What are some facts about termite kings?
- They look different from other members of the colony.
- They have functioning eyes.
- They keep the population of the colony growing.
- They maintain the status quo.
- They spend their lives underground.
Termites are common pests that can be found almost anywhere in the world. They damage almost anything that came from wood: furniture, books, and even clothes. Everyone knows about the termite queen, the uncontested monarch of the termite colony. But have you ever heard of her partner? What does a termite king do? How does he function within the colony? And why is he not as well-known as the queen?
Listed below are some interesting facts about the termite king and their secret lives. Read on to find out more!
They look different from other members of the colony
Most people would describe termites as brown ants who eat wood. We make this comparison because most termites really do look very similar to ants, other than their color. What we don’t see underground is the appearance of other colony members.
As would be expected of royalty, the termite king has a different appearance from other members of the colony. Both the king and the queen gain a darker color as they become monarchs of their own colony. Other than that, they also both have no wings. The queen then increases in size as she continues to lay eggs for the colony, but the king stays in his normal size. You could say that he is a shorter and darker version of his queen. This makes it easier for them to distinguish from other colony members if you ever have the fortune of seeing one.
They have functioning eyes
Termites have notoriously bad eyesight. In fact, most termites are even born without them. They rely mainly on pheromones to interact with the world and do their respective jobs. However, while workers and soldiers are completely blind, termite kings and queens develop better eyesight. The reproductives of the colony also have eyesight to help them navigate the world better through flying.
The termite king, on the other hand, enjoys the privilege of having better eyesight despite only having to mate and release pheromones underground for the majority of his life. This can be traced back to when he needed his eyes as a young alate looking for a mate. But the reason why their eyesight gets better as they move underground is not clear.
They keep the population of the colony growing
The reproductive termites of the colony are called alates. These are the members of the colony who have wings. They fly out, pair with each other, and become new kings and queens of their colonies. As they start their underground lives, it becomes the king’s duty to mate with the queen and keep the population growing.
Different species of termites may vary in reproductive cycles, but the queen can lay around 0 to 22 eggs in the first year of their colony. This means that in the early stages, the presence of a colony cannot be easily detected as they are few in number and do not cause as much damage as when they have finally matured. While they are still few, the termite king becomes a caring father while no workers are mature enough to do their roles. The king cleans, carries, and generally takes care of the eggs until workers can take over.
They maintain the status quo
As the top monarchs of the colony, the kings and queens also keep every termite in line. Each termite has their own roles, and the termite king and queen do their job to keep them in their place.
Termite kings are the only ones who can mate with their queens, and that is because they also release a special pheromone that keeps other termites within their roles. This pheromone stops other termites from growing reproductive organs, and they get sorted into soldiers and workers afterward. Reproducing with the queen and producing pheromones to keep everyone in line are the two main jobs of the termite king.
If a termite king dies, some workers replace him as temporary reproductives.
They spend their lives underground
Once a pair of alates decide to move underground, they cut off their wings, become a king and a queen and they stay underground for the rest of their lives. This is why it’s uncommon for people to know what termite queens and kings look like.
The flying termites, or alates, are the ones that we usually see. Seeing alates fly around could mean that they are looking to pair off and start a new colony. That could be a sign of an existing colony nearby, or of a new colony developing in the area. Either way, it’s best to contact pest control professionals to avoid any more termite problems in the future.
Termite kings are important members of any termite colony. Without them, the colony might not function or grow as well as it potentially can. The facts about termite royalty above are the reasons why one would do what a termite king does.
Fortunately, there are professionals who are good at controlling these termites and the damage they can do. If you ever find yourself with a termite infestation in your home, feel free to contact us to help you with the problem!