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Termite Biology

Some people think that termites are closely related to ants, hence the term “white ants” but they are not that closely related to ants, but strangely they are more related to cockroaches.
The closest relatives of cockroaches are believed to be the mantids, and some modern taxonomists prefer to place these two groups, as well as termites, in the order Dictyoptera.
Indications are that termites evolved out of the cockroach stem or that cockroaches and termites both evolved from a common ancestor.

One family of cockroaches (Cryptocercidae) and one extant relic species of termite (Mastotermes darwiniensis) have certain characteristics in common.

Among them are the segmental origin of specific structures in the female reproductive system and that both deposit their eggs in similar blattarian-type oothecae.
They also share a system of fat body endosymbiotic bacteria that is
common to all cockroaches but is unique to Mastotermes among the termites.
Differences in Reproductive Function
A fully social or eusocial group is generally understood to exhibit reproductive division of labor.
This means that eusocial groups must include some individuals that forgo direct reproduction and instead aid the rearing of the offspring of others in their group.
In eusocial insects, the helpers comprise the worker caste and reproductive females are referred to as queens.
Termite colonies possess long-lived royal couples (a queen and a king), whereas in eusocial Hymenoptera, males are sometimes referred to as drones.
Males in the order Hymenoptera (bees, ants, and wasps) rarely work for their colonies and typically die soon after mating.
In contrast, male eusocial thrips (Thysanoptera) and termites (Isoptera) comprise part of the worker force and participate fully in colony labour.
Social insect species vary according to whether the group’s members are permanently relegated to reproductive versus worker roles and in the degree of fecundity differences between reproducers and workers.
There is a general evolutionary trend toward increased reproductive caste specialization as more complex, larger societies evolve from smaller, simpler ones.
In some ants, workers lack reproductive organs and are permanently sterile. In most species, however, workers can achieve limited direct reproduction under some conditions.

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Further Reading
Creffield, J. W. (1996). “Wood Destroying Insects: Wood Borers and
Termites,” 2nd ed. CSIRO Australia, Collingwood.

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Thinking about getting a Thermal Termite Inspection? See our page on Thermal Termite Inspection.

Call Bruce on 0417 251 911 or send us a message if you have a problem with termites.

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