A termite begins its life cycle when winged productive males and productive females leave their established colonies and begin their swarming mating flight to procreate. After fertilization has taken place these male and female winged termites land and shed their wings. They then move on to become and kings and queens of the new colonies they form, new centers of the termite life cycle, responsible for reproduction.
Caste Decision in the Termite Colony
It is unclear how the larvae are relegated to the different castes. Some research indicates that maturity and the colony’s need might dictate the assignment. In fact, castes are not rigidly set – termites that belong to one case may develop into another caste if the colony has a need for it. For example, a soldier termite can become a worker or reproductive alate if the colony is experiencing a shortage of that kind of caste.
Different Appearances of Termite Castes
The castes are all different in physical appearance. Worker termites are smaller. Their primary job is to construct tunnels and the chambers of the colony. But they are also responsible for feeding and grooming the other castes. Soldier termites are yellow-brown in color and have dramatically enlarged heads and large mandibles that are useful for combat but render the soldier termite incapable of feeding itself. The reproductive alates are darker in color than the other castes and are born with two pairs of wings.
Termite Life Spans
Worker and soldier termites live approximately one to two years. Queen termites can survive for over a decade if the climate conditions are optimal.
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