Wednesday, 19 September 2007


Termite society

Termites may be considered a pest from a human point of view, but their behaviour and biology is among the most sophisticated and fascinating in the insect world. Like ants, bees and wasps, they are 'social' insects, living in colonies with thousands of individuals of various 'castes' each with a specific function. Most termites are blind and prefer to live in the dark.

Queen King
The Queen termite is the only individual able to lay eggs - her sole function. She is capable of nothing else since her huge abdomen, bloated with eggs, prevents her from moving. She may produce 2000 eggs or more per day. Living in a chamber deep inside the nest, she is fed and groomed by worker termites who also take care of her eggs, carrying them away for hatching. The Queen may live up to 30 years. Tiny creatures in relation to the Queen, King termites live only to mate with her, and while he is quite long-lived when compared to 'ordinary' members of the colony, their lifespan is usually much shorter than that of the queen. They also assist in grooming and feeding her, and will continue to mate throughout their life, ensuring that a steady supply of new colony members is maintained.

Worker Soldier
The Worker termites comprise the majority of the population of a nest, and are the ones who do the colony's 'dirty work', building and repairing the nest, grooming other termites and foraging for food. They are the ones responisble for structural damage to timber. Once a worker has eaten its fill of wood, special bacteria within its gut help it break down the normally indigestible material into a 'soup' which it takes to the nest and shares with others. The fearsome Soldier termites guard the nest from predators. They are usually distinguished by their hugely enlarged heads accommodating massive jaws, their main weapon. Some termite species have also evolved formidable chemical weapons. Nasute (latin for 'nosey') soldier termites repel their enemies by squirting then with a poisonous or sticky substances through a prominent nozzle-like protrusion in their heads.

Nymph Alates
When termite eggs hatch, the young insects or Nymphs are capable of developing into whatever caste is most urgently required by the colony - normally workers or soldiers, or even additional Queen or King termites if more eggs are needed. When conditions are suitable, however, they may develop into a specialised winged caste known as Alates in preparation for establishing a new colony. Alates are the future Kings and Queens of a termite colony. When seasonal, food and weather conditions are just right, winged Alates will swarm from the nest in search of new territory. They are rather poor flyers and depend largely on the wind to carry them along. When a likely nesting location is found, they soon drop their wings, mate and breed new generations of workers and soldiers, starting the cycle again.
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Patty said...

It's amazing what those little devils can do. I just don't know of any bug I like. I do like butterflies, but I don't know if they're considered a bug.

Anonymous said...

I don't want to see them here as they go through a house in no time. FLorida is bad too. They have to put a large tent around the house and fill it with poison for 24 hours to get rid of them.

I hope you can come to see my Japanese friends on the blog I began the other day about Japan in the early 1950s. Sendai, Japan

reader Wil said...

Yes it's amazing that an enormous lot of insects can achieve more than people. We cannot even save our planet from pollution, global warming etc, unless we turn round in the opposite direction and start working together.

reader Wil said...

My daughter and many Australians have taken all kind of precautions before occupying this house, but I don't remember what. Sure Abe, I shall visit your Japanese blog. I think I am now ready for it. You know why I thought it very difficult as an ex POW to be interested in anything concerning Japan! But since I met some nice Japanese people too and heard a soldier confessing that the comfort girls were really treated badly and against their will, I believe that there will come a different generation of Japanese.