Studies on the behaviour of Reticulitermes santonensis (Feytaud) in laboratory colonies and its implications for some methods of termite control

  • Gajaraj Dhanarajan

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


An investigation of behavioural patterns that form a basis for termite control in the Australasian region was undertaken using laboratory colonies of the subterranean termite Reticulitermes santonensis (Feytaud). The study
attempted to build a picture of the behavioural elements of individuals in a colony and based on this, trophallaxis, aggression and cannibalism were investigated in detail.
Preliminary study of food transmission showed that 'workers' played a major role in the distribution of food. It was found, that among factors responsible for release of trophallactic behaviour the presence of 'right odour' between participants was important. It also appeared that the role taken by individuals depended on whether they were hungry or fully fed. Antennal palpation was shown by donors and acceptors alike and this seemed to be excitatory in function.
Introduction of aliens into nests elicited aggression and these aliens were often killed. Factors eliciting aggression were investigated and colony odour was found to be important. Further investigations revealed that development of colony odour was governed by genetical and environmental mechanisms.
Termite response to injury and death was also governed by odour. In the case of injury either the fresh haemolymph from the wound or some component of the haemolymph evoked cannibalism. Necrophagic behaviour was found to be released by fatty acids found in the corpses.
Finally, the response of colonies to nestmates carrying arsenic trioxide was investigated. It was found that living and freshly dead arsenic-carrying nestmates were treated like normal nestmates, resulting in high initial mortality. However, poisoned cadavers soon became repellant and were buried thus preventing further spread of the poison to the rest of the colony. This suggested that complete control of subterranean termites by arsenic trioxide is unlikely to be fully effective, especially in those species which are capable of developing secondary reproductives from survivors and thus rebuilding the community.
Date of AwardMay 1974
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorT.A. Oxley (Supervisor)


  • behaviour
  • Reticulitermes santonensis (Feytaud)
  • laboratory colonies
  • termite control

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