Parent Termites Reproducing Millions More, Sibling Termites Take Care of Termite “Kids”

Large families have always been a favorite motif in Hollywood’s pop cultural themes, witnessed by the popularity of movies, like Cheaper by the Dozen and countless TV sitcoms, including The Brady Bunch and Eight is Enough, as well as a current fascination with reality show mega-families. Face it, we love a little chaos, sibling bickering and a train wreck or two in the course of a large family story.

However, University of Florida (UF) scientists recently discovered an evolutional development in non-native subterranean termites that’s not so amusing. Unlike the dysfunctional antics of older human siblings complaining about being forced to drag their younger siblings along with them on outings with friends, Asian and Formosan termite colonies have channeled this concept of older siblings caring for their younger siblings into a powerful population expanding nightmare for South Florida homeowners.

New study by UF/IFAS scientists shows brood care by older siblings is a big deal

In a new study published in the journal Economic Entomology, University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) scientist Thomas Chouvenic and UF/IFAS entomology professor, Dr. Nan-Yao Su turned their focus to the care of young termites by older termite siblings in invasive subterranean termite colonies. In South Florida, two invasive subterranean termite species, Formosan and Asian subterranean termites are responsible for a significant part of the $40 billion annual cost in termite damage worldwide. To conduct their study, the scientists from the UF/IFAS Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center used a light trap to collect swarming Asian subterranean termites in Broward County.

Study reveals that older subterranean termite siblings grow into workers that care for younger siblings

Subterranean termite colonies, much larger than native subterranean termite colonies can have millions of members. According to Brad Buck’s, August 2017article on Newswise.com, the UF/IFAS team, “discovered that at the very beginning, the queen and the king termites . . . care for their first babies,” but as soon as these young termites grow into workers, “they take care of their younger brothers and sisters,” leaving the king and queen with a singular mission: to reproduce in order to expand the colony.

The importance of brood care by older termite siblings offers insights into eliminating termite colonies

In subterranean termite colonies, the older siblings also take care of the queen and king, as well as raising their younger termite siblings. Older sibling brood care seems to be an evolution in termite colonies over time to meet the needs of aggressive, rapidly growing subterranean termite colonies. As subterranean termite societies became more complex, with over a million individuals, “Some termite species became so good at taking care of their own that they colonized new ecological niches, including the wood inside your house,” said Chovenic.

Because the study revealed that brood care by older siblings in subterranean termite colonies is essential to the growth of colonies, Chovenic/Su can now develop materials that “disrupt this behavior to eliminate colonies.” Indirectly revealing what Chovenic termed “an Achilles heel” of subterranean termite colonies, “future improvement for baiting technology may tap into this aspect,” Chovenic said.

Hulett Termite Protection program safeguards your property

Proactive homeowners in South Florida know that the best termite control is termite prevention and Hulett’s Healthy Home approach guarantees your satisfaction with our Annual Termite Protection and Renewal Program. With various precise treatments, using quality materials and non-invasive methods and techniques, we trust that you’ll be satisfied to the tune of our Million Dollar Guarantee in the elimination and prevention of subterranean termites. We guarantee it. Contact Hulett for a free termite inspection today! Just call Hulett!