WASHINGTON - New research explains which specific chemicals are used by some termite queens to prevent other termites in the colony from becoming mommies like themselves.
NC State's Dr. Ed Vargo and colleagues from Japan and Switzerland show that a combination of two chemical compounds in a pheromone perfume emitted by egg-laying females known as secondary queens can inhibit other termites from developing into new queens.
"With this long missing key ingredient now in hand, I expect we'll see rapid progress in understanding how reproductive and non-reproductive termite castes develop," said Vargo.
This 'discrimination' is required to maintain a balance - proper proportion of workers who forage for food and take care of larvae, soldiers who defend the colony, and secondary queens who lay eggs to increase a colony's numbers.
The study is published online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (ANI).