Termites Unveiled: Decoding Their Mysterious Life Cycle

Group of Termites | Advantage Termite and Pest Control

Termites are wood-destroying insects that reproduce and grow massive colonies quickly and constantly, turning a small infestation into a destructive invading force before you even notice their presence. The termite lifecycle is part of what makes these pests so hazardous to Kansas City homes. As they multiply quickly, so does their damage!

Here’s everything you need to know about the termite lifecycle and when to call termite and pest control for professional help.

How do Termites Reproduce?

These highly damaging pests reproduce through what is known as a “mating flight,” where reproductive members of a colony leave to procreate. When a female termite has been fertilized, the two termites shed their wings and become the royal family of a new colony. When a colony site is established, the Queen begins her role of laying eggs to help her kingdom thrive and multiply quickly. (Yikes, right?)

Now that you understand how termite reproduction works, let’s get into the specific stages of a termite lifecycle, from laying eggs to adulthood.

The Termite Lifecycle

1. The Queen Lays Eggs

Queen termites lay copious amounts of eggs. The average termite Queen can lay as many as 30,000 in just one day! This makes it extremely important for homeowners to get help immediately if they have a termite infestation because the problem can worsen quickly. These eggs will incubate for one or two weeks before hatching into nymphs.

2. Nymphs Hatch and Molt

Termite larvae are known as “nymphs.” These young termites have not yet been designated as workers, soldiers, or reproductive termites. This designation occurs after several phases of molting, during which nymphs develop the unique characteristics of their future caste.

Nymphs look like smaller worker termites, with white, almost transparent skin and small, straight antennae. As they molt, nymphs shed their exoskeletons to reveal a soft, new exoskeleton underneath. This new “shell” hardens and protects them until a new exoskeleton is ready to break through. Nymphs usually molt three times before reaching full maturity and designation, a process that takes three to four months.

3. Caste Designation

Mature termites are designated into one of three castes: workers, soldiers, and reproductive termites (also known as “alates”). The majority of termite nymphs will mature into workers. The “worker” termites burrow through wood, constructing tunnels and chambers for the colony to live in. They are also responsible for grooming and feeding the other castes.

When trying to identify termites, soldiers are easy to pick out of the pack because of their enlarged heads and mandibles, which distinguish them as the colony’s protectors. Yet because subterranean termites hide from daylight in tunnels and burrows, you won’t often see them out and about. The termites you’re most likely to run into in the wild are alates during swarming.

4. Swarming

When alates mature enough to begin reproducing, they grow wings and their eyesight improves, allowing them to travel away from home better and establish a colony of their own. It takes a long time for a colony to grow enough to start producing swarmers, as the stability of the mother colony is paramount. If you see termites swarming near your home, it could mean there is a colony nearby. It also means your home could become a prime site for a new colony if the alates can locate exposed wood and food sources.

How Long Do Termites Live?

While workers and soldiers usually only live one or two years, the constant laying of new eggs can keep a colony growing exponentially for the queen’s lifetime. And unlike her subjects, the termite queen can survive for decades in the right conditions! Her colony keeps her well-fed and protected to ensure her success for many years. Of course, a colony doesn’t need decades to make its mark in a home, and signs of damage can start appearing as soon as the first batch of termites mature.

What to Do If You Have a Termite Infestation

While understanding the termite lifecycle helps identify an infestation, it won’t do much to prevent termites from moving into your home. Even if you don’t have termites now, self-prevention methods will only do so much and can’t guarantee your home’s safety from damage. As soon as you suspect termite activity in your home, you should seek professional termite control help.

Here at Advantage Termite and Pest Control, we’re experts! We make understanding termites and identifying the severity of infestations our business so you can live worry and pest-free! Our residential and commercial termite control services keep you safe from infestation with the Sentricon System’s Always Active technology, which eliminates a colony from the arrival of the very first alate. Our eco-friendly termite control method keeps you safe from termites without presenting any risk to yourself, your pets, or the environment. Call us at first sight – we do it right!

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