Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Document Type

Master's Thesis


Agriculture, Food and Environment



First Advisor

Dr. Xuguo Zhou


Foraging is essential for survival, but it can be unpredictably dangerous due to organismal interactions like competition and predation to various environmental factors. Animals have come up with strategies to safeguard foraging. Social insects, with their elaborate division of labor, have developed sophisticated systems of foraging task allocation that allow them to capitalize resources beyond their competitors. In this thesis, I delve into the subjects of foraging behavior, allocation strategies, and the genetic basis of foraging in the eastern subterranean termite, Reticulitermes flavipes, the most widely distributed termite species in North America and one of the most economically important pest termites in the world. After examining my hypotheses in each chapter, I found that foraging behavior in R. flavipes is age-dependent, with older individuals carrying out the majority of foraging. Among foragers, however, there are no bona fide foraging specialists. Finally, I confirmed that the foraging gene is a negative regulator of foraging activity. These combined results demonstrate the complexity of foraging behavior in termites. Forager task allocation is plastic depending on the social context. My research not only advances our overall understanding of foraging behavior in termites, but also sheds light on the potential of targeting foraging gene for genetic-based pest management.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

The author was funded by Fulbright Foreign Student Program for the period 2021-2022 as master's student in Depertment of Entomology, the University of Kentucky and throughout 2023 by USDA hatch fund (accession number: 1025704) awarded to Dr. Xuguo Zhou.

Available for download on Monday, December 01, 2025