The all Female Termite Colonies in Japan – Silently Smashing the Patriarchy?

A recently published Japanese study found that some termite colonies of the
Glyptotermes nakajimai species survive with a solely female termite population. In these Japanese female termite colonies reproduction takes place without males involved. The termite Queen clones new colony members rather than mating with a male.

This is not a all female termite colony, but five termite Queens for representation.
This is not an all female termite colony, but five termite Queens for representation.

This is the first ever discovery of termite colonies completely void of males. Instead of having a king and queen the colonies have multiple queens. This suggests that insects in very complex societies can survive, and thrive without males.

Female Termite Colonies are not the Norm

Normally a termite colony contains of roughly 50/50 male and female termite ratio. With one very important male, the king, which mates with the Queen continuously over decades. The video below shows a typical Queen and King.

Crash Course in Reproduction

There is good reason for the rarity of asexual reproducing colonies. If you do not remember the details of the biology behind reproduction: Here comes a little crash course!

Sexual reproduction takes place when two different sets of genetic setups match to create a life. It happens in humans, animals and plants. It just means that two unique individuals match their DNA and creates something completely unique.

Asexual reproduction on the other hand means that one individual creates an exact copy of itself by cloning. The genetic set up is exactly the same in the offspring as of the parent.

If you wish to read more about these two types of reproduction just click here.

Why is it so Uncommon with Female Colonies?

Sexual reproduction is handy when there is a threat of disease or environmental changes. If you have a big variety within the colony outer threats is not a big issue, also known as “survival of the fittest“. If a few better fitted individuals survive they can ensure the prolonged survival of the colony and adapt accordingly.

There are however advantages with asexual reproduction. It is faster and requires less energy than sexual reproduction. As no mate is required there is no need for “wasting” energy on the process of mating and the genetic process of the genes to fuse. Also, when alates (the reproducing termites with wings) leave to create new colonies one sole individual is able to create a whole new colony. In addition, all positive genetic traits will be passed down to the offspring. The all female termite colony then will not run the risk of producing less fit individuals.

Moreover, the female termite colonies in Japan have thrived without genetically diverse colonies! The study suggests that the conditions they live in are profitable to fast reproduction and does not vary much. If a disease spreads through the colonies they would be wiped out, but as they have not the female colonies are a success.

If you wish to read more about this discovery please head over here and here!

Female Termite colonies in Brisbane?

As far as we know female only colonies have not been discovered on Australian shores. However, it is a curious discovery in Japan. It also shows that you can never know what complex termite discoveries are awaiting us. We at Termite Guys Brisbane try to keep updated with any research on termites, be it in regards of them being a pest to humans or in their natural habitat in any way.

The female only colonies do not pose a threat to human constructions, but other species do. Termite Guys Brisbane works exclusively with treating and protecting your home from these other termite species. Click these links if you are curious to learn more about them: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. Look here if you want to know more about how we work: Termite Control and Management.

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Michael is incredibly knowledgeable when it comes to termites and how to deal with them. So if you have any question just give him a call and he will do his very best to give you an accurate answer.
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