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J Econ Entomol. 2009 Feb;102(1):121-6.

Effect of vibratory soldier alarm signals on the foraging behavior of subterranean termites (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae).

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  • 1Acoustics & Vibration Unit, School of Aerospace, Civil & Mechanical Engineering, Australian Defence Force Academy, University of New South Wales, Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia.


Termite soldiers produce a vibratory alarm signal to warn conspecific workers. This study recorded and characterized the alarm signals of Coptotermes acinaciformis (Froggatt) (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae) and then investigated the effect of playing these recorded alarm signals on C. acinaciformis feeding activity. Foraging groups of termites were offered paired wooden blocks: either one block, continuously stimulated with a vibratory alarm signal, paired with a nonstimulated block (the alarm treatment), continuously stimulated with a pink noise signal, paired with a nonstimulated block (control for nonspecific vibrations) or two nonstimulated blocks (control for environmental effects), for 4 wk. The amount of wood eaten in the blocks stimulated by the alarm signals was significantly less than the paired nonstimulated blocks, while there seemed to be no preference in the case of the pink noise playback or control for direction. Importantly, the termites seemed not to have adapted to the recorded alarm signal over the 4-wk duration of the experiment, unlike previous studies using nonbiologically derived signals.

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