Nasutitermes (from the Nasutitermitinae subfamily) is well known as the ‘cone headed termites’ because the soldier of the species has a head which resembles a cone. They have a range of colors and is a very interesting species to rear. A very few Nasutitermes species are known as pests, but many other Nasutitermes species act as major decomposers of large dead trees in forests. Because of this, they help to maintain the forest ecosystem.In this article, we will look at Nasutitermes care.
Many Nasutitermes species are arboreal and make their nests out of chewed wood, soil, and their fecal matter. Their arboreal nests are easy to find because they look like big semi sphere-shaped mounds sticking to a tree. Other Nasutitermes tend to make their nests in big logs and dead trees; a few species also make their nests in soil. So, this is an interesting type of termite to rear.
Nasutitermes are very good defenders too; if threatened, the soldier can excrete a sticky glue-like substance from the tip of its head. This is a bit toxic and makes it hard for their insect predators (typically ants) to move as their appendages get stuck to the glue. This doesn’t affect humans, as our skin is tougher than an insect exoskeleton. The workers of Nasutitermes also have a good bite and they don’t let go of the predator when in self-defense mode. Their bite can be powerful; sometimes it can decapitate several body parts of insects. But for us humans, their bite can do no harm.
Usually at night or early morning, some Nasutitermes species make huge trails to find new wood to eat and these trails can be long, and occur in very mature colonies with tens of thousands of individuals. But their columns usually dissipate, or they will start to construct tunnels from materials around them when the sun slowly falls on the forest floor. This is due to the fact that they have soft bodies which are very vulnerable to the heat rays of the sun, and too much exposure can dry up their bodies which will result in their death.
Overall, the genus Nasutitermes are wood feeders, and there are a few species which target very degraded wood. Nasutitermes colonies can be quite large. So as long as you have a good supply of wood and a good sized container to house them when the colony grows, it’s a very easy type of termite to keep.
So usually, Nasutitermes alates are found swarming after sunset or early morning after rain storms or with slight rain. The alates are small and are usually brown in color with dark colored wings. After shedding their wings, the males will go on to search for females. As usual, after meeting each other the pair will start to tandem run and will usually search for a rotten log, tree stump, or a dead tree to build a nest. As a termite keeper you can house your colony in wood (most recommended) or tissue filled test tube or even a cup setup with wood or just a naturalistic setup.
Usually after constructing the claustral chamber the pair will have eggs within 3-7 days, but sometimes the egg laying duration will increase according to the species and the environmental condition. The pair will get their first larvae within 3-5 weeks after laying eggs, and within another 2 or 3 weeks the larvae will molt with the help of the royal pair into the first set of termite workers and soldiers.
On rare occasions, several pairs can end up in the same chamber and they will collaborate with each other until workers arrive. And then, the workers will start to kill the excess number of reproductives and mainly settle for 1-2 primary reproductive pairs. In a captive environment, this won’t make any difference; as the colony grows, they will kill off the extra reproductive pairs. And as long as the colony gets a good supply of wood, proper humidity and temperature, the colony will survive.
Well, if you are a person who thinks of starting a colony from collecting wild colonies with workers and soldiers, this isn’t the best way to start a Nasutitermes colony, as only very few Nasutitermes species have the ‘ergatoid neotenic’ caste (reproductive workers). Some Nasutitermes species can form ‘nymphoid neotenics’ but it’s also in very rare situations.
So, if you thinking of having a colony with secondary reproductives, make sure to collect loads of brood, larvae, and many nymphs, if possible. Because when the colony realizes that the royal pheromone is missing they will make sure the smaller nymphs molt into nymphoid neotenics. And if you catch a colony with alates and nymphs, you can hope for adultoid reproductives (alates who will shed their wings inside the colony to help reproduce) to start over the colony.
So, that’s all about the basics for Nasutitermes care. I hope this was helpful and if you have any questions please write to us.
Article and photos courtesy of Dulneth Wijewardana from Sri Lanka, who has been rearing termites and ants as a hobby for the past few years. Catch his YouTube channel at Termites International.