Complete Guide to Rearing Cryptotermes Dudleyi

Cryptotermes dudleyi, also known as the West Indian drywood termite, is a common and major pest in the world. Cryptotermes dudleyi is mainly found in man-made wooden structures and also sometimes in natural dry wood structures. It is native to Indonesia, Java, and exotic to Australia, Trinidad and Tobago, and Sri Lanka. It’s one of the more interesting drywood termite species to observe. Read on to learn about rearing Cryptotermes dudleyi.

With soldiers being 4.55-7.15mm in length, this is one of the larger Cryptotermes drywood termite species out there. The soldiers have a yellowish-brown head, pale yellow-brown color antenna and prominent genal horns.The workers of this species are also pretty large, reaching about 5.00-8.00mm in length. The alates and primary reproductives general body color is tawny brown with wings that are faintly tinged with brown, prominent and large sub-triangular eyes, and a pair of antennae composed of 15-18 segments.

rearing cryptotermes dudleyi

These termites live in isolated dry wood. A colony usually consists of about 200 or less number of individuals, including the primary reproductives, pseudergates, soldiers, and alates. Alates of this species can be found flying during May – October. Usually flights begin at around 6.00p.m and only last a few minutes. Once the alates shed wings, males will start to search for females, and after the male meets the female, they will start to search for cavities in wooden structures to begin a colony. After settling down, the pair will mate, and the female will start to lay eggs after a week.

cryptotermes dudleyi colony

Cryptotermes dudleyi colony (alates, reproductives, and workers/pseudergates).

The first batch of eggs usually consisting of about 1-10 eggs, will be taken care of by both the parents. They are a very slow developing species of termite; sometimes the founding pair will wait for a month, or even sometimes 5-6 months till the eggs hatch.

cryptotermes alate nymph

Cryptotermes alate nymph

cryptotermes dudleyi soldier

Cryptotermes dudleyi soldier.

Once the eggs hatch into larvae, it can take up to 2 months till the larvae molt into the first batch of pseudergates and a soldier. Then the colony will slowly start to develop while feeding on the wooden structure which the founding pair selected to start their colony. Even though they are pests, it takes years for you to notice them (they will start to push out loads of fecal pellets). A mature colony will keep producing alates regularly throughout the months. Alates are formed by molting pseudergates, and the colony makes sure that only a certain amount of pseudergates will turn into alates.

cryptotermes dudleyi secondary reproductive pair

Cryptotermes dudleyi secondary reproductive pair (nymphoid neotenics).

Secondary reproductives (nymphoid neotenics) will only arise in the absence of the primary reproductive pair. When the colony realizes that the primary pair is lost (which can take up to few days) several mature pseudergates will start molting into nymphoid neotenics. They only need to molt 2 times to become a secondary reproductive, but it takes them a week or two to start laying eggs. These neotenics are brownish orange in colour and are about 6-7mm in length. Also like workers, these neotenics don’t have eyes.

cryptotermes dudleyi reproductive pair

Cryptotermes dudleyi reproductive pair (king and queen), plus workers.

cryptotermes dudleyi reproductive pair

Another view of the reproductive pair, alongside the workers.

The neotenics will then start to fight until only one pair of them remains (By the way, it varies, because if the primary king died, only a secondary king arises and when the primary queen dies, a secondary queen arises). In this case the colony is technically immortal, so the only way the colony dies is by some infection or food shortage. When food shortage arises, almost every pseudergate will turn into alates to go and fly out from the colony to keep alive the colony.

This is a good and easy species to keep if you are a termite keeper like me. You won’t need many accessories to keep them; just a good supply of the wood from which they feed on will be enough. And if you want to see the colony activities why not try inserting some wood pieces to a test tube setup (without a water reservoir – because humidity isn’t technically that needed; too much humidity can lead the wood to mold very bad, so just a very low amount of humidity is needed).

So there are some ways which I prefer to keep them and those ways allow me to observe the colony’s activities, which are the reason I prefer those setups.

cryptotermes dudleyi inside test tube setup

Cryptotermes dudleyi inside a test tube setup.

  1. This is keeping them in a wood board with a viewing glass on it; it’s simple to make this setup – you will need a thin and dry wood board of the wood which these guys feed on (from personal observation, Cryptotermes dudleyi prefer many types of drywood. Sadly I couldn’t ID the type of those woods.). And then carve the chambers where you want them to stay in, somewhat akin to a DIY ant farm but with very thin board of wood. And them attach the glass/transparent durable plastic onto it and paste it. Make sure that if you are thinking of gluing the glass/plastic to the wood board, leave it to dry and the scent of the glue to go off for like 3-5 days. And then you can simply introduce the termites to it. Even though the termites will just drill deep into the wood later on you can see the colony activities for at least a few days.
  2. This is keeping them in a wood-filled test tube setup. So, setting this up is very simple and quicker than the wood setup. So first sterilize your tube to destroy any microbes and bacteria. And then dry it well and make sure you dry out all the water in the tube. Then push a cotton ball to the bottom of the tube and make sure it’s very well squeezed to the bottom. This will absorb the extra amount of humidity and create an ideal humidity for the termites. Then slide in some average sized wood which Cryptotermes dudleyi feed on. When you think you filled it enough, simply introduce the termites into the tube. The wood in the tube can last for a few months (usually 3-6 months depending on the size of the colony). When the colony runs out of food, just simply move them to a new setup.
cryptotermes dudleyi colony inside a test tube

Cryptotermes dudleyi colony inside a test tube.

And also, you can give them the naturalistic setup, which is a good wood plank. Just pre-drill a big hole for them to go into and they will slowly start burrowing into it. The only disadvantage in this setup is that you will never know the status of the colony, because they will completely seal up themselves.

cryptotermes inside wood

Cryptotermes inside wood.

So guys, these setups and the basic care outlined here works for many Cryptotermes species, so don’t be too worried whether they will survive or not. I hope this article was helpful.

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.

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