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Eusocial insects grouped under the infraorder Isoptera, termites are among the most successful creatures in history, colonizing a number of land masses except Antarctica. Although they have been considered pests that bring damage to buildings, crops, or plantation forests, termites are also a delicacy in the diet of some human cultures around the world.
See the fact file below for more information on the termites or alternatively, you can download our 22-page Termite worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
EVOLUTION AND TAXONOMY
- Its infraorder name, Isoptera, originated from the Greek words iso, meaning equal, and ptera, meaning winged.
- The word “termite” came from the Latin and Late Latin word termes, which translates to “woodworm, white ant,” and is then influenced by the Latin word terere, meaning “to rub, wear, erode” from the previous word tarmes.
- In earlier English, termites were considered as “wood ants” or “white ants.”
- The present-day term for termites was initially used in 1781.
- Termites were originally classified under the order Isoptera. As early as 1934, some opinions suggested that these insects were more correlated to wood-eating cockroaches, under the genus Cryptocercus, based on the resemblance of their symbiotic gut flagellates.
- In the 1960s, more proof supporting that claim emerged when F.A. McKittrick discovered identical morphological features between some termites and the Cryptocercus nymphs.
- In 2008, DNA results from 16S rRNA sequences revealed that termites had the same roots with those insects under the order Blattodea, which included the cockroaches. The cockroach genus Cryptocercus has the strongest phylogenetic resemblances with termites and is known to be a sister-group to termites.
- The ancient giant northern termite (Mastotermes darwiniensis) showed several cockroach-like characteristics that are not common with other termites, such as laying its eggs in rafts and having anal lobes spotted on the wings.
- In 2013, about 3,106 extant and fossil termite species were identified, grouped in 12 families: reproductive and/or soldier castes are usually needed for classification.
DISTRIBUTION AND DIVERSITY
- Termites inhabit all continents except Antarctica. The diversity of these species is low in North America with 50 species and in Europe with 10 species; however, South America has the highest number, with over 400 species identified.
- Of the 3,000 termite species presently grouped, 1,000 are found in Africa, where mounds are intensely sufficient in most regions.
- There are 435 species of termites that inhabit Asia, most of which are distributed in the mild tropical and subtropical regions of China.
- In Australia, all ecological groups of termites are native to the country, with over 360 classified species.
- Termites avoid cool or cold habitats because of their soft cuticles.
- There are three ecological groups of termites: dampwood of the coniferous forests, drywood of the hardwood forests, and subterranean which live in widely diverse areas.
- Termites are generally small in size, measuring between 0.16 to 0.59 inches in length. The queen of the Macrotermes bellicosus species is the largest of all living termites. The extinct Gyatermes styriensis was a giant termite which inhabited Austria during the Miocene era, having a wingspan of 3.0 inches and a body length of 0.98 inches.
- Most worker and soldier termites are totally blind as they lack a pair of eyes. However, some species, like the Hodotermes mossambicus, possess compound eyes which assist them in orientation and help them differentiate sunlight from moonlight.
- Winged males and females have eyes along the lateral ocelli; however, this feature is not found in all termites, such as in families Hodotermitidae, Termopsidae, and Archotermopsidae.
- Termite antennae acts as sensors for touch, taste, odors, heat, and vibration.
- The three basic partitions of a termite include a scape, a pedicel, and the flagellum. Mouth parts have a maxillae, a labium, and a set of mandibles. Both the maxillae and labium contain palps, or a second pair of appendages, that assist termites in sensing food and handling.
- Just like other insects, the anatomy of a termite’s thorax has three segments: prothorax, mesothorax, and metathorax, each containing a pair of legs.
- Their abdomen is divided into ten segments, having two plates – the tergites and the sternites. The last segment of the abdomen has a pair of short cerci.
- Non-reproductive castes of termites lack wings and solely depend on their six legs for mobility.
- Compared to ants, their hindwings and forewings are of equal length.
- Trophallaxis happens when worker termites feed other nestmates. This is an efficient nutritional technique to convert and recycle nitrogen components. This process also spares the parents from feeding all, except the first generation of larvae, causing the group to grow larger and guaranteeing that the important gut symbionts are transferred to the other generation.
- Worker termites engage in the majority of the labor within the colony. They are responsible for foraging, storing food, brooding, and maintaining nests. These termites are also assigned with the digestion of cellulose in food.
- Worker termites, either male or female, are typically sterile, particularly in termites whose nest sites are away from their foraging site. Sterile workers are sometimes named true workers, while those that are fertile are referred to as false workers.
- Soldier termites have anatomical and behavioral specializations, and their only purpose is to defend the whole colony. Most of them have large heads with strong jaws. These termites cannot feed themselves; instead, just like the juveniles, they are fed by worker termites.
- Fertile male and female termites are known as the king and queen. The queen is responsible for egg production, while the king mates with her for life.
LIFE CYCLE AND REPRODUCTION
- Their life cycle starts with an egg. Nymphs look like small adults, and undergo a number of molts as they grow. In some species, eggs go through four molting processes and nymphs go through three. Nymphs initially molt into workers, and then some workers go through further molting and evolve into soldiers or alates; workers are only alates when they molt into alate nymphs.
- Nymphs wait for months before they develop into adults, and this stage usually depends on the availability of food, temperature, and the general population of the colony.
- Queens only lay 10 to 20 eggs during the early stages of the colony, but these fertile females lay as many as 1,000 a day when the colony is quite old.
BEHAVIOR AND ECOLOGY
- Termites are detritivores; they obtain nutrients by feeding on dead plants at any level of decomposition. They also play an important role in the ecosystem as they recycle waste materials, like dead wood, feces, and plants.
- The Hodotermes mossambicus species was discovered in the stomach contents of 65 birds and 19 mammals.
- Some species like the Gnathamitermes tubiformans possess seasonal food habits. They prefer to feed on red three-awn (Aristida longiseta) during the summer, buffalo grass (Buchloe dactyloides) from May to August, and blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis) during spring, summer, and autumn.
- Ants, centipedes, cockroaches, crickets, dragonflies, scorpions, spiders, lizards, frogs, and toads feed on termites. Other termite predators include aardvarks, aardwolves, anteaters, bats, bears, bilbies, birds, echidnas, foxes, galagos, numbats, mice, and pangolins.
- Unlike bees, wasps, and ants, termites are less likely plagued by parasites, as they are well-protected in their mounds.
- The aardwolf is an insectivorous mammal whose primary diet consists of termites. This animal finds its food through sound and scent emitted by the soldier termites.
RELATIONSHIP WITH HUMANS
- Aside from their wood-eating habits, termites bring extreme damage to unprotected structures.
- In addition, they also destroy food crops, attacking trees that have low resistance and tolerance; however, termites ignore fast-growing plants. Their attacks usually happen at harvest time, and crops and trees are plagued during the dry season.
- There are 43 termite species used as food or that are fed to livestock.
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the termites across 22 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Termite worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the termites which are among the most successful creatures in history, colonizing a number of land masses except Antarctica. Although they have been considered pests that bring damage to buildings, crops, or plantation forests, termites are also a delicacy in the diet of some human cultures around the world.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Termite Facts
- Creepy Wood-Eaters
- Test Yourself
- Little Known Facts
- Ask a Termite
- Termite Life Cycle
- Three Types
- Ant VS Termite
- Pest Control
- Caste System
- Relationship with Humans
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Link will appear as Termite Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, February 17, 2021
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.