Termites are most obvious in the swarming season, but the insects work away in their colonies even during the winter months. The insects eat cellulose and can have dramatic effects on woodwork in houses, so during swarming season, homeowners should take care to keep the flying termites out of their house and away from susceptible woodwork.
Termites build nests or mounds from mud above or below ground, or can build nests in trees. The tree nests are attached directly to the trunk of a tree.
The above and below ground nests and mounds are made from soil, and also catch water for the termites.
Termite Life Cycle
Termite hierarchy has three castes. These are the reproductive caste, the worker caste and the soldier caste.
The reproductive caste includes a single king and a single queen, and the queen of a nest can live as along as 50 years. Other in the caste are alates, which are young, winged termites.
These are the termites that sometimes leave their original nest to swarm, find a mate and colonize another area. De-alates are the older alates that have colonized an area, lost their wings and turned into kings or queens.
De-alates lay eggs to start a new colony. Neotenics are daughters of the queen that help her lay eggs and take over if the queen dies.
Soldier termites are wingless and blind, and defend their colony from interlopers. Worker termites are also wingless and blind, but have soft bodies, so they need to stay in dark, moist environments.
The workers collect food, build the nest, look after the eggs and feed the other termite castes.
Termites swarm in the spring. The swarm is composed of the alate reproductive group, which fly off from the original colony, meet up with a mate and colonize a suitable new spot for a fresh colony, such as a rotted part of a tree.
New underground nests are begun when the termites find a piece of wood or a stem underground. The termites then build a mud nest around the wood.
Termites in Winter
In the winter, termites do not go dormant, but stay underground and slow their activities down. When the winters are milder than usual, the termites can stay closer to the surface, and breed for a longer time, creating more alates.
Warmer winters therefore result in heavier swarms than usual, with more alates searching for new colony areas.