Termite Life Cycle: All About The Life of Termites!

Hey there! Some links on this page are affiliate links which means that, if you choose to make a purchase, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I greatly appreciate your support!

Understanding the termite life cycle is of paramount importance in your battle against a termite infestation of even the smallest magnitude. Not only does it help you identify the presence of any of the developmental stages in a termite’s life cycle, but it also equips you to take the right measures to get rid of such an infestation.

Therefore, to educate you about the termite life cycle, I have comprehensively explained the different stages of development of a termite and also proffered related information below! Keep reading!

What is the termite life cycle?

termite life cycle

The life cycle of a termite is a process that begins with the creation of a new colony. A queen and king will start a new colony by mating and then creating offspring.

The majority of these offspring will not survive, but a select few will make it to their destination and begin the process anew. This cycle repeats until the colony reaches maturity.

The reproductive termites, or the alates, do not have very good flying skills and will only fly a short distance from their colony before landing. They will then mate and establish a new colony. Of course, a termite colony has different castes, but I’ll get to that later.

In essence, termites undergo only partial or incomplete metamorphosis. What this means is that while other insects, like ants, have four developmental stages throughout their lives, termites only have three.

Ants and other insects start their life as an egg, then go on to become larvae, then on to become pupae, and finally, emerge as adults from these pupae.

Termites, on the other hand, begin their lives as eggs, go on to become larvae and then directly develop into adults without becoming pupae. This is known as incomplete metamorphosis.

Termite eggs – the first stage in a termite life cycle.

Termite eggs are the first stage in a termite life cycle. They are small and white, and they hatch into larvae. Larvae are soft-bodied and blind, but they grow quickly and turn into adult termites.

So, after mating with a reproductive member of the termite colony, the termite queen lays roughly 12 eggs initially, which can increase to roughly one thousand eggs a day. An interesting fact about termite queens is that they can lay over a million eggs in their life span.

After laying the eggs, the termite queen, the termite king, and the worker termites look after the eggs till they hatch into termite larvae. These larvae turn into adult termites.

Some adult termites have wings and can fly. As the colony’s size expands, workers build tunnels that extend farther away from the nest to find food.

Termite nymphs or larvae – the second stage in a termite life cycle.

Termite nymphs or termite larvae are typically smaller than adult termites, almost colorless in appearance, and soft to touch.

These nymphs become workers, soldiers, or secondary or tertiary reproductives in a colony’s life cycle. It is worth noting that these secondary and tertiary reproductives in a termite colony can even sustain and grow the population of termites if the queen termite happens to die.

After the eggs hatch, termite nymphs or larvae come out of them. Now, initially, they are cared for by their biological parents and the other worker termites in that colony. Termite larvae are offered regurgitated food for their easy digestion till they develop further.

Interestingly, termites are very flexible when it comes to their life cycle and what they become. This is largely due to the fact that colonies have different needs at different times, so the termites will adapt in order to fill that need.

For example, if the colony needs more soldiers, then the nymphs will develop into soldiers. Sometimes, it can even so happen that the nymphs that had wings initially lose them and become worker termites if that’s what the termite colony needs at the time.

Adult termites – the third stage in a termite life cycle.

Adult termites are the third stage in the life cycle, and they are responsible for completing the life cycle by reproducing. They live around one year, and during that time, they can go through a number of changes as they transition into their next stage.

After the reproductive adults have gone through their changes, they become swarmers and leave the colony to start new colonies. Swarmers are very different in appearance from the other two castes and are capable of reproducing.

Swarming of termites generally occurs when large numbers of adult termites leave the nest to start their own colony. Swarmers are attracted to light and typically fly during the day. They will mate once they find a suitable location, and then the new colony will begin to grow.

What is the life span of a termite?

A termite lifespan depends on three stages. Worker termites have the shortest lifespan of all three life stages and typically only live for one to several years.

However, kings and queens can live for more than a decade. There is also a caste system in termites, with each caste fulfilling different functions in the colony.

The queen termite can live for up to 35 years, and she is responsible for laying all the eggs in the colony. After the eggs hatch, the young termites go through a series of molts before they become adults.

How long does it generally take for a subterranean termite colony to mature as a whole?

A subterranean termite colony matures in about 6 to 7 years. During the subterranean termite life cycle, the different castes of termites will develop and take on their specific roles in the colony. Once the colony is fully mature, it can start producing eggs and colonize new areas.

Termites are very resilient and can survive in a variety of different environments. They are able to do this by forming colonies that are able to span large areas and last for many years. In fact, some termite colonies have been known to last for about a hundred years.

What are the three castes in a termite colony?

Now, as I mentioned earlier, a termite colony is well-defined and divided into three castes – worker termites, soldier termites, and reproductive termites.

Their roles are so created as to improve that termite colony’s chances of growth and survival. I have explained these three castes and their functions in the following sections. 

Worker termites

Worker Termites

Worker termites are the most common type of termite. In fact, if you ever spot a termite, it’s a 98% chance that you’ve spotted a worker termite. These termites make up the majority of a termite colony.

They are responsible for most of the work in the colony, including gathering food, building and repairing nests, and caring for the young.

Worker termites are physically different than other termites in that they have a harder exoskeleton, and they are sterile, meaning they cannot reproduce.

Worker termites use pheromones to communicate with one another as they follow trails. These trails often lead to structural damage around the globe. As a result, it is important to be aware of the life cycle of these pesky creatures and take preventative measures where possible.

Soldier termites

soldier termite

Soldiers are a specific type of termite that has a larger head and different job than other termites in the colony.

Their main purpose is to protect the colony from outside threats, such as predators or invading armies. They can also be called on to help with construction projects or repair damage to the nest.

Soldiers make up a very small percentage of the termite population, but they are vitally important to the colony. These tiny warriors are in charge of defending the colony from ants and other invaders, as well as protecting the workers and reproductives from harm.

Soldier termites are unable to feed themselves and rely on the workers to bring them food. This is difficult for them to do, so they have developed a way to signal the workers when they need food.

They can do this by rubbing their head against their abdomen, which will produce a sound that the workers will recognize and bring food to them.

Reproductive termites

When a colony of termites gets too large or runs out of food, they will produce swarmers. These are young termites who have not yet begun to build a nest and will search for a new place to live.

After two swarmers mate, they become the king and queen of the new colony. The king is responsible for producing sperm, while the queen is responsible for laying eggs. The eggs will hatch into nymphs, which will go through several molts before becoming adults.

The king and queen are the primary reproductives of a colony. They are responsible for mating and laying eggs that will hatch into new termites. But, the other reproductive termites, or the swarmers, as they are better known, are called secondary or tertiary termites.

In fact, these swarmers are also tasked with maintaining the population of a termite colony in case something untoward happens to the termite queen and king.

What does a termite nest look like?

termite nest mound

A termite nest is the home of a colony of termites. They can be found in two different places, underground or in wood located above the ground.

The type of nest that a termite builds depends on the species. The underground nests are typically found in areas where the soil is soft and easy to dig in, such as near rivers and streams.

Mound-building termites are the most common type of termite. They build their nests in the form of large, conical, or dome-shaped structures above the ground. The purpose of these mounds is to provide the termites with protection from predators and weather conditions.

The nests that are located in wood are called drywood termites, and they live in trees, fences, furniture, and other wooden objects.

Dampwood termites, on the other hand, build their nests in damp, rotting wood. Drywood termites live in dry wood and don’t require contact with soil.

What do termite eggs look like?

Termite eggs are small, translucent, and jelly-bean shaped. They are laid in large quantities and can be found in the nests of termites.

Termites lay their eggs in an underground nest, so you would need to be looking for them in that specific environment if you want to find them. They also look a lot like grains of rice.

Termites lay their eggs in an underground nest, where they are safe from predators and the elements. They hatch into nymphs, which will then become workers, soldiers, or reproductives.

Where do termites generally come from?

Termites come from contact with soil, which helps keep their soft bodies moist. The termite life cycle begins when an egg is deposited in the soil by a reproductive termite.

Once the egg hatches, the young termite will start to feed on the cellulose found in wood. As the young termite grows, it will molt and become an adult.

The adult will then mate and produce eggs, which will hatch into more young termites that will continue the life cycle.

Where will you find termites swarming?

Termites swarm as part of their life cycle in order to reproduce. Swarms may occur outdoors or indoors, depending on the species of termite.

If you see a swarm near your foundation or inside your home, it’s likely that you have an infestation and should call a professional immediately.

What is the difference between maggots and termites?

Maggots and termites are two different types of insects that share a few similarities but also have some distinct differences. Maggots are the larval form of flies, while termites are the immature stage of a certain type of white ant.

Maggots are long and thin with no legs or head, while termites are more clearly visible with antennae and a defined body shape.

Can termites survive without a queen termite to rule the colony?

If there is no queen termite in the colony, then the workers will not have much reason to do what they do best- which is taking care of the colony. In these cases, the termites will rely on the secondary reproductives to take care of things.

That said, termites can still survive without a queen termite to rule the termite colony. All they have to do is wait for a secondary or tertiary reproductive to start reproducing and take over the colony as its queen and king.


That sums up all you need to know about the termite life cycle. So, the salient point to remember about the termite life cycle is that they go through incomplete metamorphosis.

Once termites develop into larvae, they will turn into a worker, swarmer, or a soldier, depending on what the termite colony needs!

About the author

A biotechnologist by profession and a passionate pest researcher. I have been one of those people who used to run away from cockroaches and rats due to their pesky features, but then we all get that turn in life when we have to face something.