PROFILE, Caste System
Pest Control | T.A.P Insulation
Rodent Control |Gopher
& Squirrel Control |
Animal Trapping & Removal
ants, wasps and bees, termites are social insects. They
exhibit brood care within their social community or
"colony". A colony is really just a very large family
of insects. Within this family there is an overlap of
parent and offspring generations. Some of the offspring
diverge from the normal course of development to become
various castes. Unlike most insects, which have only
one linear developmental pathway, termites have branching
developmental pathways. Therefore, we say that they
Family. Termites are
said to live in "colonies" but this is misleading.
A colony is really just a family of insects. One of
the most profound and defining attributes of the termite
family is that it is built on monogamy. Termites are
faithful. They are probably the most monogamous group
of animals on earth. The evolutionary outcome of this
commitment to monogamy is a large and integrated family.
As far as biologists know, termite colonies are the
most sophisticated families ever to evolve in the universe.
Human families are not nearly as advanced. Humans, in
contrast to termites, have the most advanced, non-family
based type of social system known in the universe.
colonies are comprised of three basic castes: workers,
soldiers, and reproductives.
hatch into tiny immatures incapable of feeding called
larvae. Larvae are totipotent which means that they
are genetically capable of developing into any caste.
Time of year, diet, and pheromones all play a role in
determining which developmental pathway any given termite
comprise the bulk of the population. In lower termites
there is a false worker caste called pseudergates who
retain the potential to become alates. Workers feed
all the dependent castes: larvae, nymphs, soldiers and
reproductives. They also dig tunnels, locate food and
water, maintain colony atmospheric homeostasis, and
build and repair the nest. In some species their job
description also includes mushroom gardening.
develop from nymphs, pseudergates, or workers. The metamorphosis
to a soldier takes two moults. The transition stage
is called a presoldier. With their specialized defensive
weaponry, soldiers provide colony defence against numerous
predators such as ants and centipedes.
develop either from alates or neotenics. Alates are
winged termites. Each species produces a cohort of alates
at a particular season. The alates of each species fly
at a unique time of day and under specific conditions.
In Toronto, the alates of Reticulitermes flavipes appear
from February through May and usually fly about midday
on warm days. The alates develop from nymphs by growing
wings and compound eyes. After flying, the alates break
off their wings along a basal suture and are then called
dealates. Dealates form tandem courtship pairs, and
after a brief courtship run, dig into the soil adjacent
to wood, mate, and start a family. The offspring constitute
the colony. The founding reproductive pair is now the
queen and king of the new colony.
reproductive females, or queens, vary in
size depending on the species. Tropical queens may measure
10 centimetres in length and produce thousands of eggs
a day. The enlarged abdomen makes her relatively immobile
and dependent on the workers. She is licked and fed
constantly and closely attended by her relatively small
mate, the king. There is usually just one pair of primary
reproductives per colony but some species have a low
incidence of colonies with multiple reproductives (polygamy).
reproductives may develop from either unflown
alates (adultoids), nymphs (nymphoids) or workers (ergatoids).
If a primary reproductives dies it is usually quickly
replaced by a secondary reproductive of the same sex.
In the more primitive, wood-inhabiting termites large
numbers of pseudergates quickly moult to neotenics when
removed from the pheromonal inhibition of a primary
reproductive. These newly moulted neotenics then engage
in lethal fights with same sex siblings, eventually
resulting in the survival of only one secondary replacement
reproductive of each sex. It seems surprising that these
termites which are so co-operative with their siblings
as immatures are so viscously competitive and siblicidal
upon maturation. Unlike primary reproductives that usually
outbreed, secondary reproductives always mate incestuously
resulting in inbreeding.
are the most common type of reproductive caste in species
Ecology. Termites feed on dead plant cell
wall material, such as wood, leaf litter, roots, dead
herbs and grasses, dung, and humus. Chemically, their
food can be characterized as lignocellulosic matter,
which is the most abundant organic material in the biosphere.
Termites are able to digest cellulose, and some species
can also digest lignin, with the assistance of symbiotic
intestinal protozoa and bacteria. Many termites also
have symbiotic relations with nitrogen fixing bacteria.
In converting lignocellulosic biomass to insect biomass,
termite production supports a large proportion of tropical
vertebrate biodiversity, including many species of amphibians,
reptiles, birds, and ground foraging insectivorous mammals.