Behaviour 2019
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Eusocial distancing: how territoriality reduces disease transmission among social insect colonies
Natalie Lemanski1, Matthew Silk2, Nina Fefferman2, Oyita Udiani3. 1Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, United States; 2University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee, United States; 3Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia, United States

Social behavior can have a major impact on the dynamics of infectious disease outbreaks. For animals that live in dense social groups, such as the eusocial insects, pathogens pose an especially large risk because frequent contacts among individuals can allow rapid spread within colonies. While there has been a large body of work examining adaptations to mitigate the spread of infectious disease within social insect colonies, there has been less work on strategies to prevent the introduction of pathogens into colonies in the first place. We develop an agent-based model to examine the effect of territorial behavior on the transmission of infectious diseases between social insect colonies. We find that by preventing the introduction of infected foreign workers into a colony, territoriality can flatten the curve of an epidemic, delaying the introduction of an infectious disease and reducing its maximum prevalence, but only for diseases with moderate to low transmissibility. Our results have implications for understanding how pathogen risk influences the evolution of territorial behavior in social insects and other highly social animals.