Arboreal Termites are kind of like the proverbial condo builders of the animal world, because the nests they construct house bats, ants and themselves.
Arboreal Termites are found as far North as Southern Florida and the Southern tip of the Baja Peninsula. They span south from that area through Central America into South America. They inhabit trees, the forest floor and underground in mangroves, lowland tropical forests, rainforests and savannahs.
Mating & Reproduction
Arboreal Termites live in enormous colonies that can be up to millions of inhabitants. The queen produces large numbers of eggs from inside the nest. There is only one queen in nests that have developed over multiple generations. In newly formed and slightly older colonies, there are multiple queens and kings. She and her brood are protected by soldiers and workers.
Many of the members of the society of a given colony of arboreal termites are non-reproductive workers or soldiers. In a colony of some 300,000 workers, there might be 20,000 alates give or take a few thousand. Alates are those few (in comparison to the rest of the colony) termites that are born reproductively capable. Some brood years are completely infertile. Alates undergo periods of growth where they shed their exoskeleton multiple times called instars.
More males than females are produced in broods, but females are slightly larger than males. This makes the energy expended in taking care of males and females roughly equal.
Colonies of arboreal termites are Eusocial which means that they have developed a caste system, mutually take care of raising entire generations and forgo certain reproductive capabilities among certain individuals as a result. These castes are divided into the breeders, soldiers and workers.
The arboreal termite caste system works like so. The soldiers have two basic jobs. First, they defend the nest, and are able to do so by developing special glands on their head which spew a noxious and sticky liquid to deter attacking anteaters from coming back for a another try. Secondly, they seek out more food sources. The workers then exploit those food sources, and develop the colony based on the rotting wood that termites consume. The breeders’ main function is to produce offspring.
Colonies of Arboreal Termites are aggressive towards each other based on the age of the colony and the level of inbreeding. If a colony is younger, there is likely to be a higher degree of inbreeding, and that higher degree of inbreeding results in a less developed sense of smell. That less developed sense of smell makes for more aggressive behavior. Older colonies have less inter-relatedness, and have a higher functioning olfactory system that makes them more agreeable.
Some colonies extend from trees to the ground and into the earth, and arboreal termites are best known for their large bulging nests that are found on tree trunks and limbs. These nests are characteristically black, and are often shared or excavated by different species of ants, the white throated bat and some birds as shelters. The birds and the bat will dig into the nest in order to make their own nest, but they aren’t attacked in doing so, somehow.
Locations in Costa Rica: Cahuita National Park, Arenal Volcano National Park, Rincón de la Vieja Volcano National Park, La Amistad International Park, Manuel Antonio National Park
Diet: rotting wood
Migration Pattern: non-migratory
Habitat: swamp, mangrove, lowland tropical forest, rainforest, savannah
Size: variable depending on caste
Species: Nasutitermes corniger