Explore: I set up lab stations for groups of three students each. Each lab station has a small soft paintbrush, a collection of ball point pens of different brands (include some Papermates) and different colors; I often include some markers and/or colored pencils. There will also be some white paper and a small dish of five to six termites (with some moist towel). I show the students how to handle the termites carefully so as not to harm them and then I suggest they try drawing shapes on the paper and place the termites on the marked paper. Then I step back! (It turns out that some of the pens [usually Papermate] have a chemical odor similar to the pheromones that termites use to create trails for other termites to follow.) This activity is very engaging and allows students to ask and explore a myriad of questions – which I don't answer! The website below offers more information for the teacher. This is a very important part of the lesson. Students need to formulate questions and propose possible answers.
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Termites will stay on a line drawn by a Bic® ink pen with largeTermites (and other social insects) use pheromones to PDF fileTermites (and other social insects) use pheromones to communicate Z,Z,E-3,6,8-dodecatrien-1-ol (DTE) PapermateTM pen-ink mimics this 2-phenoxyethanolTermites, ink pens and pheromones - LEARN NCTermites, ink pens and pheromones.
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It turns out that the ink in the Papermate ballpoint has a substance that resembles pheromones that the termites recognize. Use a blue Papermate pen and another blue pen to which the termite will not respond.