Macrotermes carbonarius

Physical characteristics: This is the largest termite in Southeast Asia. Winged kings and queens are about 1.2 inches (30.5 millimeters) from head to wingtips, with a wingspan of at least 2 inches (50.8 millimeters). The bodies of both workers and soldiers are very dark, nearly black. Male workers are larger than female workers. The soldiers are all females, large or small, and have very sharp, swordlike jaws.

Geographic range: Black macrotermes live in Borneo and Southeast Asia, including Thailand, Cambodia, and Malaysia.

Habitat: Black macrotermes are found in flat lowlands and are seen less often in hilly areas. They are especially common in coastal forests, but they also live on coconut and rubber plantations.

Diet: These termites collect mostly dead grass, twigs, and other plant debris (duh-BREE). These plant materials are hauled below ground into the nest. Small workers chew up the material, eat it, and then deposit their droppings as fertilizer on masses of spongelike fungus. The spores, or reproductive bodies that sprout on the outer surface of the fungus, are then fed to the younger termites in the colony. Older termites eat the remains of old fungus.

Behavior and reproduction: Colonies build large mounds up to 13 feet (4 meters) high and 16 feet (5 meters) wide at the base. The fungus is usually grown in large chambers around the edges of the mound.

Smaller workers spend all their time in the nest, caring for the king and queen, feeding the young, and repairing the nest. Larger workers and some soldiers hunt for plant materials on the ground at night. Foraging parties visit a new area every night. Major workers build paved tracks from the mound to the foraging area. Workers follow the track and then fan out to collect dead grass and twigs, with both large and small soldiers standing guard nearby.

The king and queen live in a special thick-walled cell inside the mound. The abdomen of the queen grows to extremely large proportions as it fills up with eggs. When the king and queen die, the colony may also die, unless there are other winged kings and queens already present in the colony to act as replacements.

Black macrotermes and people: This species does not have an impact on people or their activities.

Conservation status: This species is not endangered or threatened.

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