In the United States, there are over 50 species of termites and over 2,000 worldwide! Have you ever wondered how long termites live? Do they just chew apart wood, reproduce and die? The termite’s tale is actually quite an interesting one.
The Life Cycle of a Termite
A termite life starts as they hatch from their egg. Much like bees, termites are extremely social insects, and they all work together to maintain their lives under the ruling of the termite queen. A termite will fill one of the different roles needed to keep the colony functioning.
Just like a company needs different people to do different jobs so does a termite colony. Termite colonies are inhabited by workers, soldiers, reproducers, and the queen. To maintain balance inside of the colony, the queen produces pheromones to shape the development of younger termites so that they will mature into the role needed. Termites can live anywhere from 2-50 years and colonies can remain active for as much as 50 years.
Typically the largest group in the colony, worker termites don’t have wings and have soft bodies. It is the job of the workers to find and collect food, take care of the eggs and younger termites and to build and uphold the structure of the colony.
After they are hatched from their egg, they start the molting process. Molting is when a termite grows a new soft exoskeleton under its hard exoskeleton. After the termite reaches maturity, the original exoskeleton sheds and the new exoskeleton becomes hard.
Soldiers are the defenders of the colony. They are much larger than the other members of the colony. The heads of a soldier termite tend to be darker, and they have bigger mandibles. Mandibles are the oral appendage near the mouth of insects used to handle food or defend themselves or their colony.
Reproducer termites are responsible for procreation. The reproducers continue their growth process called swarming. Once they hit maturity, they develop wings and darker bodies.
After mating takes place, they shed their wings. When the weather is warm enough, these termites leave the colony to mate and form new colonies.