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White Termites

males, females, workers, ants, winged, queen, wingless and eggs

TERMITES, WHITE ANTS? or DUCK ANTS, a family of insects composing the order lsoptera, which have a superficial resemblance to ants, though far removed from them in structure, being allied to the Mayflies. They also resemble ants in being social insects, living in colonies and building %este) or %ills)" They are widely distributed in tropical countries, but also occur in the temperate parts of North and South America and a few have established themselves in Europe. Their food consists for the most part of wood, especially in a state of incipient decay, but they also eat a great variety of substances, including dead comrades and excrement. The termite society consists for the most part of wingless, sexually im mature individuals, children, potentially of both sexes, which do not grow up. Besides these workers there is a less numerous caste of large headed, blind, strong-jawed soldiers, but these are not so well differentiated as among the true ants. The workers collect food, form bur rows and tunnels, build ((hills)) and care for the males, females, eggs and larvw. The male.s and females have wings, which the latter lose after impregnation. Then, indeed, the female or queen undergoes a remarkable change, be conung enormously distended with eggs and. sometimes attaining a length of two to five inches or more-4a large cylindrical pacicage, in shape like a sausage and as white as a bolster?) As only the abdomen swells, the re sulting disproportion between anterior and pos terior parts is very striking. The queen is ex tremely prolific, having been lmown to lay 60 eggs in a minute or about 80,000 eggs in a day. In the royal chamber a male is also kept It is hardly necessary to say that the queen could not leave if she would. But to under stand this imprisonment we must notice that in spring the young winged males and females leave the nest in a swarm, after which pairing takes place; the survivors becotning the im prisoned arulers° and parents of new colonies.

Fritz Muller has shown that besides the winged males and females there are (in many cases) wingless males and females which never leave the termitary in which they are born, being kept as complementary or reserve re productive members, useful should not a winged royal pair be forthcoming. Sometimes this casualty occurs and then the wingless pairs be come parents. The complementary kings die before winter: their mates live on, widowed, but still maternal, till at least another summer.

Muller points out that. though the production and parentage of wingless males and females involves less mortality, the winged males and females probably cross with thoSe from other nests, thus securing the advantages of cross fertilization. The workers are diligent in tend ing the king and queen, in removing the laid eggs and in feeding the larvae.

In general appearance and size a wingless termite is ant-like, but the winged forms are much larger and flatter and their wings are quite different. The workers have large, broad heads and strong jaws adapted for gnawing; the soldiers have still larger heads and longer jaws. Besides the jaws and the two pairs of maxillae the head bears a pair of beaded anten nae, two eyes and two ocelli, hut the workers and soldiers are blind. The thorax has the usual three segments and bears simple legs; the ab domen consists of nine segments.

The most remarkable tertnitaries are those of Termer bellicosus, abundant on the west coast of Africa and called "ant hills" They are sugar-loaf-like in shape, 10 to 20 feet in height, and, though built of cemented particles of earth, are strong enough to bear a man's weight. Internally there are several stories and many chambers, some for the workers, one for the king and queen, others for and young, others for storing supplies of com pacted minced wood. But the termites do not all build such gigantic nests; although some build homes on the branches of trees, out of masticated woody material, which are larger than barrels.

In Africa Termer bellicosus and T. arborum are common species. A few species, all prob ably introduced, occur in Europe. In America only one species is knowri in the eastern United States, the almost ubiquitous T. flavipes, which does an enormous amount of damage by eating out the interior of beams and floors, in old houses; destroying furniture, boring galleries through and through stored books and papers and ruining many other articles in which their presence is not suspected until no more than a shell remains.

Hagen der Termitiden' in (Linnwa Entomologica) (Vols. X-XIV, 1855-59) ; Fr. Muller, (Beitrage zur Kenntmss der Termiten) in (Jenaische Zeitschr. f. Naturwiss) (Vols. VII-IX, 1873-75) ; Grassi, (Memoria sulla Societe. dei Termiti) (Accad. Lineei, Roma, 1892); Sharp, (Cambridge Natu ral (New York 1895) • Howard. (In sect (New York. new ed., 1914).