Imagine marrying a woman and taking her to be your wife. As she grows old, she has another child, who looks exactly like her. Now imagine marrying that new child, and throwing away your old wife due to old age. Although it sounds a bit weird, this is exactly what Reticulitermes speratus, a special species of termites, do for their entire lives.
The termite King spends his life mating with the same female, over and over. This continues until another Queen is hatched in order to take her mother’s place. Queen termites use something called parthenogenesis, or asexual reproduction, in order to create a literal clone of herself. The special thing about this clone is that this newborn queen is immune to the King’s sperm, because the little ‘hatches’ that are normally used by the King to inject his sperm, are sealed closed. Normally, if an egg is fertilized it will simply become a normal worker. However, in this case, due to the blocked off hatch, the egg produced by the Queen will have a 100% chance of turning into the next colony Queen as she grows up, because she shares the same genes as her mother. An entire colony cannot be asexually reproduced however, or else complications would arise. This is why the Queen still lays normal eggs for the King to fertilize, in order to keep producing regular workers. Queen termites can live for decades, and only begin to asexually reproduce as they age.
If left alone, these termite colonies could practically live forever, which would cause quite a lot of damage to our ecosystem. Termites are known to be extremely ravenous, and cause quite a lot of damage very fast. Leaving them alone, or allowing a colony to prosper could be very harmful. In other words, as cool or fascinating as their mating system is, termites are still a problem we’ll have to deal with. That’s why annual Termite Inspections are a must! Read more @ Screw succession: termite queen found to be genetically immortal