This investigation demonstrates how worker termites sense pheromones. Students observe and document motions of termites under 2 different conditions: pencil circles and pen circles. The investigation may be used as a discovery introduction or as a confirmatory investigation to pheromones and their effect on animal behavior.
Handle the animals with care and respect. Wear safety goggles and gloves.
Place termites in a resealable bag, store in the freezer for 1 week, then dispose of them in the trash. Adhere to all local, state, and federal materials disposal guidelines.
Prepare two 2.5-oz plastic cups with lids per group by adding a small piece of damp paper towel that covers the bottom of the cup. Each group needs 2 cups.
Place 2 termites in 1 of the cups at each station.
Tech tip: Allow students to record termite movements for online notebooks or class presentations.
Descriptions, drawings, or video of termite movement. (The termite should follow the black pen circle but not the pencil circle.)
1. Compare the movements of the termites in each circle.
The termites should follow the black or blue BIC® pen circle.
2. What is the reason for the movement?
The formulation of the BIC® ink smells like termite pheromones.
3. What role do pheromones play in animal behavior?
Pheromones are excreted chemicals that trigger a social response in members of the same species. Pheromones are chemicals that can impact the behavior of the receiving individual. Certain kinds of pheromones, including alarm pheromones, food trail pheromones, and sex pheromones, affect behavior or physiology. Pheromones are well-documented in many insects.
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