Social Aspects of Termites

Very old joke: So, this termite walks into a bar and asks, “Is the bar tender here?” But it’s no joke that termites are a soft bodied insect that are inclined to dying out but they can eat a house. Termites have wings and fly to new homes but termites are terrible flyers and most don’t survive the flight. Soldier termites defend the colony but can’t already satisfy themselves.

Despite all their weaknesses there are over 3000 species of termites and they have survived for over 50 million years. already though there are many ways to prevent termites from enjoying your house as an entrée, once you have a colony in your house, it can be very difficult to exterminate them. This has to do with the social aspects of how termites live.

already though termites resemble ants, and some people call them “white ants”, they are closely related to cockroaches. Termites are social and each colony contains three castes and each caste has a different job. The three castes in each colony are reproductives, workers, and soldiers.

The reproductive be make up of consistently a Queen and King and some colonies have helper reproductives which assist in egg laying. Only the Queen and King have eyes. The other castes, workers and soldiers, are blind and use scent and moisture trails to find food. The Queen and King can’t satisfy themselves and rely totally on the workers for this.

The workers have saw-toothed pincer mandibles which they use to carry building materials and small bites of wood back to the colony. Workers are responsible for most of the work including gathering food, building tunnels, and caring for the young. Workers are sterile and are also responsible for feeding the Queen and King and soldiers.

The Soldiers’ heads are usually darker than the rest of their bodies. They have a strong pincer-like mandible which enables them to protect the colony and nest from other termite colonies and ants. Some species can secrete a sticky or toxic substance from their heads which they use to immobilize and kill intruders.

Humans can digest sucrose, lactose, and glucose because we produce enzymes like sucrase and lactase which break down sucrose and lactose. We can’t eat wood because we do not produce cellulase. Termites do not produce cellulase either, so how do these soft bodied insects eat wood? The answer is that they have microorganisms, protozoan and bacteria, living in their hindgut, which is part of their digestive systems. These microorganisms would die without termites as the termites themselves would starve without the microorganisms. Termites are classified according to the kind of microorganism which resides in their hindgut. Lower termites have both protozoans and bacteria while higher termites only have bacteria.

In addition, termites are classified by where they live. early Termites have colonies in the wood they eat while Subterranean Termites build their nests or colonies underground.

Only the Queen and King are fully mature termites. Termites start from eggs and any egg can become any caste. After the egg hatches into larvae and goes by a series of molts, a worker is developed. A worker can also go by an additional two-stage molt and become a soldier. already an older soldier termite can undergo regressive molts and revert back to an earlier stage. The Queen and King produce pheromones which determine how many larvae will become workers, soldiers or alates (winged termites). These are just a few of the many social aspects of termites.

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