To follow this web, it is important to understand how the Polyxena archersnake changes as it grows. Polyxena archersnakes are a highly communal species. They live in burrows several meters deep which they dig themselves and populate with a symbiotic hairy grub. The down grubs, as they’re called, not only provide warmth but also food to the castes that don’t venture far from the nest.
Like all monodonts, Polyxena archersnakes are born live. In their larval stage their only job is to eat and grow. They are too small and delicate to accept a meal from an hunter who has recently fed, as a grub or worker might, so they pick off the microscopic parasites that live on the down grubs.
As they grow, their rostrum goes through three or four molts until it has taken on the form of a spade. They are now workers. It is their job to clean and expand the burrows and tend to the queens. Midway through this stage they become sexually mature as males and can either disperse to mate with other queens or fertilize the queens of their own nest. Being particularly sensitive to the cold, they can only disperse on warm days.
Polyxena archersnakes are sequential hermaphrodites. Workers can develop into queens whether they have chosen to disperse or stay with the family. A large hive will have three to four queens. Any more will trigger dispersal of both queens and worker males to start a new colony, analogous to swarming bees.
Alternatively, workers can mature into hunters. The hunter caste is the largest and most deadly. They are non-reproductive servants of the hive, bringing partially digested food to the nest’s snake and grub residents. Inbred larvae are more likely to develop into hunters, while outbred larvae are more likely to develop into queens.