Termite Colony – what do you know about it? Termite colonies need food, shelter and water to survive and it is their sole purpose to gather these resources.
A termite colony consists of termite castes or levels within the termite family. Each caste is responsible for a specific job such as the workers who gather food, soldiers who build shelter and reproductives who produce and tend to the young (larvae). The colony’s king and queen are known as primary reproductives, as they are the original founders of the colony. At least one king and queen are at the centre of every termite colony
Reproductives play a particularly important role in creating new termite colonies. By swarming or budding, reproductives are the reason new colonies of termites move into your home and neighborhood.
Termite Colony Consists Of Termite Castes Or Levels
The Kings sole responsibility is to mate with the Queen for life. The King secretes a chemical called pheromones to decide which of the offspring will become nymphs, workers or soldiers. All the King has to do is see that the eggs the Queen is laying are fertilized. The workers even bring home the food for the queen and king to live on.
The queen’s sole purpose is to lay eggs and reproduce. A termite colony first starts when a queen and her king chose a place to shed their wings and start a nest. Before that they were flying around in a swarm which breaks up and allows a queen and king to pair off and find the ideal place for a nest which includes plenty of wood, sufficient water and some kind of shelter.
The Queen can live as long as 30 years, sometimes more. A newly established colony can take a few years to get up and running properly. The Queen will lay a small number of eggs at first but after the first few batches of eggs there will usually be enough workers to start taking care of the daily tasks of the nest leaving the Queen to lay more eggs. The queen may be as big as a person’s thumb and lay up to 3000 eggs per day.
Termites in the nymph stage transform into different castes, either workers, soldiers, reproductives or supplementary reproductives. While waiting to grow up, nymphs help to take care of the larvae, as well as the kings and queens.
Workers are blind and wingless termites that maintain the colony by building and repairing the nest and mud tunnels. They run around, most of them blind, guided by senses of feel and smell and above all, by a sense of duty. They forage and store food and care for and feed the termite larvae. They are the most numerous caste and the most important part of the colony after the King and Queen. They are the main ones who digest cellulose. Most termites that are seen eating wood are worker termites and their job is to feed the Queen. It’s a good idea to prevent termites from entering your home at all.
The workers regurgitate digested wood to feed the Queen. They also groom the Queen, King and soldiers as well as take the filth and waste out of her way. Workers are sterile and live for 1-2 years.
Soldier termites are sterile, wingless, and blind and their sole purpose is to defend the colony against invaders. Common invaders are ants, so much so that ants and termites are considered “worst enemies”, as fighting between both of them takes place very often.
The Soldiers defend the nest with fierce mandibles which they use to trap their victim. Once trapped the soldier emits a sticky thick glue like substance to immobilize their victim.
Soldiers can’t eat and rely upon the workers to give them food. Like worker termites, soldier termites are sterile and generally live for 1 to 2 years.
Winged Reproductives (Alates)
Winged Reproductives are responsible for forming new colonies and are recognised by their swarming habits. A swarm of flying termites will all be newly matured males and females who fly from their home colonies, towards a light source, and fall to the ground.
They will pair off in couples and become Queen and King and start a new colony. Their wings will fall off and the two of them will look for a secluded place as their first home together. If you notice termite swarms are regular events in your yard you should expect that a number of termite nests are nearby. Termite wings are not that strong so they don’t fly very far. Termite swarms indicate that there is one or more large colonies somewhere close by and that numerous males and females have decided to leave home and find a good supply of wood. You don’t have to worry straight away because it could be a couple of years before the colony really takes hold, it takes a couple of years to have a full colony of worker termites.
These termites help increase the number of termites in the colony if the queen dies. They are replacement queens but they are not as productive as the original queen. They are like “backup kings and queens” and are located in a different part of the nest than other termites.