Termite Life Cycle Information
The termite life cycle is interesting to learn about for its own sake, but it is also information that can come in handy to prevent termite problems at your home. Reading about the life cycle of termites can help you see patterns in any termites you might spot and have a better idea of the possibility of infestation based on what you observe. Prevention is truly the most effective method of termite control. Once a colony gets established, rooting it out from your home is very difficult. At stake is the potential for catastrophic damage to your home. Needless to say, knowledge is power and the more we know the better chance we have to prevent infestation.
Winged Reproductives Leave the Nest
The termite’s life cycle starts with a mating flight. When a colony is fully mature, reproductive males and females appear and begin leaving the nest, swarming around to find new places to reproduce and begin new colonies. Once the winged reproductives locate their new colonies, they shed their wings and begin to mate. These reproductives become the king and queen of the new nest. The queen and king of the termite colony are at the very center of colony life and the life cycle, as they alone are responsible for reproducing and building up colony numbers.
Termite Mating and Fertilization
The queen lays eggs after mating and fertilization. The eggs hatch and come out as white larvae. The larvae are pale in their coloring and are largely helpless at this point. As they develop they will molt several times and develop into one of three different types or castes of termites: workers, soldiers, and reproductives, which are also called alates. Each of the three castes has specific roles to play in colony life. Unlike many creatures, termite colony members all work in unified fashion for the survival and the betterment of the colony, sacrificing their own lives if necessary.
Workers, Soldiers and Alates
Each individual caste has distinctive physical characteristics that set it apart from the others. The workers are immature sexually and developmentally. Their job in the colony is to construct the tunnels and chambers that make up the physical structure. They are also used for feeding and taking care of other castes. Soldier termites have very large heads and mandibles. They are brownish yellow in color, and their bodies make them very powerful in combat but useless for taking care of themselves. Soldiers are incapable of feeding themselves. Unlike soldiers, reproductive alates are black in color and are born with two sets of wings.
Understanding Termite Castes
Science has not pinpointed exactly how different castes develop in the colony from larvae, or precisely why certain larvae develop to become certain types of termites. However there has been some research suggesting that the needs of the particular colony make determine caste assignment to a large extent. And scientists are also aware that members of one caste are able to develop into another caste. Again the needs of the colony are at heart here. If a colony has a shortage of workers, soldiers may develop into workers if need be.
Termite Life Expectancy
Workers and soldier termites live an average of one to two years. Queens might live up to 50 years in the right climate if their colonies go undisturbed.
The part of the termite life cycle that is probably the most important to look out for is the time in the spring when reproductives leave the nest. Winged termites in the home are a near certain sign of infestation.