Behaviors displayed by worker termites, which make up 80–90% of any eastern subterranean termite population, provide the foundation for understanding the details of termite social organization. Individually marked termite workers were placed in an enclosed, darkened arena and videotaped for three 24-h periods. Behaviors observed in detail include ecdysial assistance, gallery excavation, oscillatory movements, worker feeding and adult mating. Primary reproductive pairs were observed to mate, on average, once every 3 d. Ecdysis lasted 43 min and involved multiple allogrooming attendants. Excavating termites manipulated the substrate with their mouthparts and showed fidelity to the site of excavation but not the site of deposition. Four different types of oscillatory movements were characterized with the type IV always ending in defecation. Worker feeding behaviors are described that involve swallowing materials obtained by five different routes and evoke use of the superorganism concept. The relevance of these observations for a better understanding of a variety of topics, including biology, management, and evolution of these economic pests, is included.
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Vol. 100 • No. 5