Taxonomy

Hospitalitermes hospitalis was described by Haviland in 1898. To date, 35 species of Hospitalitermes have been described but many are separated only by very subtle differences in their shape, size and colour.

For example, the soldiers and workers of H. hospitalis are mostly sepia brown to dark brown in colour, and are very similar to several other species including H. medioflavus, H. diurnus and H. umbrinus. However, as more specimens are collected from across their geographical range, it is becoming apparent that some species are morphologically more variable than originally thought. As a result it is clear that the genus is in need of revision and further studies will probably show that several species names are not valid.

Evolution

In 2007, molecular evidence was published confirming that termites evolved from cockroaches. Termites’ closest living relative is the social cockroach Cryptocercus. The logic of this discovery meant that termites could not retain their systematic rank, as one order (Isoptera: termites) cannot be nested within another order (Blattodea: cockroaches). The proposed loss of the name Isoptera, which has been used for more than 100 years, and the downgrading of termites from order to epifamily (Termitoidae), has caused huge controversy within some parts of the entomological community.

Look-alikes

Species of the genus Lacessititermes look superficially like Hospitalitermes. Because they also forage in processional columns and are widespread across the forests of south-east Asia, they can be easily confused with Hospitalitermes.

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