Considering that termites live in soil and are exposed to a multitude of fungi and predators that can break into the colonies, termites are great survivors. Studies show that queen termites can live up to decades under ideal climate conditions. Workers and soldiers live approximately one to two years.
Termite colonies can persist for the life of the primary queen and beyond, so by the time the primary queen dies, the colony can have quite an expansive territory. For subterranean termites, with the number of members of the colony approaching a million in some species, extensive damage can occur in wood. Scientists today are using DNA analyses to map out the size and territories of colonies. One study has concluded that there are over 20 colonies per acre in some areas. This means that the long-living termite queen can die off, but the secondary reproductive termites and the other colony queens will keep reproduction moving forward.
Termite infestations can be difficult to identify before they have reached full maturity. Because a queen termite’s life can span so many years, populations left unchecked are capable of causing considerable damage to infested structures. These buildings can require extensive repair. Estimates of the termite damage in the U.S. each year exceeds $5 billion.