Termites are social insects.
Like all other social animal including human beings, termites have two distinct characteristics, division of labors and caring for the young ones.
In a termite family, members are divided into 3 groups according to the function they perform.
A family of termites is usually referred as a Colony.
The size of a termite colony is depending on how long the colony has been established.
The older the colony the bigger the size.
A large termite colony can have hundreds of thousands to millions of individual occupying areas of up to an acre.
Smaller colonies may contain less than 10,000 individuals foraging an area no bigger than a normal bedroom.
The Reproductives as their name indicates, is the only group that can reproduce offsprings.
This includes the Queen, the King, the immature reproductives and the winged termites.
They are also the only group of termites in a colony that have eyes.
1. The Queen And King
The Queen is the core of a colony and every member in a termite colony is produced by it.
The Queen may live up to 25 years and lay more than 2,000 eggs per day.
The Queen also regulates the entire life of the colony.
The King function is just to mate with the Queen.
2. Immature Reproductive And Winged Termite
After a termite colony reaches a certain size and food source is insufficient to support further growth of the colony, the Queen would produce developing (immature) reproductives.
The immature reproductives are initially white and turn brown and grow wings to become winged termites or swarmers.
Winged termites are often referred as swarmers because they would swarm out from the nest to look for a new site to establish a new termite colony.
The wings break off shortly after landing and a pair of wingless termite will become the new Queen and King of a new colony at a new site.
Nymphs are young termites hatched from eggs.
They are living in the center of the nest and taken care of by the workers.
They are initially white and turn to respective mature color by shedding off their skin several times before transforming into different groups.
Soldiers are the defenders of the colony. Collectively they behave like army in a country.
They are sterile (cannot reproduce) and blind.
They protect the colony against intruding ants or termites from others colonies.
Usually, this group of termites make up of 10 to 15% of a population in a colony.
Due to their giant size mouthpiece, they also cannot feed directly and have to rely on workers to feed them.
Workers are the only termite members that damage our wooden structures by feeding on them.
Like Soldiers, they are sterile (cannot reproduce) and blind.
They are responsible for all labors in a colony.
They took care of young termites, repair nest, build foraging tunnel, locate food, and feed other members including the Queen and King of a colony.
Due to their importance to a colony, they usually make up more than 80% of a colony population.
As social insects, termites build nests.
The termite nest is the center of a colony and inside it, situated a royal chamber where the Queen and the King live.
From the nest, tunnels are built by the workers for foraging and transportation purposes.
Although most of the termite species build their nest underground, some species build their nest on trees whilst others build their nest above ground (mound).
Unlike other insects, termites have succulent bodies and need moisture to maintain their body.
That is the reason why termites live entirely in an enclosed environment.
If they are exposed outside, they will die of dehydration very quickly.
So, in order for them to survive above ground, termites must build an extensive network of mud tubes or mud works.
When termites forage above ground, they must maintain their connection to the soil so that the workers and soldiers can return periodically to replenish their body with moisture.
Mud tubes provide termites with the soil connection.
If a mud work becomes damaged, workers will labor desperately to repair it.
Mud works are early indications of termite presence in our property.
All termites eat plant Cellulose in its various forms as plant fiber.
Cellulose is the structural component of the primary cell wall of all green plants.
Thus, woody plants are naturally the primary food source of termites.
Consequently, any product made of wood and to some extent cotton are food source of termites.
These include wooden door frame, window frame, parquet, cardboard, paper products, cotton clothing and so on and so on.
The life cycle of termite begin with a mating flight of the winged termites or swarmers (A).
Swarming usually occurs in the evening after rain and it is the occasion where winged termites take off from the nest to form new colonies.
A pair of swarmer (C) (male and female) will shed their wings (B) and start to produce offspring and become Queen and King of the new termite colony (D).
After the fertilized Queen lays her eggs (E), they hatch into pale white Nymphs (F).
Over the course of several molts, these nymphs will grow to one of the three termite colony castes: Soldier (G), Worker (H), or Developing Swarmer (I).
Developing Swarmers will grow their wings and become Swarmers (A).