Costs and benefits of pleometrosis, as understood from social Hymenoptera, have never been tested in the independently evolved termites. To understand the extent to which such co-founding may be advantageous for colony survival and growth, we tracked the survival and reproduction of 5000 laboratory-established incipient colonies of the facultatively polygamous neotropical termite Nasutitermes corniger. Significantly more pleometrotic groups than monogamous queen–king pairs failed within the first 90 days of establishment, and 99 per cent of pleometrotic groups lost at least one founding member. Oviposition commenced earlier in larger groups, but colony growth was slower and production of workers and soldiers was delayed compared with pairs. Thus, pleometrosis does not increase colony fitness and is in fact highly disadvantageous.
- Received October 30, 2012.
- Accepted January 15, 2013.
- © 2013 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.