Courses for Kids
Free study material
Offline Centres
Store Icon

Termite Life Cycle

share icon
share icon

When we look at the termites they are said to be far more termites than people on earth. A termite queen lives up to 25 years and can lay somewhere around 30,000 eggs a day. And as a result, even a single mound could be home to millions of individuals at a given time. Their numbers will vary from one study to study as the scientists have now estimated that the biomass of all the termites that are there in the world is at least as great as that of the humans. Most termites aren’t pests, out of the 2,800 named termites species in the world the majority have no interest in eating your house. Only 28 species are known to chow down on the buildings and infrastructure. Most are actually very beneficial to their ecosystem clearing dead wood, narrating the soil with their intricate tunnel systems, and enhancing plant growth. 

Researchers have found that contrary to being the network of termites, mounds can help make the dry environment like Savannas more resilient to climate change. Because of the way in which these termite mounds will be able to store nutrients and moisture among other kinds of benefits. Termites are good for crops, as termites can help make the soil more fertile. In one study researchers in Australia found that fields that were home to ants and termites produce 36% more wheat without fertilizer compared to the non-termite fields. Termites help fertilize the soil naturally, their pop which they use to plaster their tunnels is full of nitrogen. Their intricate systems of underground tunnels also help the rainfall to penetrate the soil more deeply which reduces the amount of moisture that evaporates from dirt and makes it more likely that the water can be taken up by plants. Termites have very specific roles in their colony, each termite colony has a king and a queen termite or several plus workers and soldiers. This cast system controlled by pheromones produced by the rain and the queen determines not just what different termites do in the colony but how they look.

Kings and queens develop wings that when they are sexually mature they used to fly away from their original nests to reproduce and start their own colony. Once they land at the site of their new colony kings and queens snap off these wings since they all spend all of their lives underground. Queens are also physically much larger than other casts, the largest type of an African species called macro term is Belakosis, which produces queen up to 4 inches long. If you compare their counterparts with others, most of the workers and as well as the soldiers will not be having either wings or eyes. Worker termites that are responsible for foraging, building tunes, and feeding the other cast in the nest are significantly smaller than the queens. Soldier termites are slightly bigger than the workers with large sharp mandibles designed to slice up ants and other enemies that may invade the nest. Termites are one of the fastest animals in the world, as they hold the record for the world’s fastest animal movement. Panamanian termites can clap their mandibles shut at 157 miles per hour compared to the cheetahs run which top out at about 76 miles per hour. This quick action allows tiny termites and narrow tunnels to kill invaders with a single bite. Termites are skilled architects in Namibia quarter-inch long termites of the genus macro termes can move 364 pounds of dirt 3,300 pounds of water each year total in the working course for building their 17-foot tall mounds which are more relative to their size. That is the equivalent to human building 163 floors of Dubai’s Burj Khalifa no cranes required and that is not the tallest termite mound around, some can be even 30 feet high. More impressively termites co-operate to build these without any sort of centralized plan. 

Engineers are not trying to replicate this decentralized swarm intelligence to build robots that could erect the buildings in a similar fashion. Termites build their own air conditioning. Some termites have developed an incredibly efficient method of climate control in the form of tall above ground that site above their nest. Organized around a central chimney the structures act as giant lungs breathing air in and out as the temperature outside changes in relation to the temperature inside. Thanks to this convection cycle termites keep underground temperatures in their nest between roughly 84 degrees Fahrenheit and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Termites are farmers, humans are not the only ones cultivating crops. Termites farm too; they have been doing it for more than 25 million years compared to humans 23,000 years. Some species of termites have evolved a symbiotic relationship with Termitomyces fungi, growing fungus in underground gardens for food. When they fly off to create a new colony, the termite queen brings along fungus spores from their parent colony to seed the garden that will feed their new nest. Foraging termite workers go out of the plant material that they can’t fully digest on their own then deposit their feces on the fungus for it to feed on. They are capable of eating the fungus, they also will be able to eat some portion of the plant material when the fungus has broken it down sufficiently. 

The mutually beneficial relationship has led some scientists to suggest that the fungus which is much larger in both size and energy production then the termites could be the one in fact in control of the relationship potentially releasing chemical pheromones that lead the termites to build the mound they live in together. Termites are microbial gold mines, as scientists begin to understand the huge role that microbes play in both the human body and the rest of the world. Termites provide a fascinating case study, about 90% of the organisms and termite guts are not found anywhere else on earth. In their hindgut alone they host as many as 1,400 species of bacteria. When we see these microbes as they are so efficient at converting the cellulose-rich wood and dead grass which the termites will eat into energy. Scientists harness them to make biofuel from plants. The termites are able to squeeze through gaps that are as small as 2 millimeters, they can easily find their way into your home. Depending on the species at maturity the number of termites in a colony can vary between several hundred to over 2 million individuals. Nests are the most damaging species and can start to cause significant damage year in year out. Termites are valuable insects because they decompose, eliminating huge amounts of decaying plant material. Termites consume both decaying and live wood, they also eat fungus that also lives on the decaying trees. Termites cannot digest cellulose from the wood without the help of the intestinal microorganisms. 

More than 100 species of bacteria and protozoa live inside their guts and help in food digestion. Young termites are not born with micro-organisms in their guts. Before they start consuming wood they need to eat feces of other termites to equip their intestines with the required number of bacteria and protozoa. Tight interactions between termites and microorganisms are called symbiosis and it is beneficial for all of them. Termites are prayed by a lot of other animals, anteaters aardvark and aardwolf, pangolin, echidna, birds, and large bugs. If we see in some parts of the world there are people who also eat termites.             

[Image will be uploaded soon]   



If we look at the life cycle of the termite it will usually begin with the mating of the flight, where we will be seeing the swarming which is the reproductive males and as well as the females who will be having wings on them usually leave a well-established colony in order to procreate. Once the fertilization is said to be completed the winged termites will land and usually shed their wings thereby going on to form new colonies. These sets of insects will then later become the king or queen termites of their colonies which they have newly established. If we look at the queen and the king termite they are said to be at the center of the termite life cycle and are mainly responsible for the part of reproduction. The king has the main job in life is to mate with the queen also through chemical secretions known as pheromones he and the queen determine how many of their offspring develop into workers, soldiers, or reproductives. In 5 years the king and queen can grow the colony into a million termites. Talking about the queen, her main job is to lay as many eggs as she is usually fed by the worker termites with the king along as well. She also secretes the pheromones that control specialization in the colony. A queen can live for 25 years or more reported to reach a production of more than 1000 to 2000 eggs a day. Many of these reproductives die before they can start a colony. Most subterranean termites nest in moist soil where there is a suitable food source nearby.                                    


Once the fertilized queen will be laying her eggs they will usually hatch into larvae that are pale white in color. Eggs hatch into larvae and molt to develop into workers, soldiers, and primary and secondary reproductives. The queen can lay from several 100 to several 1000 every day. The termites' eggs usually take about a duration of 30 days in order for it to hatch into larvae. The eggs undergo 4 moltings, molting is nothing but development and after the combination of these moultings, it enters into the next stage. 


When we look at these immature termites who are usually fed through the salivary glands of the king and then later by usually the worker termites who are mature. Based on chemical messages received from the queen and king, the larvae will develop into one of 5 specialties. Over the course of several molds, these larvae grow to assume a role in one of the 3 termite colony cast workers, soldiers, and reproductive termites also known as elates.    


In an intermediate stage, nymphs are destined to become one of 2 types of reproductive termites. While they weigh they help in the care of the larvae and the king and queen. A nymph is a young termite that is going through molds, a process of shedding its exoskeleton to become reproductive. First, a termite develops a soft exoskeleton under its current hard exoskeleton. Then once the termite has reached maturity its outermost exoskeleton splits open and the new exoskeleton enlarges and hardens. This molting process continues throughout a termite life cycle based on the colony’s needs.   


The bread and butter of the colony they forage for food heat would feed the queen. The queen and the saw lighters and care for the larvae, they are sterile. These worker termites then take over most of the activities in the colony including the foraging. Leaving the queen to enlarge and turn into an egg-laying machine.    


As the colony matures it also produces soldiers to defend the colony. As they will not be able to chew wood, so others will usually feed them but they are capable of killing. If the colony comes under attack the soldiers with the help of their oversized mandibles will be emitting a glue-like substance that is thick in nature that will immobilize invaders to their colony.


Winged reproductive or rural elites, in a mature colony thousands of nymphs develop wing pads and become winged reproductives. They grow long fragile wings and feed themselves waiting for the swarming season. The wing reproductives reach maturity and when the time is right headed to the sky on moss. Creating the familiar and dreaded swarming ritual, they fly away from their home colony towards any light source then fall to the ground.


Only 1% of the tens of thousands of the dealate survived the process of leaving the colony landing and looking for a mate. Those what survived will pair off, beat their wings from their bodies, and benign a highly structured mating ritual. In the rare instance when would water in the matched set of delights come together. They made themselves become kings and queens, a new colony was born.

Want to read offline? download full PDF here
Download full PDF
Is this page helpful?

FAQs on Termite Life Cycle

1. How long have Termites Lived for and how many Species of them are there?

Ans: Termites are large groups of insects that exist on earth for more than 250 million years. It is estimated that there are over 2,600 known species of termites, which we will find living on almost all the continents.

2. Where do Termites Live?

Ans: Ans: We see the termites will usually inhabit tropics and as well as the subtropical areas but they are also capable of surviving in other climates as well. Termites are absent in the polar regions because they cannot survive on the low outer temperature.

3. What are Mounds made of?

Ans: Mounds are very strong and stable structures made of mud, soil, digested wood, feces, and saliva. Workers are in charge of building and maintaining the mound. Soldiers are in charge of protection of the mound, in the case of danger soldiers kick the wall of the colony which produces vibration to alert other termites. Both the workers and soldiers are almost completely blind because they spend most of their life in the dark. Large mounds can host up to 3 million termites.

Competitive Exams after 12th Science