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The reproductive caste of a mature colony includes a wealthy female and male, known as the queen and king.61 The queen of the colony is responsible for egg production for the colony. Unlike in ants, the king mates with her for life.62 In some species, the abdomen of this queen swells up dramatically to increase fecundity, a characteristic known as physogastrism.61 Depending on the species, the queen begins producing reproductive winged alates at a certain time of year, and enormous swarms emerge in the colony when nuptial flight begins.
Termites are often compared with all the social Hymenoptera (ants and various species of bees and wasps), but their differing evolutionary origins result in major differences in life span. In the eusocial Hymenoptera, the workers are exclusively female. Men (drones) are haploid and develop from unfertilised eggs, while females (both workers and the queen) are both diploid and grow from fertilised eggs.
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Depending on species, both male and female employees may have different functions in a termite colony.63.
The entire life cycle of a termite begins with an egg, but is different from that of a bee or ant in that it goes through a developmental process called incomplete metamorphosis, with egg, nymph and adult stages.64 Nymphs resemble small adults, and go through a series of moults as they grow.
The development of nymphs into adults can take months; the time frame depends on food availability, temperature, and the general population of this colony. Since nymphs are unable to feed themselves, workers must feed thembut employees also get involved in the social life of the colony and have certain different activities to accomplish like foraging, building or maintaining the nest or tending to the queen.5367 Pheromones govern the caste system in termite colonies, preventing all but a very few of the termites from becoming fertile queens.68.
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Queens of the eusocial termite Reticulitermes speratus are capable of a long lifespan without sacrificing fecundity. These long-lived queens have a significantly lower degree of oxidative damage, including oxidative DNA damage, than employees, soldiers and nymphs.69 The lower degrees of harm appear to be due to increased catalase, an enzyme that protects against oxidative stress.69.
Termite alates only depart the colony when a nuptial flight occurs. Alate males and females pair up together and then land in search of a suitable spot for a colony.70 A termite king and queen do not mate until they find such a spot. When they dothey excavate a room large enough for both, shut up the entrance and move to partner.70 After mating, the set never go outdoors and spend the rest of their lives in the nest.
For example, alates in certain species emerge during the daytime in summer while others emerge during the winter.71 The nuptial flight might also begin at dusk, when the alates swarm around areas with plenty of lights. The time when nuptial flight begins depends on the environmental conditions, the time of day, moisture, wind speed and precipitation.71 The number of termites in a colony also fluctuates, with the larger species typically having 1001,000 individuals.
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The queen only lays 1020 eggs in the very early stages of the colony, but lays as many as 1,000 per day when the colony is several years old.53 At adulthood, a main queen has a great capacity to lay eggs. In some species, the mature queen includes a greatly distended abdomen and might create 40,000 eggs a day.72 The two mature ovaries may have some 2,000 ovarioles each.73 The abdomen increases the queen's body length to a number of times greater than prior to mating and reduces her ability to maneuver freely; attendant employees provide assistance. .