Termites are little insects that are termed along with the ants. Termites are sometimes called "white ants" even though they are not really related to them.
The scientific name for Termites is ISOPTERA. Termites generally feed on dead plant material, which consists of: wood, leaf litter, soil or animal dung/poo.
Termites are an organism that feed on and break down dead plant or animal matter, particularly in the subtropical and tropical regions and their recycling of wood and other plant matter is of considerable ecological importance. Termites live in colonies that have from several hundred to several million individuals. A colony contains nymphs (young), workers, and soldiers and reproductive ones that are both male and female and at times, several egg-laying queen termites. The egg-laying termite queen lays her eggs, the termite larvae transform into termite workers, termite soldiers or reproductive.
Subterranean termites usually have to maintain contact with the soil to obtain sufficient moisture to survive. They live together in a colony and are divided into various castes, each with a specific duty.
Worker termites are by far the most numerous of the castes. They forage for food, care for the young and build the nest. The workers are responsible for damage to timber caused in their search for food, which consists mainly of cellulose, sugars and starches that present in the timber. Click here to read more about protection against termites damages.
Protection of the colony is the duty of a relatively small number of soldier termites. Nature has equipped these soldiers with physical and chemical weaponry to help them repel invaders.
A further caste consists of the reproductive termites responsible for the propagation of the species. These reproductive termites grow wings and are known as alates.
Once a year, usually in early summer, on a warm and humid evening, they swarm from the nest. After a short flight these males and females shed their wings prior to mating. Most of these potential “king and queen” termites either fall prey to birds, lizards, ants or spiders, or die of exposure before they can find a suitable location. But, if they find a suitable environment, a new colony will result, which over time, may contain over one million termites.
Whenever termites leave the soil in their search for food, they construct mud tunnels to protect them from predators and also to ensure that a high level of life sustaining moisture is maintained within the workings.