Is There A Termite King?

picture of termites scavenging

The termite king leads a rather sad life. He never goes above ground and he does not wear a crown either. However, the termite king is high priority in his colony, second only to the queen.  The royal duo will produce what’s called alates several times per year. Alates are sexually mature males and females that develop wings and fly from the hive to start their own colonies.

As the alates fly, they pair up into couples. Once landed, they will shed their wings and head underground to become king and queen of a new colony. The termite king and queen seal themselves inside a royal chamber, where they will stay for the remainder of their lives. The royal couple is darker in color than the other members of the colony, and unlike the others, they have functioning eyes.

King & Queen Termites

The king and queen release pheromones that prevent the other termites from developing reproductive organs. This leaves the queen with the task of laying all the eggs in a given colony, though there are some types of termites that have supplemental reproductives to help her. Most species also have supplemental queens once the colony develops. When the original queen cannot keep up with egg production needed to sustain or grow the colony, the supplemental queens will begin to produce eggs.

Other than mating with the queen and releasing caste-controlling pheromones, the king termite has no other duties in the colony.

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