What is a King Termite?
Termite Colony Structure
Is There a Termite King in the Colony?
Termite colonies have a queen and king. Next to the queen, the king is the most important member of the colony when it comes to keeping the colony well populated. These pests lead protected lives below ground, mating with the queen and releasing chemicals that control many different aspects of the colony.
The role of the king termite is not fully understood. King termites are not well studied beyond their role in starting and maintaining viable colonies. King termites are male termites which are important in the evolution of a successful termite colony.
Expanding the Colony
Termite colonies are arranged into caste systems made up of workers, soldiers, and reproductives. New colonies are started by termite kings and queens that are called winged reporductives or alates. Winged termite swarmers leave their “home” nests to mate and start new colonies.
Once a king finds a female alate, the pair shed their wings and burrow into the ground. They spend the rest of their lives mating to expand the nest. Until workers are available to take care of their larvae, kings are also in charge of cleaning and caring for young.
All termites are born with the ability to become kings or queens. The king and queen produce pheromones that regulate workers, changing them into soldiers or swarmers based on the needs of the group. If the royal male king and/or female queen dies, the absence of pheromones causes workers to turn into what are termed replacement reproductives.
Termite King Appearance
Kings and queens initially look like other flying termites. However, their royal status becomes apparent over time as they darken in color and gain better eyesight. While kings remain the size of an average worker, queens grow a great deal and become the largest member of the colony.
Preventing & Removing Termite Colonies
Since they live deep within the colony, most people with termite problems will never see a mature termite king or queen. However, noticing alates flying around homes, yards, or outdoor buildings is a sign of established or coming issues with the pests. Individuals who suspect their houses may be infested with termites should contact pest professionals to stop colonies before they take root.