Swarming and pairing in the fungus-growing termite, Macrotermes natalensis (Haviland) (Isoptera: Macrotermitinae)

Mitchell, J.D.

African Entomology 15(1): 153-160


ISSN/ISBN: 1021-3589
DOI: 10.4001/1021-3589-15.1.153
Accession: 013522045

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The fungus-growing termite, Macrotermes natalensis (Haviland), the most common and widely distributed member of the genus in southern Africa, produces a single brood of alates annually. The release of these alates from the colony is under the control of workers. The latter construct crescent-shaped flight holes over the mound surface and in the surrounding grass. On flight evenings workers open these holes. Large numbers of workers and small numbers of minor soldiers exit the mound to surround the flight holes. Alates then rapidly leave the nest by way of these flight holes. When the last alate has flown workers and soldiers move back into the mound and the flight holes are sealed. Following the flight the females land before the males, selecting elevated sites where they stand head down with wings fully extended. The male seeks out the female and when he joins her, the wings of both are flexed. Following a period of stimulation, both sexes dealate simultaneously and the pair move to the ground to search for a nesting site, moving in tandem with the male following the female. The female chooses the site and initiates digging-in. The male joins in the excavating and together they complete the project.