Thursday, July 12, 2012

Enter the Termite Nest

I have no idea what species this but while lifting logs in the yard I found a termite colony. Here you can see a queen next to a developing nymph. Termites go through what's called "incomplete metamorphoses" meaning they lack a larval stage. From an egg a developing nymph emerges and it's caste can be influenced by what and how much it eats. This colony actually had multiple queens in it. I've read colonies often start out with a single founding queen and king, however they only live for 2 to 5 years or otherwise eventually die. Normally this would be the death of the colony but some species of termites have developed a method to get around this by making more queens that breed inside the nest. 

You may assume having 100 queens is better than just 1 but even this system has its disadvantages. The one healthy queen they started with was receiving the full attention of the colony. That attention now has to be split among 100 others who will probably never live up to their founding mother's glory.

Here are some solders roaming about. Notice how the nest texture is similar to cork board instead of the earth that surrounds it. The nest was a mix of subterranean and damp rotting wood.

In the lower middle you can see some eggs among other things. The brown spheres are a sort of fungus that the termites don't eat. It purposely shapes itself like the termite's eggs. Alex Wild has better photos of this.

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