Termite Larvae and Their Role in the Colony
Once termite eggs hatch, the hatchlings are called termite larvae or immatures. Each larva then goes through a series of molts (process of growing and shedding its exoskeleton) to become a worker, soldier or reproductive termite. The termite king and/or queen use pheromones (chemical signals) to direct which role each termite larva will play in the colony.
Depending on the colony’s needs, larvae that develop into worker termites may remain workers, develop into soldier termites or grow wing buds in the process of becoming a reproductive (called a nymph).
Termite larvae that turn into nymphs can molt to become primary reproductives (alates) that develop wings and eyes in preparation for swarming, or secondary reproductives that support the colony’s egg production. If needed, some worker termites may molt to become tertiary reproductives that further support the termite queen’s egg production.
Not all nymph termites continue to molt and become reproductives. If the colony needs more workers, some nymphs may regressively molt, losing their wing buds to become termite pseudergates or “false workers.”
What Do Termite Larvae Look Like?
Termite larvae look very similar to worker termites. They are white and have soft bodies. Most termite species produce larvae that are less than 1/10 of an inch long.
Termite larvae (top left) and worker termites (center):