What are the things you need to know about termites in nature?
- Colony Behavior
People rarely understand termite behavior because if they see one, they instantly call their local termite control services to get rid of them. It’s true that termites are common pests in the Philippines, but when they are in their own habitat, they may actually be quite interesting. Here’s a quick overview of the termites and how they are in nature:
Termites work within a highly organized society. Their colony is made up of highly specialized units that are divided by their type of labor. This division of labor within a termite colony is called a caste system. Their behavior will mainly be driven by the function and structure of each caste.
The major castes that make up a termite colony are the workers, soldiers, and reproductive. It’s important to know that the reproductive caste is the only ones capable of producing offspring; the workers and soldiers are sterile and may be male or female. Only the primary and supplementary reproductive are fertile.
The primary reproductive in a termite caste system is the king and queen. They are two of the largest termites in the colony. The king termite can reach a length of half an inch and the queen can grow up to 4 inches in length. The king and queen mate sporadically throughout their whole life and are responsible for producing eggs and expanding the population of their colony.
The supplementary reproductive castes are usually found in healthy and stable colonies that regularly produce hatchlings. These supplementary reproductive termites were former larvae that have matured with functional and developed sex organs to aid in the growth of the colony by producing eggs of their own. These supplementary reproductive termites are the same size as worker termites.
The number of termites in a colony is tightly regulated. The total population of a termite colony work with a certain ratio; this is set by the number of soldiers to workers and nymphs. If there are disturbances in the balance of a colony’s population ratio, for example, if members are lost, nymphs will develop according to who was lost to make up and bring balance to their population ratio. On the other hand, if there are too many members for a certain caste, termites will resort to selective cannibalism to restore balance.
Termite communication involves a continuous exchange of information every single second. Every member of the colony is in constant contact with one another to provide information about potential threats, the indication of direction, and location of food. For the reproductive classes, informational exchange in calling and mating occur as well.
Termites communicate and gather information via physical contact, ground vibrations, and chemical signals. Since termites often work in the dark, visual information may not play an important role for them. Termites are unable to hear airborne sounds.
Termites can leave traces of pheromones on the ground they walk on to lead other termites to areas where food is located. Communication via vibrations and physical contact usually occur when termites need to alarm the colony. They send vibration signals by tapping their heads against the ground and bumping into one another.
They are able to quickly respond to ground vibrations due to vibratory receptors found on their legs. Workers that are alarmed will alarm others by running in a zigzag manner and bumping into other termites. The termites they bump into will instantly be alarmed as well, leaving chemical trails to point the soldiers to the area of disturbance.
The fragile bodies of termites have led them to build nests in warm and dark locations concealed from the outside world. These intricate nests are constructed by the workers and some of the maturing nymphs. The humidity of a termite’s nest is artificial and is due to the water produced in their own ecosystem from the metabolic process of each individual termite. This microclimate they produce on their own shelters them from predators due to the increased temperature in their environment.
Since termites have a high tolerance for high concentrations of carbon dioxide and low tolerance for high concentrations of oxygen, underground tunnels with high humidity are ideal for their living conditions. Although some form of ventilation is necessary to control the oxygen and carbon dioxide concentrations in their own microclimate, termites are known to architect an extremely efficient ventilation system through an elaborate construction of ventilation pores.
Termites play an important role in nature and are actually truly interesting creatures when they aren’t terrorizing a home. They may be common pests in the Philippines, but when you stumble across a few termites in nature, there’s no need to call termite control. They’re simply doing their job in balancing the ecosystem. They’re more than just mindless insects, they’re creatures that they work within a structured social society.