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Lesson Note
Subject: Biology
Topic: Social Animals
Lesson Objectives: At the end of the lesson, learners should be able to:

  1. Define the terms social animals and social insects;
  2. State the castes of termites and honey bee as well as their respective features and functions.
  3. Explain the reproductive history of termites;
  4. State the economic importance of termites and honey bee.

Lesson Summary

Period 1

Social Animals
Social animals are those animals in which individuals of the same species live together cooperatively in organised community is known as societies or colonies.
A colony is a group of individuals belonging to the same species and organised in a cooperative manner. Examples of social animals are termites, bees, wasp, ants, wolves, foxes, banoons.

Social Insects
Social insects a specialised group of insects of the same species which live together cooperatively in an organised community known as colonies. Popular examples of social insects are termites, bees, ants.

Characteristics of Social Insects

  • They live together in colonies.
  • They show or display division of labour.
  • They show distinct castes.
  • Members communicate with one another within the colonies.


            Termites As Social Insect

Habitat: Termites are usually found living together in large communities in nests which may be tunnels in dead wood, Chambers under the ground or anthills known as termitaria.
Castes: all the various individuals in a termite colony are grouped into three castes. These are;
  1. The reproductives
  2. The soldiers
  3. The workers

The reproductives are of three types. Examples are
  • King
  • Queen
  • Winged reproductive

The King

  • The King is a reproductive male individual.
  • It has no wing
  • It is smaller than the queen
Function: the major function of the king is to mate with or fertilize the queen.

The Queen

1. The Queen is a reproductive female individual
2. It has a small head and a small thorax
3. The abdomen is large and swollen with eggs.

4.  There is only one Queen at a time in a colony.
5.  The Queen is the largest of all the castes.
Function: the function of the Queen is to lay eggs.

The Winged Reproductive


  1. They have wings
  2. They are fertile
  3. They can reproduce
  4. They are potential kings and queens of new colonies.

Function: they can become new Queens or Kings in a new colony after a nuptial or wedding flight.

B. Soldiers


  • They are sterile
  • They do not have wings
  • They have big head equipped with strong maxillae and mandibles.
  • They are blind

There are two types of soldiers.

  • Mandibulate soldiers which have strong mandibles for attacking Intruders.
  • The nasute soldiers which have projected mouthparts which can be used to inject poison into any intruder.

Function of the soldiers

  • soldiers defend the colony against enemies.
  • Workers
  • Features
  • They are winless
  • They are blind
  • They are sterile
  • They form the majority in the colony
  • They possess well-developed mouthparts.


Functions of the workers

  • They build and repair the termite nests.
  • They provide food for members of the colony
  • They take away the eggs laid by the Queen and put them in the Chambers and look after them as well.
  • They look after their names (baby termites)
  • The feed the nymphs and the queen.
  • They cultivate fungus garden, that is,the growth of fungus to digest the wood on which it grows to a state the termite can use. The termites eat both the fungus and partly the digested wood.

Summary of the reproductive Life Cycle of Termites

Termite exhibits incomplete metamorphosis (eggs < nymphs < adult).
The King fertilizes the queen that lays numerous eggs. the workers take care of the eggs do they hatch into young termites called nymphs. The nymphs develop into soldiers or reproductives. The nymphs which fail to develop become the workers.
When the winged reproductive are matured, they swam out from the existing colony to build new ones. These flights is called the nuptial or wedding flight. After flying for sometimes, they fall to the ground, lose their wings, pair up, mate and reproduce in a hole they have dug. Inside the hole, the female lays eggs and becomes the queen of the new colony while the male becomes the kings. The laid eggs later hatch into winged reproductives, soldiers and workers.

Behavioural Adaptation of Termites for Survival

  • The pattern of movement in a group or cluster enable them to watch off their enemies.
  • The ability to feed on dead wood and living plants provide them with a wide variety of diet.
  • their borrowing activities into the soil or heart of wood or their ability to build tunnels offer them protection against enemies and adverse weather conditions.
  • The selective feeding of nymphs by workers determines the caste a young one will eventually belong.
  • Tunneling or inter-connetivity tunnels provide aeration within the anthill.
  • The habit of feeding on dead members helps to keep the colony clean and healthy.
  • Nuptial or wedding flights lead to the formation of new colonies.
  • Production of many young ones ensures survival or continuous existence.

Economics Importance of Termites

  • The clay obtained from anthill is used to build the surface of tennis court.
  • Termites help in loosening and aerating the soil through the tunnels they build.
  • Termites are good source of protein and fats.
  • Their activities during the breaking down of wood add humus to the soil.
  • Termites also destroy wood and furniture by feeding on them.

1. Drone Of the Honey Bee

2. Queen of the Honey Bee

Economic Importance of Honey Bees

Done studying? See previous Lessons in Biology

Take a quick test for this lesson!
  1. Define the terms social animals and social insects.
  2. State the castes of termites and their respective features and functions.
  3. Explain the reproductive history of termites.
  4. What are the economic importance of termites?
  5. Mention the castes of honey bee
  6. What are the role play by each castes of honey bee?
  7. State the economics importance of honey bee.

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