Archotermopsis has generally been thought to have a very large number of plesiomorphic (‘primitive’) characteristics, even though the Termopsidae are not the most basal termite family.
The biology of the genus was described in detail by Imms (1919), Chaudry & Ahmad (1972) and Roonwal et al. (1984), and the description below is taken from those accounts.
Archotermopsis is found in coniferous forests between 850-2700 m in the Himalayas, an unusually high altitude for termites suggesting a degree of cold-resistance in the genus. It feeds and nests in large rotten dead trees, logs and stumps of Himalayan Pinus species, Picea morinda, Abies pindrow, and Cedrus deodara, but does not appear to attack sound or living timber. The termites make large tunnels and galleries in the wood usually along the grain of the wood, although some tunnels are a made at right angles to the grain and penetrate as far as the inside of the bark. Structures do not appear to be formed from faecal material and there are usually no external signs of the presence of the colony and no connections to the soil. However, holes in the wood can be filled up with ‘carton’ (masticated woody or faecal material) apparently held together with a secretion from the salivary gland.
Many colonies may be present in a single piece of wood, and each apparent colony can have one to a few queens and kings. A total of 20-30 colonies can be present in one log, and the is little distinction between one colony and the next. The kings and queens are found towards the middle of the woody substrate, with the eggs and young immatures, around them are older larvae and nymphs, with soldiers most numerous at the periphery of each apparent colony. Alates (when formed) are found in the centre of colonies until they are fully developed and then are found within the tunnels leading to the exterior.
Eggs are laid in groups of 10-25 in small rounded chambers gnawed out by the termites. The eggs are laid close to each other, but are not held together by secretions, although they are sometimes covered by a layer of faecal material.
Swarming takes place during the monsoon period between June and August, and is usually triggered by high levels of humidity after rainstorms. Swarming usually occurs during clear weather in the afternoon, but there is a record of swarming at night during heavy rain. Swarms include both sexes, and flight distances of a few hundred metres have been recorded.
Young pseudergates (true workers are not produced and there are no records of true ergatoid reproductives), larvae and nymphs appear to feed predominantly on rotting wood, but also on solid faecal material produced by other workers, as well as proctodeal substances produced by older pseudergates. Older pseudergates (> 4 mm in length) feed only on wood and faeces. Imms records soldiers as feeding directly on the wood, an unusual occurrence in termites, and the soldier mandibles have well developed molar plates.
Flagellate protozoa are abundant in the guts of Archotermopsis. Roonwal et al. (1984) record six species (Hypermastigida and Polymastigida) in the hindgut.