Termites

Species of Termites
There are more than 350 species of termites in India. Some of the common species include

  • Odontotermes spp.
  • Microcerotermes spp.
  • Coptotermes spp.
  • Heterotermes spp.
  • Reticulitermes spp.
  • Zootermopsis spp.
  • Cryptotermes spp.
  • Incisitermes spp.
  • Marginitermes spp.

Description
Termites are social insects, working and living together in groups called colony. Each colony contains several types termite individuals (castes) which differ in body shape and behaviour and each caste performs different tasks. These castes are identified as:
  • Workers
  • Soldiers - distinguished by their heavily armoured and pigmented heads
  • Reproductives (i.e. Queen and King)

Subterranean termites are the most destructive termites in India. They build their nests underground and can also construct mounds that go above ground level. Mature colonies may consist of more than 2 million individuals and the queens are capable of laying 2000 eggs per day. Termite colonies may exist for as long as 50 years

Behaviour
 Termite Worker The Worker Caste dominate the colony population, they are wingless, sterile and blind. Their primary role is to build the nest, tend the eggs and young, and gather the food. They also feed other castes incapable of feeding themselves.
 

 Termite Soldier
The Soldier Caste is also wingless, sterile and blind. Their primary function is protection of the colony from natural enemies and their mandibles are so modified that they cannot feed themselves.
 
 

The Reproductive Caste has eyes, a functional reproductive system and wings. They usually swarm (leave the colony) before the onset of monsoon. After swarming (also called as mating flight), they seek out a suitable place to form a new colony. The king alters little in shape but the queen’s abdomen becomes enormously distended with eggs.

Risks
Termites are hidden invaders, they can cause serious structural damage to buildings and significant damage to crops. Termites feed on anything consisting of cellulose such as wood, paper, clothes. In search of food they also damage non-cellulosic material such as rubber, plastic, nylon, etc. Their ability to conceal themselves provides the necessary time to do considerable damage before they are discovered.

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