Termites are social insects that have an organizational structure. They live in large nests and have various types of individuals that perform various functions within the colony. Different castes exist in the termite colony. Individuals which are morphologically and functionally different from other individuals in a colony make up a caste. Three castes are commonly found in most termite colonies. These are:
The Reproductive Caste consists of the queen and the king termites, as well as, any supplemental reproductive termites. These supplemental reproductives are those adult termites that are produced within the colony, usually after the death of the king and/or queen. They are also produced when the colony has grown so large that many of the termites in the colony become isolated from the main colony. At that time new reproductives are produced.
Supplemental reproductives never have full wings (they have short wings or no wings at all). They do not have the dispersal flight king and queen swarmers have prior to their establishing new colonies. The king and queen termites are also known as the swarmers or primary reproductives. They’re not produced by the colony until at least 3-4 years after its’ inception.
The Worker Caste are the termites that make up the majority of the termites in a given colony. The workers consist of both males and females. They are wingless, usually without compound eyes, and usually unpigmented and thus whitish in color. The workers duties include, foraging for food, feeding the queen, soldiers and young, constructing and repairing the mud tubes, and grooming the reproductives, soldiers, and young. They also help defend the colony when needed.
The Soldier Caste’s primary function is to defend of the colony. Soldiers of the eastern subterranean termite species are easily recognized by their large heads and mandibles. They use these mandibles to bite any invaders who may attack the colony. Soldiers are not produced in quantity until the colony is further along in its’ development. Soldiers cannot feed themselves, they are fed by the workers.
After a swarm, where male and female ’reproductives’ seek out a new nesting site, a female finds a suitable nesting site. Males follow close behind her as she releases a pheromone/chemical attractant. The closest male following her will retire to the nesting site. They dig into the soil and then seal themselves inside.
Mating occurs within hours or weeks after the pair is sealed in the nest site. These termites continue to mate for life, unlike ants, which mate only once. This species of termites produce about 60 eggs per day. Other species are known to produce up to 86,400 eggs per day. The eggs will hatch in about 50 days.
The queen termite will never leave the nest again. She becomes what is called an ’egg laying’ machine. The workers will take care of her-feeding and grooming her. They move the eggs as they are produced. The eggs are hatched into small termites called nymphs. Nymphs are capable of becoming any one of the castes (workers, soldiers, or reproductives). Which caste they develop into is determined by the needs of the colony.
Some Text Courtesy of: The accredited Wood Destroying Insect Inspector Program Rev. 20
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