There is a phenomenon known as “queen killing” or “royal cannibalism” that occurs in certain termite species. While the exact reasons for this behavior are not fully understood, researchers have proposed several theories to explain why some termites engage in this behavior. Here are a few possible explanations:

  • Competition for reproduction: In termite colonies, the queen is the primary reproductive individual responsible for laying eggs. When a colony becomes too large or overcrowded, and resources become limited, some termites may engage in queen killing to eliminate reproductive competition. By eliminating the queen, they increase their own chances of reproductive success.
  • Hormonal changes: It has been suggested that chemical changes or alterations in pheromone production by the queen may trigger aggression from other termites, leading to queen killing. Termites communicate through chemical signals, and if the queen’s pheromones change or weaken, it may incite aggressive behavior from other colony members.
  • Conflict resolution: In termite colonies, social hierarchy and conflicts can arise. In some instances, termites may engage in aggression toward the queen as a way to resolve conflicts or establish dominance within the colony.

It’s important to note that not all termite species exhibit queen killing behavior, and it is more commonly observed in certain termite groups, such as the Reticulitermes and Coptotermes species. Additionally, this behavior may occur in specific circumstances, such as when the colony is under stress or resource limitations.

Further research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms and triggers behind queen killing in termites. Studying termite behavior and social dynamics is a complex field, and ongoing research contributes to our understanding of these fascinating insects.