The life of a king termite is spent entirely underground. While he doesn’t wear a crown or have a throne, the termite king is high priority in his colony, second only to the queen.
Termites are social insects, and a colony is divided into specific castes: reproductives, workers and soldiers.
Workers and soldiers are sexually immature males and females. Soldiers defend the colony and workers care for the king, queen and termite nymphs.
Reproductives include the king termite, queen and the alates. The royal duo will produce alates several times per year. Alates are sexually mature males and females that develop wings and fly from the hive to start their own colonies.
As the alates fly, they pair up into couples. Once landed, they will shed their wings and head underground to become king and queen of a new colony. The termite king and queen seal themselves inside a royal chamber, where they will stay for the remainder of their lives. The royal couple is darker in color than the other members of the colony, and unlike the others, they have functioning eyes.
The king and queen release pheromones that prevent the other termites from developing reproductive organs. This leaves the queen with the task of laying all the eggs in a given colony, though there are some types of termites that have supplemental reproductives to help her. Most species also have supplemental queens once the colony develops. When the original queen cannot keep up with egg production needed to sustain or grow the colony, the supplemental queens will begin to produce eggs.
Other than mating with the queen and releasing caste-controlling pheromones, the king termite has no other duties in the colony.
If you suspect your home has termites, call Terminix® and give these royal pests the boot.