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J Chem Ecol. 2012 Jun;38(6):746-54. doi: 10.1007/s10886-012-0137-3. Epub 2012 May 24.

Multifunctional queen pheromone and maintenance of reproductive harmony in termite colonies.

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Laboratory of Insect Ecology, Graduate School of Agriculture, Kyoto University, Kitashirakawa Oiwakecho, Kyoto, 606-8502, Japan.


Pheromones are likely involved in all social activities of social insects including foraging, sexual behavior, defense, nestmate recognition, and caste regulation. Regulation of the number of fertile queens requires communication between reproductive and non-reproductive individuals. Queen-produced pheromones have long been believed to be the main factor inhibiting the differentiation of new reproductive individuals. However, since the discovery more than 50 years ago of the queen honeybee substance that inhibits the queen-rearing behavior of workers, little progress has been made in the chemical identification of inhibitory queen pheromones in other social insects. The recent identification of a termite queen pheromone and subsequent studies have elucidated the multifaceted roles of volatile pheromones, including functions such as a fertility signal, worker attractant, queen-queen communication signal, and antimicrobial agent. The proximate origin and evolutionary parsimony of the termite queen pheromone also are discussed.

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