Termite workers crawl over their queen.
Termite workers crawl over their queen.
Photograph by Gregory MD., Getty Images


A queen stretches out in her spacious home as her subjects scurry around her. The queen’s workers try to make her comfortable and keep her dwelling clean. This “royal” is well cared for, but you couldn’t exactly call her lifestyle luxurious. That’s because she’s a termite!


Over 2,000 species of termites can be found around the world. Termite colonies, which can include thousands of individuals, often live in large dirt mounds. When a female termite hits breeding age, she may emerge from her colony and find a mate. The pair then creates a burrow in the ground and the female (called a queen) begins to produce eggs—a lot of them. In fact this female generates around 30,000 eggs a day! Once her offspring hatch, they become part of her colony.

As the female produces more and more eggs, she begins to grow. Over time she can become the length of an adult human’s index finger. That’s a hundred times bigger than any of the termites that surround her. Eventually the queen gets so large that she can barely move. Luckily members of the queen’s community are there to wait on her, um, antenna and foot.


Many of the offspring that hatch from the queen's eggs become worker termites. They help the queen by keeping her clean, feeding her plant fibers, and looking after newly laid eggs. These insects may also double as construction workers, carrying up soil from underground to create the colony’s mound. Some termite mounds can reach over 17 feet in height. Sounds like the termite queen and her workers really know how to go big!