Species category: Termites
Family: 5 family groups represented in Australia:
Mastotermitidae - 1 species
Kalotermitidae - 46 species
Termopsidae - 5 species
Rhinotermitidar - 30 species
Termitidae - 266 species
Termites are social insects, working and living together in groups and each colony contains several types (castes). The castes differ in body shape and behaviour and each performs different tasks. The castes are identified as:
Soldiers - distinguished by their heavily armoured and pigmented heads
While some species are native to the tropics, there are many that are native to Australia. Different species opt for different habitats. Subterranean termites like soil and tend to build their nests underground. They can also create mounds that go above ground level. Mature colonies may number 2 million individuals and the queens are capable of laying 2000 eggs per day. Termite colonies may exist for as long as 50 years
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. The Soldier Caste is also wingless, sterile and blind. There are 2 types, Mandibulate with prominent jaws and the Nasute with a pronounced snout. Their primary function is defence 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) in spring to early summer or late summer to early autumn. After swarming (sometimes called the nuptial or 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.
A silent destroyer, they can cause serious structural damage to buildings and significant damage to crops. Their ability to conceal themselves provides the necessary time to do considerable damage before they are discovered.