Termite pictures – Prorhinotermes flavus

Prorhinotermes is a genus of mostly tropical, subterranean termites. The greatest diversity exists in coastal areas of South East Asia, often in mangrove swamps. Prorhinotermes flavus is one of the few species of termites that can survive in waterlogged mangrove swamps, albeit nesting in damp, rotting wood and is confined to drier, deeper soil in the mangrove swamps.

Although it is considered a dampwood termite, Prorhinotermes flavus is interesting because it seems to possess the traits of both subterranean and dampwood termites. Although it nests in wood, at the same time it also forages in soil (which true dampwood termites do not do), to seek out fresh food sources. This is why Prorhinotermes is classified by entomologists as a subterranean genus.

A curious question about Prorhinotermes flavus is whether it has monomorphic or dimorphic soldiers. However, it is clear that this species (logically) should not have the same advanced caste system of other more advanced termite types, and this size difference between soldiers is merely down to instar polymorphism caused by neoteny – not because there really are distinct soldier castes.

Some references also state that (certain) Prorhinotermes species have no true worker caste, i.e. the workers are actually all pseudergates (neotenic reproductives).

In the past, slight confusion also existed on whether Prorhinotermes was related to Coptotermes. The similarities are certainly there when you look at the soldier’s appearance, but they differ in terms of fontanalle location and overall coloration.

Prorhinotermes species are not known as pests, as they only have small colonies, do not enter homes to systematically destroy the wood, and have a restricted range, being confined to decaying, moist wood near salty or brackish water. Not much else is known about them currently.

Decaying wood in mangrove swamp

Above – A fallen log in a mangrove swamp can become food and shelter for Prorhinotermes.

Dampwood

Above – Decaying wood which is constantly moist like the one above is favored by Prorhinotermes flavus.

Prorhinotermes flavus

Above – Prorhinotermes flavus. Note the shiny appearance of this termite species.

Prorhinotermes flavus workers

Above – A group of workers of P. flavus with an immature reproductive nymph (with wings).

Prorhinotermes flavus soldier

Above – The soldiers of Prorhinotermes flavus can be distinguished from Coptotermes by the fontanelle located higher up (in the middle of the head). The fontanelle can be spotted in my photo here, if you look closer.

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