Caste-dependent reactions to soldier defensive secretion and chiral alarm/recruitment pheromone inNasutitermes princeps

J Chem Ecol. 1990 Oct;16(10):2865-75. doi: 10.1007/BF00979479.

Abstract

The soldier frontal gland secretion ofNasutitermes princeps induces strong short-range caste-specific alarm and attraction in both soldiers and workers. Soldiers are excited and patrol the surroundings of the source. The secretion per se does not induce ejection of additional secretion. Large workers of the second stage or older are massively attracted when tested in homogeneous groups. They focus their activities much more accurately than the soldiers around the source. The workers' reaction is less intense in the presence of soldiers. Large and small workers of stage 1 scarcely react at all to the secretion, whether tested in homogeneous or mixed groups. These results suggest the following complementary roles of soldiers and workers in defense. The first line of defense is provided by soldiers, which immobilize and incapacitate mobile enemies with their sticky secretion. Defense then is completed by older large workers as they eliminate the source of disturbance. The absence of reaction of young workers, small or large, confirms previous reports on age polyethism inNasutitermes observed in other contexts: young workers tend to stay in the nest. Alarm reactions are elicited by a source of (+)-α-pinene, the major monoterpene in the secretion, while its enantiomer, almost absent from the secretion, induces a much weaker reaction.