Termite workers

Termite workersThe social and economic organisation of the termitary is much more curious, more complicated than that of the hives.

In the hive we find the working bees, eggs, males and a queen, the last merely a worker whose reproductive organs have been considerably developed. We will confine ourselves to a study of these three castes (they include also subdivisions), which we may describe as the working caste, the reproducing caste, and the warriors.

Hatched from eggs similar to those from which the workers are born except that they are not impregnated, they form a caste of royal sluggards: gluttonous, roisterous, self-indulgent, licentious, imbecile, veritable encumberers of the earth, and manifest objects of contempt. Their eyes are magnificent, but they have a mere particle of brain and are unprovided with a single weapon; for they lack the sting of the worker bee, which actually is no more than an oviduct transformed by immemorial virginity into a poisoned stiletto. The workers may be male or female, but their sex is completely atrophied and hardly differentiated.

When a termite of whatsoever class feels hungry, it taps a passing worker with its antenna. If the suppliant is very young, capable of becoming a king, a queen or a winged termite, the worker immediately gives whatever it may have in its stomach.

By virtue of the astounding faculty the species possesses of deciding what their bodies are to be and of shaping them in accordance with the tasks to be fulfilled, with needs and circumstances, the workers are divided into two breeds: the large and the small.