Termites are industrious little creatures capable of building massive structures for their expansive colonies. But that’s not the only remarkable thing about them.
The queen termite can also live up to 50 years, which is the longest lifespan of any known insect, according to Smithsonian. For comparison, worker and soldier termites live just one to two years. A queen termite is usually slightly larger in size than a worker termite of the same species.
The role of the queen in a termite colony varies and changes over time. After pairing with a male, she begins her job as “founder” to get the colony started. She has to locate a suitable nest site, help excavate it, and then start producing eggs that will become workers. The queen and king are groomed and fed by workers, which enter the royal cell through small openings in its hard protective wall.
Queens lay eggs at a steady rate every day. Workers move the eggs to incubation chambers. Egg production is slow at first, but increases year by year; the queen maintains peak egg performance for seven to 10 years. Once the secondary queens – which are produced within the colony – begin egg-laying, colony size (number of workers) increases rapidly. The number of eggs produced by the queen varies depending on the species and the age of the queen.
In tropical regions, egg production is continuous throughout the year, although there are seasonal fluctuations. In more temperate regions, termite egg production is often suspended during the cooler months. After hatching, young immatures are taken to nursery chambers where they are fed and groomed by workers. They are moved to other chambers in the nest until their final molt into workers or soldiers.
A colony of about 1,000 workers at two years can multiply into 300,000 workers in five more years. Secondary queens are usually located in satellite nests away from, but connected to the main nest, so colonies can grow in size and number of individuals.
A queen termite has a long lifespan and is typically the oldest termite in the colony. Termite queens can live 25 to 50 years, with peak egg production for up to 10 years. When the queen dies and the pheromone she uses to block reproductives’ development is no longer produced, a new queen will develop in the colony.
Sources: bestlifeonline.com, and orkin.com