I captured a bunch of winged termites, but all of them look like males. Now looking at pictures, it seems that both male and female alates look the same until the queen starts the nest? Is this true? Or do the females look different than the males before shedding her wings?
All I found flying around were termites that looked similar (with minor differences) but not one that looked like a female or queen. That is why I ask this question, because male ants are easily to tell the difference. But it appears termite females/males look the same at the start.
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I don't know much about termite species, but a friend of mine who saw their mating flights in central Africa some years ago said that both male and female alates were roughly the same size. It seems that the queen termite increases her size tenfold some months after mating, so as the colony matures, she ends up looking like some bloated sausage from which millions of eggs are produced
[glow=red,2,300]Statistics[/glow] Jan/07/08: 4-10 secondary reproductives, around 600-1,000 termites; including workers, soldiers and nymphs. Housed in a 5 gallon aquarium Diet: unknown type of shrub Challenge of keeping them: The termites need high humidity almost constantly
October/05/07: I caught a bunch three days ago, must have got them on the last day they were flying. Yesterday it was really warm and bright, but no termites. Today and the next few days its supposed to be cold, so they won't be flying either. I got lucky I got them when I did.
They are being housed in a medium size glass jar, with a glass lid on top. They have four pieces of pine wood that I cut, some dirt on the bottom and some pieces of cardboard. Out of the 7-9 termites I caught, 3-4 shed their wings and the remaining ones appear to be hiding or two others sitting on top of the dirt doing nothing. I'm sure I have at least one female that shed her wings, I might have more but I'm not sure. It shouldn't take long for them to hatch, since it only takes 2-4 weeks, sometimes up to 7 weeks for the first ones to hatch.
Well that didn't last long, a lot of them died and then other alates are dying. No idea what happened, but I'm going to try Subterranean Termites instead since I won't be able to get more Western Drywood Termites. This will take some learning to figure out how to keep them, since I have no experience with keeping termites.
Later I'm going out to where I know there are Subterranean termites and going to put pieces of cardboard down and pour water around it to attract them. Since I read Subterranean Termites don't need a queen to start a colony, they will take the young workers and turn them into a queen. October/08/07: I captured a bunch of Subterranean termites, but not a lot. I'm going back tomorrow and see if I can get anymore. I don't think I got any of the reproductives that are needed to have a queen and male. The good news is that they can't climb up the glass, so I won't have to worry about them escaping.
October/11/07: Last night I captured more termites. I got two queens, some soldiers, a lot of nymphs and some workers. They have been busy eating the cardboard I gave them. I am not sure if the pine wood has been eaten yet though. They have a couple tunnels on the side of the glass, luckily they made it where I can watch them travel in it. They also have a mound starting to be made, or it could be one a mud tunnel starting to form.
October/15/07: I captured a few more termites, about 15-20 of them. I found out they are desert subterranean termites, their diet consists of desert grasses, cacti and shrubs. So, I got a bunch of different plants from where I caught them to see which ones they liked. I did upgrade their home to a 5 gallon aquarium, since they need lots of room. They can forage for up to an acre of land. With nest size of over 300,000 termites.
October/23/07: A couple days ago I collected another secondary reproductive and around 30-50 termites. I put them in the aquarium, the original termites I first caught are still in the jar and haven't explored out yet which I hope they do in the next week or two. I have lots of sticks in the jar that lead up and then other sticks acting like bridges going into the aquarium. They have 4 mud tunnels in the jar and one is being made on the largest stick with another stick attached to that, which is the one I hope they use to go into the aquarium.
I did find their favorite food, its a shrub that is everywhere around where I found them. I get large sticks of it and they quickly start eating at the wood after making a mud tunnel around it. I'll need to find what kind of shrub it is, Very easy to get though. They also eat cacti which may be their favorite, but I haven't seen any cacti up in the valley they are in. Just lots of shrubs and grasses.
November/09/07: Just a quick update
I rearranged the sticks in the aquarium (it looks better, and better access to the aquarium)and got a few more. I keep the sticks in a container that are not ready to be used. They are now using one of the sticks though has a line, going from the glass jar to the aquarium. I almost gave up hoping that they would make a tunnel or line going to both containers since it took a long time (about 2-3 weeks), but eventually they learned to use it (just today actually). I have to be really careful now when misting it though, because once they make a mud tunnel going down the stick if it gets too much water on the tunnel it will collapse, which the mud tunnels break really really easily.
I noticed that some of the termites shake their abdomen up and down (or left to right? Hard to see) really fast when they are inside the tunnels, I haven't seen them do this on the surface from what I've noticed...maybe once or twice but I don't remember. Not sure why they do this, but its interesting.
December/11/07: Well, my previous colony of Desert subterranean termites that I had died about two weeks ago. Luckily for me, it rained pretty heavy recently and its been cool outside, perfect conditions to get this species. I captured about 30-40 termites a couple days ago, but a lot died leaving me with about 15 left. This I think was due to stress and being shaken (I had to cut the wood for it to fit). Today I captured over 500 termites (rough estimate) and saw 5-7 secondary reproductives. I found a great area where there were a lot and found two sticks filled with lots of them, and 5 other sticks that had a medium amount. I won't need to put wood in there for awhile since they have plenty, but when the time comes I have tons more wood for them as well, I have a 2.5 gallon acrylic tank that is filled to the top with wood (large sticks from bushes that grows all over where I found them, appears to be their favorite food). In about 4-5 months some of the secondary reproductives should turn into a queen or queens and start laying eggs, it will take a few months though for that to happen.
My main worry since they are already digging to the bottom of the 5 gallon aquarium they are in, is that they will start chewing through the hard plastic that outlines the bottom of the tank. They show no signs of doing that now though. When it does start happening I'll need to get glass to put underneath, which will be somewhat of a pain to do. I shouldn't have to worry about this for awhile though and it might not even happen.
I plan to raise lots of them (hopefully they are successful) and feed the termites to the toads, since buying crickets is expensive and we have to drive far for them. Also, I will get wood that is filled with them and find a place outside to let some of them go and hopefully they start a new nest. This seems to be common for what termite keepers do, since its common for them to get really over crowded in a termite farm.
I'll try and give an update this weekend on how my new colony is doing.
I'll see what I can do, probably won't be able to take pictures for a little while though. My camera doesn't really take close up pictures and it would be hard to see the termites in their tunnels. I'll try though, just not sure when I'll get time to do that and put them up online.
Termites need a lot of water usually, did yours have enough? Mine are a desert species so they take a lot less, but I still mist them with a spray bottle 1-3 times a day (unless I forget). How long did you have yours for before they died? They seem easy to keep for me, just the long part is waiting about half a year before one of them turns into a queen. They can get up to 10 centimeters long! I'm not sure if my species will, but that is huge.
And my new colony is doing really good, I haven't seen a single dead one and they have tunnels all over.
I'm not sure which species I kept, but they were quite large (dry wood species, I think). I caught some of the alates after a flight and watched them pair up. Kept them moist on blotting paper, soil and decaying wood. The female laid some eggs and then one of them turned cannibal and ate the other. Not sure which one was which, the males and females are pretty similar until the female is older and physogastric. I used to see a much smaller, darker species fly near Newport Beach and also in Laguna, but I never caught any of them.
January/07/08: Been a little while since I updated. I haven't seen any dead termites, and I've even seen a few soldiers in the tunnels on the sides. They are neat with their large heads and powerful jaws. Just today I saw I think a soldier or a large worker that looked like it was newly shed, since the whole body (including the head) was a white creamy color. I assume this is what they look like after they shed. I even saw one of the secondary reproductives as well, it looked larger than when I originally saw it which is a good sign. It will still take 2-4 more months for one of the secondary reproductives to grow into a queen, possibly even about 5 months.
One thing I've read is that the workers work 24/7. I don't think this is true as when I look in the tunnels that are visible through the glass I see termites not moving for long periods of time, so I assume they are sleeping (or at least resting) but I don't think they work 24/7 from what I've seen. Unless there is another reason for this.
Oh and my dad got a new camera that takes really close up pictures, so whenever he gets time I'll ask him to take pictures of the termites. He is usually busy, so it probably won't be awhile before we get them up on the net to show everyone.
Jan/23/07: Got another colony of termites, I'm pretty sure they are Western subterranean termites. I put them in a 10 gallon aquarium with about 3 inches of dirt and lots of wood. Sadly, the wood broke when I picked it up and a lot got squashed...but most of them lived, ones who didn't I fed to my ants. And actually, this colony is more developed than my Arid-land termites, the secondary reproductives are a lot larger.
My Arid-land termites are doing pretty good as well, a lot more activity since its colder out and lots of digging going on.
Jan/25/07: Both termite colonies are doing good. I should mention that the Western subterranean termite's scientific name is: Reticulitermes hesperus.
My Western subterranean termites have settled in well, I haven't seen too many crawling around yet...most are staying in the wood. Haven't seen any dead termites, so they aren't dead. I did notice that they have a mud tunnel, a pretty big one going across the dirt to a block of rotten pine wood. It hasn't reached the pine wood yet, but its half-way there. They also made another one, but it wasn't too developed and the water from me misting it destroyed it. It also looks like one more mud tunnel is starting to form on the side of the pine wood as well. Along with the mud tunnels, they have a good amount of tunnels underground being made already. The dirt isn't too deep, but they should be fine.
My Arid-land termites are doing good as well, a lot of activity going on underground...these seem less interested in making mud tunnels unlike the Western termites. It seems like they prefer to tunnel underground until they get to the wood than having a tunnel over the ground.
Also, I'm thinking of getting the Western subterranean termites a more permanent water source. I'm going to make a tub or a large container to fill with water, then on the bottom I'll have a way for it to very slowly drain out. I'll probably make the water drip onto one of the pieces of wood, since this species nests in wood too if its moist enough. I haven't even really planned on how to make this, but its an idea I had that hopefully will be finished sometime before my parents go on vacation. I'll still mist them to add humidity to their set up, but I think this would be a really good source of water for them. If any of you have ideas on how to make something like this, feel free to reply with your idea(s).
Feb/18/07: Western subterranean termites: Today I looked underneath the tank and to my amazement I saw a male termite! This is a good sign as this means I'll get a queen in a few months. Also, the pine wood I cut into a square has been partly eaten, I lifted it up and saw signs of tunnels starting to form.
I also have lots of baby spiders in their container too, can't do anything about them though but they must have came in the wood. There is also a worm, but it doesn't seem to do any harm. Also a couple centipedes and an earwig are in there.
My desert subterranean termites are doing pretty good, I plan to get more just not sure when.
11:35 AM: Western subterranean termites: Well, after looking again I see lots of winged termites. And better yet, there is a queen termite! She isn't huge yet, but big enough where she can't move now even if she tries. So in a month or less there should be eggs in there.
Feb/23/07: This will be a quick update, but its really big news.
My Western subterranean termites have eggs! I looked in the chambers with my flashlight that are on the bottom of the tank and I saw 4 or 5 eggs in them Not too many, but in the coming weeks I'll probably see a lot more.