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Social Insects: Termites

Termite colonies are found in regions of Africa, South America, Australia and the United States. They are social insects but less advanced than ant colonies. Termites are related more to cockroaches.

A termite nest, Thailand © Shirley Burchill

The termite colony has three classes of individuals and each class includes both sexes. The reproductive class is represented by the king and the queen. These two individuals are locked away in a chamber in the centre of the termite nest.

The queen becomes huge soon after fertilization as her abdomen swells with eggs. She lays these eggs at a rate of several thousand each day throughout her lifetime. The soldiers have enormous heads with powerful jaws. The queen, king and soldiers are fed by the workers.

A worker termite © Shirley Burchill

A soldier termite © Shirley Burchill

Termites digest wood and paper. They do great damage to woodwork in houses, as well as to furniture and books. Some species of termites build nests up to 6 metres in height.

Drawing of a termite queen © Shirley Burchill

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