There are three types of termite colonies, subterranean, drywood, and Formosan termite colonies. Each type of colony has its own unique set of habits and behaviors. Whether you’re trying to identify a problem before it becomes too costly or just want to learn more about these fascinating creatures, it’s important to know the different types of colonies.
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What is the definition of a termite colony?
The Oxford-powered Lexico dictionary defines a termite colony as a group of termites that descends directly from a king and a queen termite, or fertile adults, and have a complex social structure with different termite castes.
While this offers a succinct explanation of why termite colonies exist, let’s read on!
What is the structure of a termite colony?
The structure of a termite colony is quite complex. There is a caste system with a division of labor based on the colony members’ structure, function, and behavior. The castes are workers, soldiers, reproductives (queens and kings), and nymphs, or baby termites.
What are the functions of the castes in a termite colony?
Termites colonies are generally divided into three castes: the reproductive, the soldier, and the worker.
The reproductive caste in any termite colony is responsible for creating new termites, while the soldier caste is solely responsible for defending the colony from predators and other threats.
The worker caste is responsible for all other tasks in the colony, such as gathering food, constructing tunnels, and caring for young termites.
Sizes of a termite colony
A colony of termites is typically made up of three different sizes of termites- the workers, soldiers, and reproductives. The size of each caste varies depending on the species of termite.
Workers are the smallest and make up the majority of the colony. Soldiers are larger than workers and have a specialized role in protecting the colony. Reproductives are the largest caste and are responsible for reproducing new colonies.
The worker caste is responsible for gathering food, building and repairing the nest, and caring for the young. The soldier caste has a thicker exoskeleton to protect it from predators and parasites, and their job is to protect the colony.
The reproductive caste of a termite colony usually consists of both males and females, and they are responsible for mating and creating new colonies.
The caste balance in a termite colony is maintained through the use of pheromones and hormones.
The soldiers produce a hormone that suppresses the production of eggs by the workers, and the workers produce a pheromone that inhibits the development of winged reproductive.
This ensures that there is always a balance between the different castes in order to maintain the colony.
If the balance of the caste is disturbed, for example, by the death of a king or queen, undifferentiated nymphs can develop into the correct caste. This correction of balance usually occurs over a period of two to three years.
A study of two different termite species, Kalotermes and Zootermopsis, has found that the inhibition theory of caste differentiation is correct.
The theory states that smaller colonies have a higher chance of having more differentiated castes, as the workers in these colonies are less inhibited from developing their natural abilities.
In addition, termite colonies can be divided into three categories according to their size: small, medium, and large. It has been found that the release of a hormone called “caste-determining hormone” may be responsible for differentiating a nymph into a soldier.
Another possible mechanism for caste differentiation is the activation of a molt gland near the brain.
What are the different types of a termite colony?
There are essentially three different types of a termite colony – the drywood termite colony, the subterranean termite colony, and the Formosan termite colony. As I mentioned, these colonies are created on the basis of what species the termites belong to.
Drywood termite colony
Drywood termite colonies are located inside the wood and are typically much smaller than subterranean termite colonies. Now, termites eat the wood from the inside out, which can cause significant damage to homes and other wooden structures.
A drywood termite colony typically consists of three castes- the reproductives, the soldiers, and the workers. The maximum size for a drywood termite colony is around 4,800 termites.
The colony starts with the king and queen termites, who then lay eggs. These eggs hatch into nymphs, which are the immature termites that complete the tasks that are usually assigned to the worker termites.
There is no one specific job that these nymphs have, as they will do whatever is necessary to help the colony grow.
Subterranean termite colony
Subterranean termite colonies generally live in the soil and are the most common type of termite. They build their nests below ground and can cause significant damage to homes and other buildings.
During summer and other seasons, colonies grow and expand their foraging territories as they search for food. The workers will travel greater distances in order to find new resources, often leading them into contact with human-made structures.
It is important to be aware of the different types of termite colonies so that you can properly address any potential infestations.
Subterranean termite colonies are the most common, and they build their nests underground. The workers for these colonies can be found at common feeding locations, and there are varying degrees of “getting along” between them as they compete for food.
Soldiers in subterranean termite colonies have the important job of defending the colony from natural predators such as ants. These soldiers are recognizable by their large mandibles, which they use to attack intruders.
Formosan termite colony
Formosan termites are a species of subterranean termite that is native to Asia. They form large colonies that can be very destructive. In the United States, they are most commonly found in the southern states.
In the United States, the largest Formosan termite colony was discovered. It weighed in at 600 pounds! This goes to show how destructive these termites can be when left untreated.
To recap, there are three different types of termite colonies – the subterranean termite colony, the drywood termite colony, and the Formosan termite colony. Now, the sizes of these colonies differ with the species of the termites forming them. Regardless, all these termite colonies can cause immense damage to your home. Therefore, protect your home from all termite infestations!