What is a termite colony?
Worker termites are physically and sexually immature males and females. They are the most abundant caste in a termite colony. They undertake the task of foraging for food, food storage, brood caring, nest maintenance, excavating, repairing and building galleries and shelter tubes. Workers are the only caste with the ability to digest the cellulose in wood. This is achieved with the help of flagellates in the gut that assist in cellulose digestion. These wingless insects are typically the first termites seen when an active shelter tube or a piece of infested log is disturbed.
Soldier termites are physically and sexually immature males and females whose primary function is colony defense. Many have enlarged jaws that render them incapable of feeding themselves. Therefore, they depend on the workers to provide them with regurgitated food. The head of a soldier is enormously elongated. They have enormously elongated.
They have both atomical and behavioural specialisations. Termite soldiers are usually blind but in certain families, soldiers that developed from the reproductive line have partly functional eyes. Species identification and other taxonomic work is often conducted using the soldiers’ heads, mandibles and nasus due to each species’ distinct characteristics.
The alates or winged reproductives have two pairs of wings that are equal in size. Alates possess fully functional eyes and can withstand dehydration. This particular caste is often mistaken for a flying ant, an error that results in many not realising that termites exist in the vicinity of their property.
The reproductives play an important part in establishing new colonies. There are three types of reproductive in a termite colony known as “Primary”, “Secondary” and the “Tertiary” reproductives.
Primary reproductives are swarmers (alates) who have successfully survived the dangers of the dispersal or “nuptial” flight and settled down to lay and nurse the first brood.
When a termite colony becomes too large, and the queen cannot lay sufficient eggs to sustain it, Secondary sexually competent reproductives are produced to ease the queen’s burden. Although these secondary reproductives lay fewer eggs than the queen, there can be hundreds of them in an established colony. Their contribution to the egg-laying capacity of a colony can be tremendous and when a queen dies, they can take over the total reproduction requirement. Tertiary reproductives are derived from fully developed workers when a certain part of the colony is isolated from its main colony. These reproductives or ergatoids, are wingless and look like big workers.