Behavioral mechanisms and interactions involved in collective nest construction

This project aims at disentangling the role of three factors (individuals, architecture, internal and external environment) in the mound construction of social insects. We mainly work with two sympatric Brazilian termites (Procornitermes araujoi and Cornitermes cumulans) but we also apply our methods to other termite or ant species. The project is delineated along four lines of research. The first line covers the experimental work with termites in Brazil, or ants in France. The second line aims at assessing the structural properties of the nests. The third line consists in developing 3D models of nest construction, both as mathematical equations and as computer simulations. Finally, the fourth line consists in developing tools to characterize the 3D structures in natural or simulated mounds.

Nests of the termite Cornitermes cumulans : (a) two workers enlarging the nest, (b) partial excavation of a nest where one can see the above ground part, the below ground protective shell from which foraging tunnels depart towards the foraging grounds or the ground water level, (c) a small nest cut in two where one can see the internal part build of organic material and faeces.


  1. Fouquet D., Costa-Leonardo A. M., Fournier R., Blanco S., Jost C. 2014. Coordination of construction behavior in the termite Procornitermes araujoi : structure is a stronger stimulus than volatile marking. Insectes Soc, 61, 253-264 (doi: 10.1007/s00040-014-0350-x)
  2. Eom Y-H, Perna A, Fortunato S, Darrouzet E, Theraulaz G, Jost C. 2015. Network-based model of the growth of termite nests. Phy Rev E 92, 062810. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevE.92.062810
  3. Khuong A, Gautrais J, Perna A, Sbaï C, Combe M, Kuntz P, Jost C, Theraulaz G. 2016. Stigmergic construction and topochemical information shape ant nest architecture. PNAS, 113 (5), 1303–1308. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1509829113
  4. Gouttefarde R, Bon R, Fourcassié V, Arrufat P, Haifig I, Baehr C, Jost C. 2018. Investigating termite nest thermodynamics using a quick-look method and the heat equation. PLoS-one (submitted, 2nd round)
  5. The virtual termite nest museum:




Université Paul Sabatier
118 Route de Narbonne

31062 TOULOUSE Cedex

05 61 33 58 00

Annuaire général