Best Pheromones production in termites, well reviewed by Nutting (1969), is normally the result of union between a pair of alates after the swarming flight, but alternative mechanisms are known in a few species involving fragmentation (‘budding’) of existing colonies followed by independent production of secondary reproductives. (Harris 1958). Learn more about the best pheromones for sexual attraction.

The latter occurs mostly in species with diffuse colonies where outlying sections may lose pheromonal contact with the main body and then behave as orphaned groups. However, a very special type of fragmentation, described as ‘sociotomy’ by Grassé and Noirot (1951), involves a deliberate migration by the royal pair, plus a retinue of workers and soldiers, after the manner of swarming in honey bees. Such a migration must certainly depend upon aggregation pheromones for its cohesion, but the trigger mechanism responsible for this unusual behavior is not known.

After the short swarming flight, alates descend to earth to seek their pheromone mates. Females of many species apparently emit a short-range sex attractant. They adopt a ‘calling’ attitude with the tip of the abdomen raised and sometimes moving from side to side. Males quarter the ground at random, but on encountering a calling female are immediately attracted to her. Learn more about

The pair then begin to parade in tandem, with the male so closely following the female as to appear coupled to her. Temporary loss of alarm pheromones causes the male to make searching movements, whilst the female resumes the calling posture. The male is apparently not following a scent- trail, but is responding directly to a short-range, air-borne attractant. Nothing is yet known of the nature of this pheromone. Buchli (1960), who investigated closely the behavior in Reticulitermes luczfugus, suggested that the attractant might be produced by the female’s pheromone glands. Other observers have stressed the importance of visual cues in tandem formation.

Eventually, the pair enter the ground, or timber as the case may be, and construct a royal cell (‘copularium’) where mating first takes place. Short-range pheromones with attractant and perhaps aphrodisiacal, properties presumably play an important role in maintaining the pair-bond during this crucial phase as, indeed, throughout the life span. These cohesive factors become particularly important when, with increasing size of the colony, the queen becomes immobilized through physogastry. She is then entirely dependent upon her attractive properties.

These pheromone properties are particularly apparent to the observer in freshly broken nests, when the reluctance of the king to leave his helpless mate is very obvious. Learn more about pheromones at

In the incipient colony, the first brood is nourished exclusively by the royal pair, but workers or their equivalent soon take over all such duties and the activities of the king and queen become entirely restricted to reproduction on an increasing scale. The colony slowly grows in size and numbers until, at maturity, it is capable of producing all castes characteristic of the species ~ a capability it may retain for many tens of years before decline according to

Apart from their crucial role in maintaining caste balance (which has already been discussed), pheromones are also implicated in many of the day-to-day activities of the colony.