Undertaking behaviour is an essential activity in social insects. Corpses are often recognized by a postmortem change in a chemical signature. Reticulitermes flavipes responded to corpses within minutes of death. This undertaking behaviour did not change with longer postmortem time (24 h); however, R. flavipes exhibited distinctively different behaviours toward dead termites from various origins. Corpses of the congeneric species, Reticulitermes virginicus, were buried onsite by workers with a large group of soldiers guarding the burial site due to the risk of interspecific competition; while dead conspecifics, regardless of colony origin, were pulled back into the holding chamber for nutrient recycling and hygienic purposes. The burial task associated with congeneric corpses was coupled with colony defence and involved ten times more termites than retrieval of conspecific corpses. Our findings suggest elicitation of undertaking behaviour depends on the origin of corpses which is associated with different types of risk.

Document Type


Publication Date


Notes/Citation Information

Published in Scientific Reports, v. 3, article no. 1650.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


srep01650-s1.pdf (9 kB)
Supplementary Information

srep01650-s2.avi (19162 kB)
Video S1. Time lapse video stream showing corpse removal process by Reticulitermes flavipes toward dead nestmates.

srep01650-s3.avi (7974 kB)
Video S2. Video clip showing aggression and alarm behaviour by Reticulitermes flavipes toward R. virginicus corpses.

srep01650-s4.avi (20468 kB)
Video S3. Time lapse video stream showing burial process by Reticulitermes flavipes toward R. virginicus corpses.

Included in

Entomology Commons