What is the Life Cycle of a Termite?
Termites undergo a unique life cycle that ultimately results in them being assigned a certain role or caste within a colony.
The life cycle of a termite results in their development into one of a few different types of termite castes. The basic rundown of a termite life cycle is as follows:
- The queen termite lays the eggs she has been producing.
- Young larvae will hatch.
- A larva will molt until it reaches maturity in its designated caste, which can take up to three molts.
- During its life, the termite will fulfill its specific duties and perform its various functions.
Termite Life Stages
Every termite life cycle begins when the reproductive caste, also known as alates or swarmers, swarm in warm weather to begin new colonies. Once they’re established, the swarmers will shed their wings and become either the king or queen of their new colony. The queen can lay thousands of eggs, which eventually hatch into larvae. A young nymph termite will molt three times before being assigned as a worker, soldier, or swarmer.
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The Lifespan of a Termite
The lifespan of a termite depends on its caste as well as its species. In general, termites live for the following amounts of time:
- Worker and soldier termites live anywhere from 10 to 14 months.
- Reproductive termites, also known as alates or swarmers, typically live to be 4 years old.
- Queen termites live much longer than every other type and have been known to survive for one to two decades under optimal conditions.
How Are Termites Designated into Castes?
As fascinating as it seems, it’s largely unknown how exactly a termite is designated into one caste or another. Research has concluded that it is likely determined by social and environmental cues based on the needs of the colony at that time. Further investigations have suggested that the specific caste each termite is assigned isn’t always set in stone; depending on the needs of the colony, certain termites may develop into an entirely new caste well into its life.