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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 this colony is responsible for egg production for its colony. Unlike in ants, the king mates with her for life.62 In some species, the abdomen of this queen swells up radically to increase fecundity, a characteristic known as physogastrism.61 Depending on the species, the queen starts producing reproductive winged alates at a certain period of the year, and enormous swarms emerge from the colony when nuptial flight begins.
Termites are often compared with the social Hymenoptera (ants and various species of bees and wasps), but their differing evolutionary origins result in significant differences in life cycle. In the eusocial Hymenoptera, the employees are entirely female. Males (drones) are haploid and develop from unfertilised eggs, while females (both employees and the queen) are diploid and grow from fertilised eggs.
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Depending on species, both male and female workers may have different roles 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 phases.64 Nymphs resemble small adults, and undergo a series of moults as they grow.
The development of nymphs into adults can take months; the time period depends on food availability, temperature, and the general population of this colony. Since nymphs are unable to feed themselves, workers must feed them, but workers also get involved in the social life of the colony and have certain other tasks to accomplish such as 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 those termites from becoming fertile queens.68.
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Queens of the eusocial termite Reticulitermes speratus are effective at a long lifespan without sacrificing fecundity. These long-lived queens have a significantly lower level of oxidative damage, including oxidative DNA damage, than employees, soldiers and nymphs.69 The lower levels of damage seem to be due to increased catalase, an enzyme that protects against oxidative stress.69.
Termite alates only depart the colony when a nuptial flight takes place. Alate men 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 perform , they excavate a chamber large enough for both, shut up the entrance and move to mate.70 After mating, the set never go outdoors and spend the rest of their lives in the nest.
By way of example, alates in certain species appear during the day in summer while others emerge during winter.71 The nuptial flight may also begin at dusk, when the alates swarm around areas with lots 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 bigger species normally having 1001,000 individuals.
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The queen only lays 1020 eggs in the very early phases of the colony, but places as many as 1,000 per day when the colony is a few years old.53 At adulthood, a primary queen has a fantastic capability to lay eggs. In some species, the adult queen has a greatly distended abdomen and may create 40,000 eggs a day.72 Both mature ovaries may have some 2,000 ovarioles each.73 The abdomen increases the queen's body length to a number of times more than before mating and reduces her ability to move freely; attendant workers offer assistance. .