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Friday, March 12, 2010

Termites In The Air (Reticulitermes flavipes)

Thousands and thousands of termites filled the air on a warm, humid day. This phenomenon, while filling every homeowner with a sense of dread, is something to see. Hoping to get a photo of the colony from which all of the airborne termites were emerging, I took some time to locate the source, but by then, the emergence was mostly finished. This species must have contact with the soil to survive, so they are unlikely to inhabit a wood structure with a good, concrete foundation.

From AnimalsDiversityWebR. flavipes reproduce in swarms. Swarming occurs when a colony reaches a certain size and when temperature and moisture levels are favorable. Usually this occurs on warm days after rainfall. Some researchers speculate that swarming occurs after rainfall because the ground is moist, which make it easier to create a new nesting site (Benavides, 1988). Alates, winged swarmers, fly from their native nest until they hit a "fracture point" in the air. This causes their wings to fall off (Benavides, 1998) This flight is not considered a mating flight because R. flavipes are only sexually attracted to their mates after their wings have broken off (Light, 1922). Once they find a mate, which takes a while because the female is choosy, they walk together to find a suitable nesting site. They mate after they've built a "nuptial chamber" in their new nest (Benavides, 1998). At her peak a queen will lay an egg every 3 seconds, or 30,000 a day. She will lay 10's of millions of eggs during her life

winged termite
subterranean termites (Reticulitermes flavipes) workers and winged reproductives

flying termite
subterranean termites (Reticulitermes flavipes) beginning their reproductive and distribution flights.

termite soldier
subterranean termites (Reticulitermes flavipes) workers and soldiers in decaying wood

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Portland, Oregon, United States
Husband, Father, Student Of Natural History, Photographer