Who Becomes The Termite Queen?
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Termite queens are the source of all life—literally—in every termite colony. Not only is there only one queen in a termite colony, that queen is the mother of all the majority of members of a colony of sometimes literally thousands of termites. Queen termites also decide and control the size, makeup and division of a termite colony. She also decides who gets to mature into reproductives and who will remain without reproductive capabilities for the rest of their termite lives.
How Does One Termite Become The Queen?
In any given termite colony there are workers, soldiers and a specific set of termites that are born to one day become reproductives called, “alates.” All termites begin their lives as workers, but a lucky few will moult into soldier termites or alates. Worker termites only moult into alates by moulting into alate nymphs. The queen of each colony regulates her colony members through the use of pheromones which prevent all but a small few termites from becoming fertile queens.
When conditions are optimal, the nuptial flight takes place and all reproductive male and female alates leave the colony and fly out into the world in search of a mate. If a female alate finds the right male alate, they lose their wings, burrow into the ground and begin their own colony. They will remain there for the rest of their lives.
Is There Ever More Than One Queen?
If a colony reaches a certain size, the queen may permit the development of secondary and tertiary reproductives. These reproductives will construct satellite nests near the original colony and begin to lay eggs.
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