How Do Worker Termites Communicate Important Information To The Queen Of The Colony?
During the medieval period in Europe, kings and queens maintained societal order within their feudal kingdoms. Social insect colonies operate in a similar manner, as they are ruled over by a queen insect. Although there are many obvious similarities between feudal kingdoms and social insect colonies, there are many more differences that are significant. For example, social insect colonies are ruled over by a queen, as opposed to both a queen and a king. When it comes to termites, kings exist, but they do not determine the actions and goals of the colony; instead, this great responsibility is accorded to queen termites. Queen termites live longer than the kings, but queens are constantly occupied with the needs of the colony during their long lives. Queen termites bear eggs constantly, and they do this while communicating orders to worker termites. A queen termite’s ability to reproduce while simultaneously running a colony is all the more impressive when you consider that queen termites cannot even move on their own as their bodies become enlarged due to the many eggs that they carry. This seemingly impossible task is made possible by certain physiological features that only the queens in a termite colony possess. The termite queen communicates the colony’s needs to workers through pheromone-secreting organs. Although many people are aware of the fact that termites communicate via pheromones, very few people are aware of how queen termites pass orders on to workers.
Although a queen termite has many great responsibilities, there are also some perks to being the queen. For instance, since queen termites become too large to move on their own, worker termites feed the queen. During this feeding process, the workers secrete pheromones that communicate the needs of the colony. Since queens are stuck nearly motionless within their royal chambers at all times, they rely on worker pheromones in order to understand the overall state of the colony. If one single soldier termite is killed in an attack, the worker termites will communicate this information to the queen so that she can make informed decisions concerning the health and proper functioning of the colony. If a plethora of soldier termites are killed, then the queen will secrete a pheromone that transforms worker termites into soldiers in order to make up for the loss. Amazingly, queen termites secrete a number of different chemicals, each one of which is associated with a particular colony-wide need. Once the workers receive this chemical, they dutifully carry out the queen’s orders.
Do you think that queen termites secrete a pheromone that tells certain workers to sacrifice their lives in order to fend off an attack?