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What Makes Termites Different From All Other Types Of Social Insect

What Makes Termites Different From All Other Types Of Social Insect

The fact that termites are social insects is widely known. However, most people may not know that termites are not closely related to other social insects. With the exception of termites, all social insects belong to the insect order known as Hymenoptera. Termites, on the other hand, technically belong to the order known as Blattodea, but they used to belong solely to the Isoptera order. The Blattodea order of insects include cockroaches. Experts used to believe that termites and cockroaches belonged to different orders. However, recent genetic evidence has demonstrated that termites are closely related to cockroaches. This discovery led to termites being reclassified as members of the Blattodea order. Now termites are classified as belonging to the Isoptera “sub-order” of insects. Despite this recent change in taxonomological organization, experts still refer to termites as members of the Isoptera order of insects in most scientific publications.

A study conducted in 2007 found that termites were actually social cockroaches. Recent advances in scientific technology have revealed that termites branched-off from a type of wood-boring cockroach species that is now extinct. The first termites on earth predated all other social insect species.

There are many differences that exist between termites and all other forms of social insects in the Hymenoptera order. For example, termite workers and soldiers possess underdeveloped sex organs, but all termite workers and soldiers can potentially develop into either sex. However, Hymenoptera insect workers and soldiers are always female.

For more than a century, termites have been referred to as “white ants”. This misleading label still creates confusion today. When sophisticated microscopes were developed, researchers noted several differences between termites and ants. Some of these different termite features include straight antennae, four wings of equal size, broad waist of the thorax and a broad abdomen. These bodily features allow experts to immediately distinguish between ants and termites. Termite queens are different from all other social insect queens in that they live for a much longer period of time. Some termite queens can even live to fifty years of age. However, some queens belonging to particular ant species can live for as long as thirty years.

Do you think that there may exist another type of undocumented social insect that is not related to Hymenoptera insects?