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Termites are a group of eusocial insects that, until recently, were classified at the taxonomic rank of order Isoptera (see taxonomy below), but are now accepted as the epifamily Termitoidae, of the cockroach order Blattodea. While termites are commonly known, especially in Australia, as "white ants," they are only distantly related to the ants.

Like ants, some bees, and wasps—which are all placed in the separate order Hymenoptera—termites divide labour among castes, produce overlapping generations and take care of young collectively. Termites mostly feed on dead plant material, generally in the form of wood, leaf litter, soil, or animal dung, and about 10 percent of the estimated 4,000 species (about 2,600 taxonomically known) are economically significant as pests that can cause serious structural damage to buildings, crops or plantation forests. Termites are major detritivores, particularly in the subtropical and tropical regions, and their recycling of wood and other plant matter is of considerable ecological importance.

As eusocial insects, termites live in colonies that, at maturity, number from several hundred to several million individuals. Colonies use decentralised, self-organised systems of activity guided by swarm intelligence which exploit food sources and environments unavailable to any single insect acting alone. A typical colony contains nymphs (semi-mature young), workers, soldiers, and reproductive individuals of both genders, sometimes containing several egg-laying queens.

Contents [hide]
1 Social organization
1.1 Reproductives
1.2 Workers
1.3 Soldiers
1.4 Diet
2 Nests
2.1 Mounds
2.2 Shelter tubes
3 Human interaction
3.1 Timber damage
3.2 Termites in the human diet
3.3 Agriculture
3.4 Termites as a source of energy
3.5 Ground water divining in ancient India
3.6 In captivity
4 Ecology
4.1 Plant defences against termites
5 Taxonomy, evolution, and systematics
5.1 Evolutionary history
5.2 Systematics
6 See also
7 References
8 Further reading
9 External links

[edit] Social organization[edit] Reproductives
This fertile termite queen (Coptotermes formosanus), is showing its ovary-filled, distended abdomen. The rest of its body is the same size as that of a worker.A female that has flown, mated, and is producing eggs is called a "queen." Similarly, a male that has flown, mated, and is in proximity to a queen is termed a "king." Research using genetic techniques to determine relatedness of colony members has shown the original idea that colonies are only ever headed by a monogamous royal pair is wrong. Multiple pairs of reproductives within a colony are commonly encountered. In the families Rhinotermitidae and Termitidae, and possibly others, sperm competition does not seem to occur (male genitalia are very simple and the sperm are anucleate), suggesting only one male (king) generally mates within the colony.

At maturity, a primary queen has a great capacity to lay eggs. In physogastric species, the queen adds an extra set of ovaries with each molt, resulting in a greatly distended abdomen and increased fecundity, often reported to reach a production of more than 2,000 eggs a day. The distended abdomen increases the queen's body length to several times more than before mating and reduces her ability to move freely, though attendant workers provide assistance. The queen is widely believed to be a primary source of pheromones useful in colony integration, and these are thought to be spread through shared feeding (trophallaxis).

The king grows only slightly larger after initial mating and continues to mate with the queen for life (a termite queen can live for 45 years). This is very different from ant colonies, in which a queen mates once with the male(s) and stores the gametes for life, as the male ants die shortly after mating.

Two termites in the process of shedding their wings after mating, Maun, BotswanaThe winged (or "alate") caste, also referred to as...
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