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What is the Life Cycle of a Termite?

Termites go through several stages from the time they hatch to the time they die. However, there are several different types of termites even within the same colony. The type of termite – or ‘caste’ – can influence what the termite’s life cycle looks like. Most termite species and castes follow this general trajectory:

  • Mating: In the springtime when weather is warm and wet, male and female reproductives leave the colony to mate and establish a new nest. 
  • Laying eggs: After partnering with a mate and finding a suitable place for the colony, the queen termite will lay eggs. She can lay up to 30,000 eggs in a single day.
  • Hatching: Termite eggs spend one or two weeks incubating before hatching into larvae. Afterward, workers move the larvae to nursery chambers where they grow into nymphs.  
  • Molting: Most nymphs molt three times before reaching full maturity. Then, they are assigned to a caste where they carry out the rest of their lives.

How Long Do Termites Live?

The majority of termites live between one and four years, but the full lifespan depends on caste and environmental circumstances. Under the best possible conditions, here’s how long the different termite castes can survive:

  • Workers and soldiers: One to two years
  • Reproductives: Nearly four years
  • Queens: Up to 20 years or more

How Are Termite Castes Chosen?

Scientists still aren’t sure exactly when or how termites are assigned to their caste. However, they believe environmental factors and the needs of the colony could play a big role. Some research even suggests that termites can switch their caste at any point to better serve their colony. 

Most termites are workers and soldiers, which spend their time finding food and defending the nest. Each colony also has one queen and one king. While the king contributes to reproduction, researchers are still studying his full function within the colony.

What If I See a Termite Swarm?

For the majority of the year, termites stay hidden deep inside of the soil or wood that they are using for a nest. In the springtime, though, you may see winged reproductives swarming above the ground. If you notice swarming termites on your property, it’s important to contact a pest professional as quickly as possible. This is the stage in the termite’s life cycle where they start a fresh infestation, which means your property is at a much higher risk of being attacked if swarmers are nearby.

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