Cryptotermes cavifrons

This gorgeous little fairy-like insect is, tragically, a termite, a rather unfortunate insect to find in my backyard. I can only hope that one of my native population of anoles later made itself a snack after I let this pestiferous creature go on about its way. (I try to always properly thank my photo subjects.)

Cryptotermes termites are sometimes called powderpost termites because of the heaps of powdery frass (insect poop and other debris) which would accumulate under infested wood. However, since Cryptotermes debris looks as powdery (or not) as the debris of other termites in the family Kalotermitidae, the term “powderpost termite” is falling out of style and C. cavifrons is lumped in with the other drywood termites. (As opposed to dampwood termites, rottenwood termites, or subterranean termites.)

The above individual is a winged alate, or reproductive adult — not sure which gender. Alates are present in C. cavifrons colonies all year long, protected by soldiers (who have distinctive, convex heads — hence “cavifrons”) and cared for by juvenile pseudergates instead of true workers. Pseudergates differ from workers, which are sterile adult insects, in that they can continue to develop, molting to become reproductive alates should a need arise. All individuals except the alates are blind.

Honestly, these little guys are fascinating, and you should read the University of Florida page on them — they summarize them much better than I can.

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