Ecology and Evolution of Communication in Social Insects

Cell. 2016 Mar 10;164(6):1277-1287. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2016.01.035.


Insect life strategies comprise all levels of sociality from solitary to eusocial, in which individuals form persistent groups and divide labor. With increasing social complexity, the need to communicate a greater diversity of messages arose to coordinate division of labor, group cohesion, and concerted actions. Here we summarize the knowledge on prominent messages in social insects that inform about reproduction, group membership, resource locations, and threats and discuss potential evolutionary trajectories of each message in the context of social complexity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animal Communication*
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Biological Evolution
  • Insecta / classification
  • Insecta / genetics
  • Insecta / physiology*
  • Pheromones / metabolism


  • Pheromones