Laboratory rearing systems are useful models for studying Rhinotermitid behavior. Information on the biology of fungus-growing termites, however, is limited because of the difficulty of rearing colonies in the laboratory settings. The physical structure of termite nests makes it impossible to photograph or to observe colonies in the field. In this study, an artificial rearing system for field-collected colonies of the fungus-growing termite Odontotermes formosanus (Shiraki) was developed to facilitate observation in the laboratory. We recorded colony activity within the artificial rearing system and documented a variety of social behaviors that occurred throughout the food processing of the colony. This complex miniature ecosystem was cooperatively organized via division of labor in the foraging and processing of plant materials, and the observed patterns largely resembled the caste and age-based principles present in Macrotermes colonies. This work extends our insights into polyethism in the subfamily Macrotermitinae.
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