What is the Life Cycle of a Termite?

Termites live out a very unique life cycle in which they are eventually assigned to a designated caste. The termite life cycle contains an egg, young termite larvae or termite nymph, older nymph, worker, soldier, drone, and queen.

Termite species have the following trajectory:

  1. Male and female reproductives will mate and establish a new colony.
  2. The queen termite lays the eggs she has been producing.
  3. Larvae will hatch from the eggs and become nymphs.
  4. The nymphs will continually molt up to three times before reaching maturity.
  5. When mature, the termite will be assigned a caste, which is a specific role within a colony.
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The Termite Life Cycle

Termite life begins when the reproductive caste, also known as alates or swarmers, swarm to form new colonies. After a male and female alate mate, the reproductives will shed their wings and the new king and queen excavate a small chamber in the soil underground, where the queen begins to lay her eggs. The queen termite can lay up to 30,000 eggs in a day. Her eggs hatch into larvae and the nymph termites will molt three times before being assigned as a reproductive, worker, or soldier.

For How Long Do Termites Live?

Different termite castes have different life spans. On average, termites live for the following amounts of time: 

  • Worker and soldier termites live for one to two years. 
  • Reproductive termites, also known as alates or swarmers, can live for nearly 4 years.
  • The termite queen has been known to survive for twenty years or more under prime conditions.

When Do Termites Get Designated Into a Caste?

As of now, it is still unknown how exactly termites are designated a cast. All research that has been conducted suggests that the designation depends on social and environmental cues based on the needs of the colony. Scientists have also speculated that termites can switch castes at any point depending on the needs of the colony.