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Info on termites please


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#1 Offline Zen - Posted May 30 2018 - 7:08 AM

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I have been thinking about keeping a termite colony, what are the best ways to get started, and how do you raise termites, I am very new to termites as pets but I believe they will be interesting.


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#2 Offline Skwiggledork - Posted May 30 2018 - 8:37 AM

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I literally just came on to look at termite info. lol. I just caught what I think are a new king and queen because they were tandem running when I caught them, while out looking for ant queens. Good luck.



#3 Offline LC3 - Posted May 30 2018 - 9:39 AM

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First what species do you wish to keep? There’s dampwood termites, dry wood termites and subterranean termites

The termite species present in South California are as listed, with flight times, a brief description, range in California and common names in case that helps:

Subterranean: (tiny to small in size (workers/soldiers ~3-6mm I think), large colony size, slow/medium growth rate)
Reticulitermes hesperus (western subterranean termite) November to March, Range: coastal California, forests and urban
R. tibialis (arid land subterranean termite) Range: inland California, valleys and mountains
Heterotermes aureus (deset subterranean terimite) Late summer Range: Southern California, desert
Coptotermes formosanus (formosan subterranean termite, invasive, restricted to certain places)

Gnathamitermes perplexus (and probably G. tubiformans)* (long jawed termite) Range: Southern California, desert
Amitermes sp.* (various names) Range: Southern California desert

Dampwood: (large in size (caste range from 2mm - 20mm), colony size variable, fast growth rate)
Zootermopsis angusticollis (pacific dampwood termite) year round except Jan-Apr Range: Coastal California, forests

Drywood: (medium size (castes: ~4-6mm I think), colony size variable, really slow growth rate)
Incisitermes minor (western drywood termite) June/July Range: California, mostly everywhere warm

I think you’re in the SF Bay Area if I’m not mistaken (judging by post history), the species present there are R. hesperus, Z. angusticollis and I. minor.

Anyways the gist of each species: dampwood termites need dampwood, drywood termites need dry wood, subbterreanian termites need substrate. There are also two methods for establishing colonies: collecting a colony chunk or using founding imagoes.

Just a reminder, all termites are either male or female and both need to be present in order for offspring.

For dampwoods a test tube set up works for founding pairs, pack the cotton tightly, use a bit of water and put a moist soft wood into the tube. It should be sealed up tight to retain moisture. Once larger the colony can be moved to a container, as long as the wood is damp, a softwood, they will live. Colony size is determined by availability of wood. It takes the first eggs between 4-6 months to hatch and usually much quicker for a mature colony (around 2 months). Since they have no workers (instead pseudergates) any colony member can become a reproductive, alate, soldier pretty much at will, therefor you can start a colony using just a portion of a larger one. They should be kept at room temperature (68-70F)

The same would apply for drywoods, except it’s the opposite. You don’t want any water. They are very slow growing typically only laying 40 eggs for a mature colony per year. So far I would assume the same methods for dampwoods would work for dry woods but I’ve seen very few successful colonies and I don’t have any personal experience. (Not sure what temp, but they seem possibly more resilient to heat)

The easiest way to start a R. hesperus colony is to go outside and collect one, their setup needs to be relatively moist and contain substrate. They will pretty much consume any form of cellulose, but it’s recommended to use cardboard and wood. Since this genus does produce actual workers you would need nymphs and larvae in order to get a reproductive from a colony chunk, both castes are abundant in mature colonies. It should take 2-6 weeks for a replacement reproductive to emerge. If you wish to start a colony from scratch you can either also use a test tube setup except mixed with substrate and a form of cellulose or start them in a small container filled with cardboard and kept moist. It takes around 6 months for eggs to hatch. Again the cotton should be tightly packed and water only enough as necessary since termites have a tendency to eat it and drown themselves. Basically it needs to be moist, contain a food source, and not spaceious. Once the colony is larger they may be moved into the afformentioned setup. I’ve yet to see anyone create a formicarium esque termite set up for subbterrean termites and succed. (69F-77F)

Edited by LC3, May 30 2018 - 10:10 AM.

Colonies

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