♦ Neotermes in captivity

Let me introduce you to this easy and big termite species from Caribbean region 🙂

Species: Neotermes sp. (Isoptera→Kalotermitidae→Neotermes)

Origin: Neotermes genus occupy tropical areas all around  the world (100 species), with some species distributed in regions from Mexico trough Caribbean territories, Cuba, Jamaica, Dominican republic and northerly to Florida Keys.

Appearance: Eggs are 1,5mm long, pink to yellowish color (depends on it´s age). Born larvae are fragile, 2mm pale white termites. Larvae moults several times, her final moult can be into nymph or into a pseudergate. Pseudergates are termites in lenght of nymphs, but in contrast with them- pseudergates have just reduced wing buds. Both these castes are individuals with slightly yellow toned exoscelet, 5-9mm long. Nymphs are instar just before imago and have possess wing buds. Imagos/the adults are firstly known as winged alates with 10-12mm body and four 12-15mm long wings. After their dealation, you can observe their well sclerotized brownish-to-red exoscelet. Majors/soldiers are 8,5-13,5mm, half of their lenght consist of massive head with strong jaws. Secondary replacement caste= neotenics are just of similiar size and appearance as pseudergates- 8-9mm, with yellowish/caramel body and orange-to-brownish pigmented head.

Colonies:  Average colony consist of few hundreds to thousand individuals divided to 3 castes. Termites in colony are of both sexes. As Kalotermitidae drywood termites, Neotermes colonies are usually smaller than cca 700 thousand termites and lack the true worker caste. All necessary work (mainly excavation of new galleries and brood care) is performed by nymphs and special caste of pseudoworkers, so called pseudergates. Each pseudergate have possibility to moult into nymph (pre-alated imago instar)/white pre-major (pre-major instar :D) or into neotenic (false reproductive individual), depending on the actual colony needs. Majors are quite common in Neotermes colonies and can be present as much as 5% of population. New eggs are layed by a queen, dealated female imago. In general, Kalotermitidae queens are not physiogastric- enlarged abdomen occurs in Termitidae & some other groups with higly populated colonies. A male- king, usually stays nearby his half and they both set the original primary reproductives of the colony= royal pair. Pair is usually surrounded by newly hatched termites- larvae and by their eggs. New colonies are formed by alated imagos (= alates, derived from nymphs), which are suprisely (in term of well-known poor termite flying abilities) good flyiers! Nuptial flight occur at dusk/night (prefereably after rain, like in all termites) and after landing, all imagos start dealating themselves and forming new pairs.

Pseudergates during stomodeal and proctodeal trophallaxis (2020)

Wood: Neotermes are considered as minor pests species, without possible risk of infestation (unless some escaped alates can find piece of wet, dead wood in your house- a place where is constant 80% humidity and 25°C :D). Their harmless nature to human wooden structures is generally known, according to their habit of nesting in living tree´s dead wood mass. In nature, many Neotermes species live in trunk centre of a living tree, eating dead xylem mass and avoiding the cambium. Best condition of wood is semidecaying to healthy soild-state. Most preffered type of wood (offered in lab conditions) by Neotermes is from poplar tree (Populus alba, according to one lab´s experience) and pine wood (Pinus sp, according to opinion of the other). In general, termites can be fed by both, deciduos and coniferous woods. Wood is chopped to blocks of needed size and it´s OK to use coniferous woods, until the block does not contain too many resin. Trees like birch, variety of fruit woods and spruce are used too, but Neotermes runs best with poplar and pine.

Nesting: For keeping of fragments/small colonies, petri dishes are frequently used. Dish have to be ultimately filled with wood mass & cellulose powder; closed with line of black tape with 4-6x 1mm holes for air circulation. You can also choose planar (acryl/glass) nest. But for maintaining colony for longer period of time, proper sized plastic/glass tank/ container is the best choice. On the bottom of the tank, perlite or sterilised garden soil is preffered. It provides constant air humidity nad natural odour. Larger wood block with termite colony can lay directly on this humid surface, but it´s better to mount the wood on some column- Kalotermitidae are drywood species and preffer nesting in wood which is in contact with the ground. Choosen type of termitarium depends on preferences of a breeder- if you want to observe your termites, you will have to keep the colony in smaller and thinner space, like mentioned planar nest or petri dish→ but at the cost of less stabile parameters… Anyway, covering the top of these nests with transparent red foil (can be bought in stationary stores) can avoid disturbing termites, thus allow observations!

Plastic container with chips of poplar (Populus wood), soil bottom and wet perlite

Parameters: Optimal temperature is like at any other tropical species- 24-27°C during the day, 22-24°C during the night. Night drop is just optional, but good for colony developement in general. Optimal air humidity is 80%+-7. Wood can be moistened on one corner (distilled or chemicals-free rain watter is used). This provide some kind of a humidity gradient to the colony. Parameters should not vary too much in short periods of time! For maintaining stable level of humidity, observatory nests (petri dishes, planary nests) can be put into a humidor (bigger plastic box with minimal air ventilation, with floor of wet perlite or sterilised garden soil= good microclima and providing natural odour). In my experience, Neotermes sp. (Jamaica) can tollerate optically dry wood (it´s possibly soaked with some watter content) and air humidity about 65-70% for longer periods (2-3 months) without any problems.

Care: If you provide your Kalotermitidae with fine conditins, these group of termites seems to be very easy and tolerant insect.  Neotermes fragments (as any other Kalotermitidae) can produce their own new replacement (secondary) reproductives= neotenics, just within 3-4 weeks after obtaining! For the begining is recommended fragment of 30-50 individuals. Several weeks after their moulting (in Neotermes), female neotenic start produce first clutches of eggs. In good conditions is this process quite fast and new larvae can appear within next 10 weeks. It´s adviced to give Neotermes little or the best any possible disturbance (like to any captive termites in general!). Newly obtained Neotermes groups transported to a laboratory, or colonies held in badly induced conditions (parameters/wood) showed kind of a defensive strategy, when all individuals gradually moulted (trough intermoults of course) into alates and tried to fly out of their set-up. Generaly said, colony can split up and individuals fly away in order to find better enviroment. Or they will just die out of stress (mainly from rapidly changed conditions and too displaced parameters).


Founding pair of dealated imagoes (12.12.2017)


→ young colony (01.06.2018)


These termites are big and can provide interesting observations. I just hope you can offer your termites fine conditions and they wouldn´t die or moult into alates, wishing you luck in your hobby 🙂

Filip Repta, 06.01.2018


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