically, we predict that any inter-colony aggression will increase as a function of geographic distance. In short-term, (5-min) Petri-dish trials (varying caste, group size and colony source) we observed no evidence of aggression. However, in 2- and 7-day shared-resource assays, we observed very little inter-colony mixing and a high incidence of mortality in non-nestmate pairings. Our long-term observations imply that subterranean termites sort and potentially compete on the basis of nest origin, and that this recognition is mediated in part by ecological context. This behavior would not be evident from Petri dish-style assays, which lack this context and may explain why prior studies of kin or nestmate recognition in R. flavipes have yielded mixed results.

Keywords

Reticulitermes flavipes Termite Aggression Nestmate recognition Supercolony 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We thank Aetna Pest Control (Toronto), the Nature Conservancy of Canada and Point Pelee National Park for permission and assistance in obtaining field colonies. This work was funded by NSERC Discovery Grants to GJT and JNM.

Supplementary material

40_2018_608_MOESM1_ESM.docx (146 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 145 KB)

References

  1. Adams ES (1991) Nest-mate recognition based on heritable odors in the termite Microcerotermes arboreus. Proc Nat Acad of Sci USA 88:2031–2034CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bernard S, Osbrink W, Su NY (2017) Response of the Formosan subterranean termite to neighboring con-specific populations after baiting with Noviflumuron. J Econ Entomol 110:575–583CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Bagnères A-G, Hanus R (2015) Communication and social regulation in termites. Social recognition in invertebrates. Springer, Switzerland, pp 193–248CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Breed MD (2003) Nestmate recognition assays as a tool for population and ecological studies in eusocial insects: a review. J Kans Entomol Soc 76:539–550Google Scholar
  5. Breed MD (2014) Kin and nestmate recognition: the influence of WD Hamilton on 50 years of research. Anim Behav 92:271–279CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bulmer MS, Traniello JFA (2002a) Foraging range expansion and colony genetic organization in the subterranean termite Reticulitermes flavipes (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae). Environ Entomol 31:293–298CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bulmer MS, Traniello JFA (2002b) Lack of aggression and spatial association of colony members in Reticulitermes flavipes. J Ins Behav 15:121–126CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bulmer MS, Adams ES, Traniello JF (2001) Variation in colony structure in the subterranean termite Reticulitermes flavipes. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 49:236–243CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chouvenc T, Bardunias P, Li HF, Elliott ML, Su NY (2011) Planar arenas for use in laboratory bioassay studies of subterranean termites (Rhinotermitidae). Fla Entomol 94:817–826CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chouvenc T, Su NY (2017) Testing the role of cuticular hydrocarbons on intercolonial agonism in two subterranean termite species (Coptotermes) and their hybrids. Ins Soc 64:347–355CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Clément J, Lemaire M, Nagnan P, Escoubas P, Bagneres A, Joulie C (1988) Chemical ecology of European termites of the genus Reticulitermes: allomones, pheromones and kairomones. Sociobiology (USA) 14:165–174Google Scholar
  12. Clément J-L (1986) Open and closed societies in Reticulitermes termites (Isoptera, Rhinotermitidae): geographic and seasonal variations. Sociobiology 11:311–323Google Scholar
  13. Clément J-L, Bagnères A-G (1998) Nestmate recognition in termites. In: Vander Meer RK, Breed MD, Winston ML, Espelie KE (eds) Pheromone communication in social insects: ants, wasps, bees, and termites. Westview Press, Boulder, pp 126–155Google Scholar
  14. Costa-Leonardo AM, Haifig I (2014) Termite communication during different behavioral activities. Biocommunication of animals. Springer, Netherlands, pp 161–190Google Scholar
  15. Cornelius ML, Osbrink WL (2000) Interspecific interaction between Coptotermes formosanus and Reticulitermes flavipes (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae) in laboratory assays. J Insect Behav 13:757–770CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Cornelius ML, Osbrink WL (2003) Agonistic interactions between colonies of the Formosan subterranean termite (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae) in New Orleans, Louisiana. Environ Entomol 32:1002–1009CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. DeHeer CJ, Vargo EL (2004) Colony genetic organization and colony fusion in the termite Reticulitermes flavipes as revealed by foraging patterns over time and space. Mol Ecol 13:431–441CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. DeHeer CJ, Vargo EL (2008) Strong mitochondrial DNA similarity but low relatedness at microsatellite loci among families within fused colonies of the termite Reticulitermes flavipes. Insect Soc 55:190–199CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. DeHeer CJ, Kamble CJ, Shiprat T (2008) Colony genetic organization, fusion and inbreeding in Reticulitermes flavipes from the Midwestern US. Sociobiology 51:307–325Google Scholar
  20. Dronnet S, Chapuisat M, Vargo EL, Lohou C, Bagnères AG (2005) Genetic analysis of the breeding system of an invasive subterranean termite, Reticulitermes santonensis, in urban and natural habitats. Mol Ecol 14:1311–1320CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Fisher ML, Gold RE (2003) Intercolony aggression in Reticulitermes flavipes (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae). Sociobiology 42:651–661Google Scholar
  22. Fisher ML, Gold RE, Vargo EL, Cognato AI (2004) Behavioral and genetic analysis of colony fusion in Reticulitermes flavipes (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae). Sociobiology 44:565–576Google Scholar
  23. Florane CB, Bland JM, Husseneder C, Raina AK (2004) Diet-mediated inter-colonial aggression in the Formosan subterranean termite Coptotermes formosanus. J Chem Ecol 30:2559–2574CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Grace JK (1990) Mark-recapture studies with Reticulitermes flavipes. Sociobiology 16:3Google Scholar
  25. Grace JK (1996) Absence of overt agonistic behavior in a northern population of Reticulitermes flavipes (Isoptera, Rhinotermitidae). Sociobiology 28:103–110Google Scholar
  26. Hamilton WD (1972) Altruism and related phenomena, mainly in social insects. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 3:193–232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Huang Q, Sun P, Zhou X, Lei C (2012) Characterization of head transcriptome and analysis of gene expression involved in caste differentiation and aggression in Odontotermes formosanus (Shiraki). PLoS One 7:e50383CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  28. Husby WD (1980) Biological studies on Reticulitermes flavipes (Kollar) (Dictuoptera, Rhinotermitidae) in southern Ontario. Unpublished MSc thesis, University of Guelph, pp 154Google Scholar
  29. Kaib M, Brandl R (1992) Distribution, geographic variation and between-colony compatibility of Schedorhinotermes lamanianus in Kenya (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae). In: Billen J (ed) Biology and evolution of social insects. Leuven UP, Leuven, pp 121–131Google Scholar
  30. Kirby CS (1965) The distribution of termites in Ontario after 25 years. Can Entomol 97:310–314CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Korb J, Buschmann M, Schafberg S, Liebig J, Bagnères A-G (2012) Brood care and social evolution in termites. Proc R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 279:2662–2671CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Li HF, Yang RL, Su NY (2010) Interspecific competition and territory defense mechanisms of Coptotermes formosanus and Coptotermes gestroi (Isoptera:Rhinotermitidae). Environ Entomol 39:1601–1607CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Luscher M (1949) Continuous observation of termites in laboratory cultures. Acta Trop 6:161–165PubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Matsuura K (2001) Nestmate recognition mediated by intestinal bacteria in a termite, Reticulitermes speratus. Oikos 92:20–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Matsuura K, Nishida T (2001) Colony fusion in a termite: what makes the society “open”? Insect Soc 48:378–383CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Messenger MT, Su NY (2005) Agonistic behavior between colonies of the Formosan subterranean termite (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae) from Louis Armstrong Park, New Orleans, Louisiana. Sociobiology 45:1–15Google Scholar
  37. Myles TG (1996) Development and evaluation of a transmissible coating for control of subterranean termites. Sociobiology 28:373–457Google Scholar
  38. Nalepa CA, Jones SC (1991) Evolution of monogamy in termites. Biol Rev 66:83–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Neoh KB, Yeap BK, Tsunoda K, Yoshimura T, Lee CY (2012) Do termites avoid carcasses? Behavioral responses depend on the nature of the carcasses. PLoS One 7:1–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Perdereau E, Dedeine F, Christides JP, Dupont S, Bagnères AG (2011) Competition between invasive and indigenous species: an insular case study of subterranean termites. Biol Invasions 13:1457–1470CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Perdereau E, Bagnères AG, Vargo EL, Baudouin G, Xu Y, Labadie P, Dupont S, Dedeine F (2015) Relationship between invasion success and colony breeding structure in a subterranean termite. Mol Ecol 24:2125–2142CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Polizzi J, Forschler B (1998) Intra-and interspecific agonism in Reticulitermes flavipes (Kollar) and R. virginicus (Banks) and effects of arena and group size in laboratory assays. Insect Soc 45:43–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Polizzi JM, Forschler BT (1999) Factors that affect aggression among the worker caste of Reticulitermes spp. subterranean termites (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae). J Ins Behav 12:133–146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Preswitch GD (1984) Defense mechanisms of termites. Ann Rev Entomol 29:201–232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. R Core Team (2015) R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, ViennaGoogle Scholar
  46. Raffoul M, Hecnar SJ, Prezioso S, Hecnar DR, Thompson GJ (2011) Trap response and genetic structure of Eastern subterranean termites (Isoptera, Rhinotermitidae) in Point Pelee National Park, Ontario, Canada. Can Entomol 143:263–271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Scaduto DA, Garner SR, Leach EL, Thompson GJ (2012) Genetic evidence for multiple invasions of the Eastern subterranean termite into Canada. Environ Entomol 41:1680–1686CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. Shellman-Reeve JS (1997) The spectrum of eusociality in termites. In: Choe JC, Crespi BJ (eds) The evolution of social behavior in insects and arachnids. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 52–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Shelton TG, Grace JK (1996) Review of agonistic behaviors in the Isoptera. Sociobiology 28:155–176Google Scholar
  50. Šobotník J, Jirošová A, Hanus R (2010) Chemical warfare in termites. J Insect Physiol 56:1012–1021CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. Su N-Y, Ban PM, Scheffrahn RH (1991) Evaluation of twelve dye markers for population studies of the eastern and Formosan subterranean termite (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae). Sociobiology 19:349–362Google Scholar
  52. Sun Q, Zhou X (2013) Corpse management in social insects. Int J Biol Sci 9:313–321CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  53. Sun Q, Haynes KF, Zhou X (2013) Differential undertaking response of a lower termite to congeneric and conspecific corpses. Sci Rep 3:1–8Google Scholar
  54. Thorne BL (1982) Termite-termite interactions: workers as an agonistic caste. Psyche 89:133–150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Thorne BL, Haverty MI (1991) A review of intracolony, intraspecific, and interspecific agonism in termites. Sociobiology 19:115–145Google Scholar
  56. Thorne BL, Traniello JFA, Adams ES, Bulmer M (1999) Reproductive dynamics and colony structure of subterranean termites of the genus Reticulitermes (Isoptera Rhinotermitidae): a review of the evidence from behavioral, ecological, and genetic studies. Ethol Ecol Evol 11:149–169CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Urquhart FA (1953) The introduction of the termite in Ontario. Canad Entomol 85:292–293CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Vargo EL, Husseneder C (2009) Biology of subterranean termites: insights from molecular studies of Reticulitermes and Coptotermes. Annu Rev Entomol 54:379–403CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of Western OntarioLondonCanada

Personalised recommendations