Soldier Termites: Feature, Functions, why they Bite & Explode

You think that insects live purposelessly without following any special rules. Surprisingly, some of them have social roles in well-organized societies. So, termites own a clear cast system, made up of a queen and a king, workers, soldiers, eggs, and young reproductive insects.

Every caste is responsible for their particular duties, and soldiers have similar responsibilities as in human society. They protect their termite colonies and the main termite, the queen. Termite soldiers possess few techniques and use weapons against their enemies. In this article, you can see the full characteristics of soldier termites.

How Do Soldier Termites Look

How can you distinguish the soldier termite? Soldier termite shares similar attributes with the worker termites in some areas. So, both of them posses have pale reddish-brown or white rounded bodies. Although termite workers and soldiers are different, they are bigger than other insects. Their heads are darker and sometimes have a different color than the others and possess bulgy jaws or snouts.

The main goal of soldier termite is to protect their termite colonies from enemies (which mostly are ants). That’s why they possess bulgy jaws and big armored heads that are usually brown, red, orange, or yellow. In some species, soldiers possess snouts instead of their jaws, releasing a repellent liquid at enemies. Interestingly the soldiers may be both male and female termites.

Soldiers assist in differentiating termite species. While the other colony members, kings, queens and workers, look the same. But soldiers differ a lot. They are embodied with jaws of different shapes. Their heads also range different in shapes and sizes. And more characteristics assist in differentiating soldier termites of different species. It comes handy for scientists.

READ ALSO: Termite Queen: Lifespan, How to Identify & Kill the Termite Queen

Soldiers Termite In The Colony

The termite soldiers make up about 1-10% of any given colony’s termite population. All ants can fight, but termites possess a particular caste for this purpose. Worker termites can’t fight. Their duty involves lots of jobs around the house. They look after the queen and her eggs, feeding the queen, and much more. The queen and the king do not partake in a fight because they are essential in the termite colony.

There are about three times more workers than soldiers in every colony. There are many more jobs around the nest than to protect. If there is a violation of the tunnels or walls of the nest, soldiers head to it immediately and block the gap several times by forming a large group.

Sometimes soldiers shake their heads against the ground to notify the other insects that the danger is near. Such sound is quite loud, and it remains in an organized crescendo. If the termite colony is large enough, there are two types of soldiers in it, big and small. The major soldiers who seem large are quite slow. But the two are defending the colony where the real strength is required.

Small or minor soldiers usually direct the workers’ traffic and defend their nest from tiny ants, which the big ones find challenging to deal with. As far as the soldiers are endowed with large jaws, they can’t feed themselves. Workers feed not only the queen and the king, but also soldiers.

Colony Protection By The Soldier Termites

In some termite species, soldiers possess the ability not to bite their enemies but to release fluid from the stomachs while biting. This fluid is usually a white sticky liquid which termites release from their throat, and it reduces their energy a lot. Soldiers don’t often release their grip after biting. If they do, they become fragile, and it can lead to their death, especially if workers do not care properly for them.

Some soldier termites even “pop” themselves to release sticky liquid after biting the enemies.

These termites are very smart and use various defensive methods even when there’s an exclusion of pest control or termite control. Some soldiers use passive defense, which involves blocking the tunnels using their heads. Phragmosis is the name of such protection. Termites use their heads for plugging up tunnels. If one termite soldier falls, his place is taken by another one.

Some species release a sticky liquid from a rostrum on their heads, which is so unpleasant for ants. The others are so wise that they can easily detect the threat level of various species with the help of smell. Some ants which possess “friendly” chemicals won’t fight. The interesting thing about this is that ants and termites can avoid fighting and co-exist together. The chemical defense methods are effective because ants try to prevent these subterranean termites.

When a human walks close to a termite colony to repulse pest control or termite control, the first termite you are going to face is the soldier. They are guarding the colony for some pest control and ready to fight to any intruder. Every stranger for them is an enemy.

Why Soldier Termites Explode And What Does It Mean?

Older soldiers develop long time pouches that are capable of exploding and causing damage to the enemies colony in some termite species. The termites who explode also die as well. It’s a heroic sign – to die for their colony at the end of their life. These pouches grow during the termite’s full life; they get filled with blue crystals, secreted by termites’ glands. The toxic quality of the backpack depends on how old the soldier is.

The soldiers in some termite species fight the enemies by merely defecating on them from a distance.

A reaction can make this defensive chemical more toxic.

Situated next to the salivary glands are pouches holding blue crystals containing copper. The moment ants or other predators attack the termites, their bites cause the burst of swollen pouches, and the crystals mix with salivary secretions, producing the toxic blue liquid.

READ ALSO: 5 Types of Termites: Subterranean, Dampwood, Drywood, Formosan & Conehead Termite

Soldier Termites In House

Soldiers are regarded as their colony’s defenders. They are not involved in collecting cellulose, which is the termites’ food and does not engage in causing termite damage to wood themselves. Nevertheless, they are indicators of termite infestation. Telltale signs of termite infestation will vary by type of wood ants.

What are the activities of soldier termites in a house? Knowing how the soldiers look and noticing them in your homes, you should pay attention to the following details too:

  1. Sagging of wood floors or buckled floorboards.
  2. A bubbling paint and discoloration on your walls and ceilings that look like water damage.
  3. There are termite tunnels and “mud tubes” on two vertical structures. You can see it outside or under your house and especially around the foundation.
  4. There are some patterns of wood damage, followed by a woodgrain. It creates a “ribbed” effect in the wood around your house.
  5. Mounds look like tiny wood pellets in and around your home’s wooden structures.

Conclusion

As you will know, termites life is much more complicated than you can imagine. Their nest could be regarded as a little kingdom with a couple of monarchs, lots of workers, and several soldiers as defenders.

Now you know the physical appearance of termite soldiers, you could probably recognize them coming to the termite’s nest. These facts provide you with some interesting information for evening reading and a few handy tips against your small but powerful enemies.

The article about the queen termite information is provided on how to find and destroy the termite queen by yourself. Endeavor to wear proper protective clothes on your way to the nest as you’ll encounter aggressive soldiers and might even get bitten by them. That should be regarded, either as a positive or negative experience of dealing with soldier termites.

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