Studies of the nests of the fungus-growing termite Macrotermes natalensis (Isoptera: Macrotermitinae)
Monthly sampling of 71 laboratory nests, each with a pair of adults, revealed that eggs and first-instar larvae were observed in the third month, minor workers in the fourth month and minor soldiers in the seventh month. Mortality of the pairs was high, with only five pairs surviving over the 10 month period. Laboratory nests did not develop further than the copularium. Excavation of 30 nests, of differing sizes, revealed that five were juvenile nests, consisting of only thin shelving with a few flattened fungus combs scattered throughout, and all, even the youngest nest (3 to 5 years), had a small mound. The queens from these young nests were small and had white pleural and intersegmental membranes. Twenty mature nests had a medium to large mound with large air passages and a medium to large hive with a well defined fungus garden containing large fungus combs. The queens from these nests were medium- to large sized, with white to brown pleural and intersegmental membranes. The remaining five nests had mounds often covered with grass, and a hive that contained less fungus comb than expected. The mounds of these nests were classified using their sandy pediment or crumbly texture. These were senescent or declining nests. The queens had pale brown pleural membranes and brown intersegmental membranes, and were often flaccid. The royal cell was commonly found in the middle to upper part of the nursery (20 nests), but sometimes was found at the edge of the nursery (five nests). The royal cells of five nests were not found or had been destroyed during excavation. The "youngest" mound was one to two years old and the "oldest" was more than 25 years old. The youngest queen was estimated to be three to five years old and the oldest queen more than 27 years. The nest seems to remain subterranean for two or less years before producing a mound. Thirteen nests were vigorous and five declining. The remaining 12 nests could not be classified as no fungus comb was collected from the nests.