The Nasutitermitinae termites

The Nasutitermitinae subfamily from the Termitidae family of termites is a very large category comprising many species spread throughout the Old and New World, of which there remains some species yet to be identified properly. However, all the Nasutitermitinae species can be recognized by their soldiers having a pointed snout at the front of their heads, called a nasus, and in virtually all species, the soldiers are smaller than the workers in terms of size. As a whole, they are mostly small termites.

The soldiers of all Nasutitermitinae species spray a kind of aerosol chemical (either glue or ant repellent) which enables them to effectively repel ants from a distance. Such chemical warfare is a great asset in the wild, lessening the chances of injury which would normally occur with physical contact.

Among the numerous genera in the Nasutitermitinae are Hospitalitermes, Lacessititermes, Trinervitermes, Hirtitermes, Bulbitermes, Nasutitermes, Havilanditermes, Labiotermes, Longipeditermes, Amitermes, Velocitermes, Curvitermes, Subilitermes, and many, many more. Nasutitermitinae species construct all kinds of nests, ranging from subterranean nests, to arboreal nests, to huge mounds (in Australia).

Most Nasutitermitinae species are not pests’ they do not bother with man made structures, and are found in jungles and forests, feeding mainly on lichen, lichen-bark, dead leaves, branches, twigs, and other plant matter.

A conspicious and fairly common nasute species in Malaysia is Longipeditermes longipes (Haviland). Longipeditermes is a singular species genus, meaning L.longipes is the only Longipeditermes species in existence. These termites are dark in color and openly forage during the morning and night, their long columns snaking across forest trails, and very often being mistaken for ants.

(Above) The main castes of Longipeditermes longipes

(Above) The main castes of Longipeditermes longipes

Longipeditermes longipes have rather long legs and antennae, and dimorphic sized soldiers which are easily distinguished. The minor soldiers are more numerous and smaller than the workers, while the major soldiers are less numerous, slower moving, with oversized heads. Most ants leave them alone, probably due to evolutionary conditioning – I believe ants find them distasteful.

(Above) A Longipeditermes longipes column with soldiers standing guard on a small branch

(Above) A Longipeditermes longipes column with soldiers standing guard on a small branch

Hospitalitermes (Holmgren) is a termite genus which is confined to the Orient, and forage openly during the day. They can look a lot like ants (especially black crazy ants) as you can see in the photo below. They have monomorphic soldiers and build hard, carton nests at the bases of trees. If their nest is disturbed, they swarm all over the place like ants would. Although very similar morphologically to Lacessititermes, Hospitalitermes can be distinguished from their nesting habit – Lacessititermes builds arboreal nests while Hospitalitermes is confined to ground level.

(Above) Dramatic photo I took of Hospitalitermes umbrinus workers in the process of devouring a wounded compatriot. Being seriously wounded in a termite colony means certain death, as you will get devoured.

(Above) A dramatic photo I took of Hospitalitermes umbrinus workers in the process of devouring a wounded compatriot. Being seriously wounded in a termite colony means certain death, as you will get devoured by your nest mates.

(Above) These are soldiers of a species of the Subulitermes (probably) genus, based on their long, slender nasus and head shape.

(Above) These are soldiers of a species of the Subulitermes (probably) genus, based on their long, slender nasus and head shape.

(Above) The workers of a Subulitermes spp (probable). The soldiers are pictured above this.

(Above) The workers of a Subulitermes spp (probable). The soldiers are pictured above this. There is some confusion on the categorization of this genus.

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