Termites are social insects in that they live and work together in large colonies .
Termite colonies or nests as they are referred to can be found in various forms such as on the ground in mounds such as Coptotermes Exitiosus , underground in subterranean nests or above the ground in arboreal nests up in trees such as Nasutitermes Walkeri.
Each Termite like bees has its own job or task in the nest .
Termites undergo an incomplete metamorphosis, with three developmental stages:
The eggs hatch into nymphs (the first in star) that are fed by the workers.
The nymphs then moult several times, differentiating into worker, soldier or reproductive forms.
Development into adult forms takes several months, depending on food, temperature and the size of the colony.
They are blind and Sterile and wingless.
Their function is to build the nest, gather food , take care of the young, feed the rest of the other termites.
They are white almost translucent in colour hence the name white ants.
The soldiers are the most distinguishable of all termites as they have coloured heads.
They too are blind like the worker termite
They are unable to feed themselves without the worker termites.
Their job in the nest to protect the nest , the soldiers rely on many methods to protect the nest including chemical, biting and injecting poison into the enemy.
It has even been known for termites to abut heads and block a hole against predators such as kookaburras.
Termites feed on living or dead plant material recycling trees before recycling was fashionable.
They require products with cellulose it is digested by the termites by intestinal protozoa or bacteria.
Not all termites eat wood.
Many species feed on grass and other matter, and are not pests in buildings. There are over 350 species of termites in Australia of which some 20 species can damage timber in houses.
Those species that do eat wood, get cellulose, sugars and starches (all carbohydrates) from the sapwood (outer wood) of trees and but can also eat any wooden structures, including stumps,logs,buildings and fences.
They usually cannot eat the heartwood (innermost wood) as it tends to be much harder and can have toxins that repel the termites. however some species can penetrate the heartwood of timber.
Protein is obtained by eating fungi growing either in the humid nest – which also helps to keep the nest clean – or from moist wood surfaces.
Termites also dispose of the dead or diseased by eating them, this conserves nitrogen within the nest.
Termites require between 75%- 100% humidity within the colony especially subterranean nests, when the outside humidity is close to 100% ,termites may feel secure enough to leave the comfort of the nest in search of food and in buildings with air conditioning ducts they have even been sighted walking across the floors however this is a rare case.
Subterranean termites can also obtain moisture from soil, this allows the moisture levels to remain high in the nest and lowering the nests overall temperature.
Termites can be found with no ground contact even subterranean termites they may obtain their moisture requirements from plumbing leaks, faulty roofing etc.
Dry wood termites don’t require moisture for survival and will attack timbers of equilibrium moisture content.
At first the queen helps with various tasks when the nest is small and just starting to build in size, but as the number of workers increases they feed her and also tend all the young.
The queen is the mother of all the other termites in the colony apart from the king(the king is smaller than the queen in size). She lives for 15-26 years normally but has been known to live for up to 50 years, while hundreds of generations of her workers and personal attendants die and are replaced.
The queen is fertilised from time to time by the smaller king.
If the queen dies the colony can still continue.
Supplementary / Replacement queens from the reproductive caste may take over as egg-layers.
They’re not usually as large or productive as the primary queen, but several of them may work together to replenish the population.
The Nursery as pictured below is maintained by the Termite workers, they are removed from the royal chamber and transferred to the nursery just like when we take our babies home from hospital to the nursery.
This is where they develop into various caste members of the termite colony such as soldiers workers etc.
Termites repairing their nest
Some termites forage for food by means of subterranean galleries or covered runways, which extend from the central nest to food sources above or below ground.These nests can be found in trees,stumps,under concrete slabs,patios or adjoining bush land areas just to name a few.
The gallery system of a single colony may be used to exploit food sources over as much as one hectare, with individual galleries extending up to 50 m in length for most species.
The Giant Northern termite
M. darwiniensis has individual galleries may extend as far as 100–200 m.
Apart from grass-eating species, which forage in the open, all termites remain within a closed system of galleries to avoid sunlight.
The only exceptions are during a swarming flight, or when repair or new construction is occurring , this allows them the protection of the nests and mud tubes to avoid detection.