Communication And Group Activities

An individual organism must allocate its time and resources between food collection, reproduction, habitat selection, and other activities. In the social insects, one sees similar behavioral adaptations. There is added complexity, though, because in social insects they occur at both the level of the individual and the level of the group. Group-level adaptations include the regulation of numbers of individuals in the colony, the allocation of reproduction between workers and sexual forms, the division of labor among individuals (e.g., caste), and the social organization of food collection (e.g., recruitment). All of these homeostatic activities by colonies of insects require mechanisms of communication to coordinate the activities of multiple individuals. It is for this reason that the social insects provide so many of the examples of communication among insects, because in nonsocial insects, communication is largely restricted to behavior associated with mating or defense. As in other insect groups, much of the communication in social insects is carried on chemically, by means of pheromones.

Homeostasis is fundamental to the survival of organisms, because the processes of life occur in a well-regulated manner only within a certain range of conditions. The same could be said about the processes conferring advantages of group living on those insects that live in groups. If a colony is too large, or fails to coordinate its activities in foraging, reproduction, or defense, it may perish. It is the function of behavioral mechanisms of homestasis to regulate both the group environment and the properties of the group itself in a manner that preserves its efficient functioning.

See Also the Following Articles

Dance Language • Magnetic Sense • Nest Building • Recruitment Communication • Thermoregulation

Further Reading

Abe, T., Bignell, D. E., and Higashi, M. (2000). "Termites: Evolution,

Sociality, Symbioses, Ecology." Kluwer Academic, Dordrecht. Heinrich, B. (1993). "The Hot-Blooded Insects: Strategies and Mechanisms of Thermoregulation." Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA. Seeley, T. D. (1994). "The Wisdom of the Hive: Social Physiology of Honey

Bee Colonies." Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA. von Frisch, K., and von Frisch, O. (1974). "Animal Architecture." Harcourt

Brace Jovanovich, New York. Wilson, E. O. (1971). "The Insect Societies." Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.

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