All termites are social insects. They live in colonies that can number over a
million individuals, each member accomplishing tasks that, in concert,
to a robust, adaptable, and productive society. Termite colonies
are fueled by
worker force capable of consuming wood, roots, grass, or processed cellulose
materials. As decomposers of wood and other vegetation, termites play an
essential role in recycling elemental nutrients and in increasing organic matter
and aeration in soils.
Against this framework of respect for a remarkably exquisite and biologically
unique group of insects, however, is the reality that termites cause well over a
billion dollars in damage annually in the United States. Wood, the principal
component of a termite diet, is a valuable commodity in world commerce, and a
prominent structural element of homes and buildings in North America. A termite
infestation in one's home is at the very least irritating and disturbing, and
worst be distressingly persistent and destructive.
By understanding the biology and habits of these insects we can more effectively prevent, detect, and control termites. That is the focus of applied research in the Thorne Lab at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Founding queen, subterranean termite;
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Replacement reproductives (neotenics);
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