Living Organism Care Guide: Termites | Carolina.com

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Living Organism Care Guide: Termites

Living Care Information

Reticulitermes flavipes

commonly known as
Eastern Subterranean termite

Quick Start Information

  • Open the shipment upon arrival, remove the container, and inspect your termites.

  • Examine the moist paper towel and wood in the shipping cup.

  • Your termite colony will not reproduce. Only non-reproductive individuals of unknown ages are included in your shipment.

  • Your termites will not damage the wood furnishings in your classroom or in your building. They only infest materials that are in direct contact with some source of moisture.

About the Organism

  • Termite colonies divide labor based on a caste system. Colonies are organized into 3 castes: the worker caste, the solider caste, and the reproductive castes.
  • Only the worker caste can digest cellulose.
  • Termite soldiers have an orange rectangular armored pincher which they use to defend their colony.
  • A termite queen can live more than 25 years and can lay more than 2,000 eggs a day.
  • Young termite kings and queens are called alates. They have wings that carry them to new locations and begin colonies of their own.
  • Domain: Eukarya
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Class: Insecta
  • Order: Isoptera
  • Family: Rhinotermitidea
  • Genus: Reticulitermes
  • Species: flavipes

Preparation

We ship termites in plastic containers with moist paper towels and some rotting wood. You will find the termites in the folds of the paper towels and in or on the wood. You may need to moisten the paper towel included in your shipment if it has dried out. Sprinkle a little natural spring water on the top paper towel layer as needed to maintain a slightly moistened condition. If you plan to use the termites within a few days, no further care is needed.

Housing

Keep in mind that your termites will not reproduce. If you plan to keep your termites longer than a few days, you will need a container to house them in. The container can be any size, but it must have a lid.

Add layers of moist cardboard or paper towels between layers of termites. Pieces of untreated, rotting wood may also be added. Cover the container and keep it in a dark, cool place 10 to 15° C (50 to 59° F).

Be sure to keep the lid tightly closed. Check the container regularly for signs of mold. If mold appears, increase the ventilation to the container and cut back on adding water. Remove and replace any paper or wood that shows visible mold.

Feeding

Any well-rotted hardwood pieces (oak, maple, hickory, elm, etc.) are suitable food sources for termites. Carolina sells suitable rotting wood for feeding purposes.

You will also need a supply of natural spring water or water from an established aquarium to moisten your termite habitat.

Maintaining and culturing

Termites are not suitable for long term culturing.

Disposal

Termites are a serious timber pest and can cause millions of dollars in damage. They should not be released under any circumstances.

Place unwanted termites in a sealable container and freeze them for 1 week. Dispose of the termites in the regular solid waste. Worker termites can also be offered as food for pet lizards or amphibians of appropriate size.

Biosafety

No biosafety information applies for this organism.

Video

FAQs

If the termites escape, will they destroy the furniture in my classroom or damage the school?

No. They won't eat your classroom furniture if they escape. These termites belong to the genus Reticulitermes of subterranean termites that live in colonies in the soil. They infest materials that are in direct contact with some source of moisture, which isn't usually the case for most classroom furniture.

Do termites bite or sting?

Soldiers are capable of biting due to their large mouthparts. However, they won't hurt you since they do not have venom in their bite and cannot sting. At most, their bite produces some irritation.

I want my students to do the activity in which termites follow the mark of an ink pen. Do I order workers or soldiers?

We recommend using workers for this activity. Order 100 worker termites for each class of up to 30 students to ensure you have enough termites. You will find all the materials for this activity, including worker termites, in our Termite Behavioral Investigation: Follow That Trail! Classroom Kit or Demonstration Kit.

Why did my termites die?

The most common cause is too little moisture. Each day lightly sprinkle water on the top layer of paper. Keep the culture away from direct sunlight. Termites do best at temperatures below normal room temperature, with 10 to 15.5° C (50 to 60° F) optimal. In early fall, there may be large numbers of nymphs in termite colonies. Nymphs don't ship as successfully as adult workers and soldiers. You may see dead termites in your sample during periods of colony turnover (typically late to early fall). We compensate by sending extra organisms in each shipment.

How long can termites live?

Our termites are field collected. The age of the termites at the time they are collected is unknown. In a full termite colony, soldier and worker termites can live 1 to 2 years. Termites also exhibit complex social behaviors such as grooming and feeding other members of the colony. These behaviors extend the life of the individual termite.

Where do I get samples of the termite gut symbionts?

These organisms can be obtained by ordering our Termite Digestive Symbionts (sold in packs of 25 or 100) or our Termite Study Kit. Note that the symbionts are shipped inside of live termites. A procedure on how to extract the gut symbionts can be found in this article on protozoan relationships.

Need help?

We want you to have a good experience. Orders and replacements: 800.334.5551, then select Customer Service. Technical support and questions: caresheets@carolina.com

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