Is termites an insect

9.5.3. Fungus cultivation by termites

The terrestrial microfauna of tropical savannas (grass- lands and open woodlands) and some forests of the Afrotropical and Oriental (Indo-Malayan) zoogeographic regions can be dominated by a single subfamily of Termitidae, the Macrotermitinae. These termites may form conspicuous above-ground mounds up to 9 m high, but more often their nests consist of huge under- ground structures. Abundance, density, and produc- tion of macrotermitines may be very high and, with estimates of a live biomass of 10 g m – 2 , termites consume over 25% of all terrestrial litter (wood, grass, and leaf) produced annually in some west African savannas.

The litter-derived food resources are ingested, but not digested by the termites: the food is passed rap >5–8 weeks. Fungus action on the termite fecal substrate raises the nitrogen content of the substrate from about 0.3% until in the asexual stages of Termitomyces it may reach 8%. These asexual spores (mycotêtes) are eaten by the termites, as well as the nutrient-enriched older comb. Although some species of Termitomyces have no sexual stage, others develop above-ground basidiocarps (fruiting bodies, or “mush- rooms”) at a time that coincides with colony-founding forays of termites from the nest. A new termite colony is inoculated with the fungus by means of asexual or sexual spores transferred in the gut of the founder termite(s).

Termitomyces lives as a monoculture on termite-attended combs, but if the termites are removed experimentally or a termite colony dies out, or if the comb is extracted from the nest, many other fungi invade the comb and Termitomyces dies. Termite saliva has some antibiotic properties but there is little ev >4.1–4.6. The heat generated by fungal metabolism is regulated appropriately via a complex circulation of air through the passageways of the nest, as illustrated for the above-ground nest of the African Macrotermes natalensis in Fig. 12.10.

The origin of the mutualistic relationship between termite and fungus seems not to derive from joint attack on plant defenses, in contrast to the ant—fungus interaction seen in section 9.5.2. Termites are associated closely with fungi, and fungus-infested rotting wood is likely to have been a primitive food preference. Termites can digest complex substances such as pectins and chitins, and there is good evidence that they have endogenous cellulases, which break down dietary cellulose. However, the Macrotermitinae have shifted some of their digestion to Termitomyces outside of the gut. The fungus facilitates conversion of plant compounds to more nutritious products and probably allows a wider range of cellulose-containing foods to be consumed by the termites. Thus, the macrotermitines successfully utilize the abundant resource of dead vegetation.

Measurements of temperature and carbon dioxide are shown in the boxes for the following locations: (a) the fungus combs; (b) the brood chambers; (c) the attic; (d) the upper part of a ridge channel; (e) the lower pa rt of a ridge channel; and (f ) the cellar. (After Lüscher 1961)

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Identification

Termites are very small and similar in size to ants, which often leads to confusion. There are also several different types of termites, which can make figuring out which control method to use challenging. In fact, knowing the key differences between ants and termites is a good starting point for identification. Knowing the types of termites you’re dealing with is the next key factor for professionals to determine.

Owing to their secretive nature, termites can be hard to detect, especially with an untrained eye. You are far more likely to spot the signs of termite damage before you spot termites themselves.

There are different types of termites, but there are some very destructive species that like warm, moist, areas. So, cities and areas like Miami, Atlanta, and Charleston can be affected by these species of termite.

As with any other pest, correct identification ensures the use of the most effective control methods and allows you to choose the most appropriate prevention steps to try and avoid problems in the future. You can discuss options such as chemical barriers or other methods to keep termites away.

Need help identifying termites? Call Ehrlich today at 1-800-837-5520 for advice and to schedule a FREE termite inspection of your home or business.

Think you have termites in your home?

Click here to set up an appointment to discuss our termite treatments.

What do termites look like?

Do termites really look like ants? Termite swarmers can look like flying ants, and they are often confused.

The difference between these two pests will greatly impact the type of service needed to control them in your property.

Often a suspected problem with termites, turns out to be a problem with carpenter ants or fire ants, because they look so similar.

Here’s how to establish the general differences in appearance and behavior between ants and termites:

Waist – Termites have a straight waist, while ants have a pinched waist.

Antennae – Termites have straight antennae while ants have bent antennae.

Wing Length – Termites wings are the same length while ants have wings of different length.

Look for discarded wings around window sills – Flying termites (also known as swarmers) are often confused with flying ants, because both their winged mating cycles occur during the springtime. However, flying ants do not shed their wings. If you have seen these flying insects in your property, you can be fairly certain you have identified termites if you’ve also found discarded wings.

Look for differences in body shape – The image below should help you identify important differences in body shape of termites and winged ants (termite is on the right, ant on the left):

Have you spotted termites in your home or workplace? As these insects are highly destructive, you should get professional advice and termite control from Ehrlich right away. Our termite control specialists know how to spot termite eggs, larvae and which types of termites might be causing the damage.

Why is identification so difficult?

Even armed with the above information, it may still be hard to make a correct identification using the naked eye. Bear in mind that termite swarmers are only about ¼ inch long – about the same size as a pencil eraser.

Identification is made even more difficult by the fact that termites often remain hidden away in properties for years without the owner’s knowledge. As already mentioned, the first indicator of a potential problem is usually visible evidence of termite damage.

Ehrlich’s termite species guide offers greater detail on what termites look like and how to recognize the common features between termite species.

What are the types of termites?

What kind of termites are you seeing in your home? Click here to find out.

Identifying termite species

All types of termites can cause damage to your home, but knowing a bit more about the different species of termites can help identify them more easily. Depending on where you are in the country can also determine the types of termites you may have to contend with.

The location of your property as well as its component structure will both have an impact on the termite species, which you may be at risk of.

Generally speaking, incidence of termite infestation is much higher in the southeastern states, such as Florida, and the west coast states, such as California, and gradually decreases the further north you travel in the country.

Here are some of the most common termite species found in the U.S. Subterranean termites are one of the most common species found throughout the U.S.

The top 3 most invasive species of this type, include the Eastern subterranean, Western subterranean and the Formosan subterranean termites.

Eastern subterranean termites are the most prevalent and can be found on the east coast in states like Georgia and as far west as Utah. Western subterranean termites are mostly found along the west coast and inland through to Nevada.

Formosan termites – are a particularly serious type of subterranean termite, but are not as common. Formosan subterranean termites are found primarily in Louisiana, Mississippi, along the Gulf coast.

Drywood termites – can also be found in the US, sometimes nearer to the coast although they don’t need moisture to survive. They are prevalent along the gulf coast as well as on the west coast in California.

Dampwood termites – live in damp and rotting wood and mulch, and can often be found near open water. They can enter your home through wood that meets damp soil.

Termites with wings

The primary function of termites with wings, or swarmers, is to reproduce and generate new colonies. They have two wing pairs, and the presence of these insects indoors signifies that a building is likely infested. Flying termites can commonly be found swarming around window sills or exterior lighting because light attracts them.

These insects will turn into the queens and kings of new colonies. Termites with wings depart from their nests and fly when the conditions are appropriate. The males and females will swarm together in the air. After they land, the swarmers will shed their wings, mate, and start new colonies.

Control and prevention of termites after identification

Once correct identification is made, the most effective solution plan can be offered to quickly bring the problem under control. Ehrlich offers conventional termite treatment which uses liquid termiticide treatment and other methods include the use of monitoring and baiting systems.

Identifying termites from their damage

At Ehrlich, we confirm the invading termite species through a visual identification rather than just looking at the evidence of the damage to your building and its location.

However, some of the points below could be of help to you, when checking your building for signs of activity:

Subterranean termites begin their feeding process (damage) from the ground up and typically enter a building through the sub-structure. Homes with crawl spaces are at great risk. It is here you should look for evidence of damaged wood and mud tubes. Wood damaged by this particular species develops “galleries” (hollow tunnels), which run along the grain of the wood.

Drywood termites typically enter structures near the roof line or other exposed wood to begin building a colony. Inspect your attic for evidence of damaged wood. Look for tiny holes in the wood with evidence of frass collecting nearby. Probing the wood can also expose galleries as well.

Having experienced a termite infestation, most people will be eager to ensure they do not have the same problem in the future. Ehrlich can give you simple steps you can take to “termite-proof” your home or business and the prevention plans can offer further help.

If you suspect you have termites, call us today at 1-800-837-5520 or contact us online to arrange a FREE termite inspection for your home or business.

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Is a Termite an Insect?

Are Termites Considered to be Insects?

Insect Features

Adult-stage insects have three pairs of legs and segmented bodies comprising three distinct sections: the head, thorax, and abdomen. Insects also have wings, even though their wings sometimes are not visible and not well developed, even in the adult stage. From beetles and mosquitoes to flies, fleas and aphids, many common pests are classified as insects. More than 90,000 different insect species are estimated to live in the United States alone.

Termite Bodies

Termites are considered insects because their bodies are divided into distinct sections for the head, thorax, and abdomen. While other insects, like flies, have compound eyes, termites lack the ability to see, with the exception of termite kings and queens. To make up for this, worker termites that find a source of food (cellulose) use chemical pheromones to lay down a scent trail that directs other workers to that food. Termite heads have two antennae that are used to detect heat, vibrations, and pheromone signals.

Many insects, termites included, have a thorax with three segments. Each of these segments has one pair of legs. Termite wings are also located on the thorax. Termite swarmers have wings, while the workers – the stage that consumes wood – are wingless.

The termite abdomen is the largest section of the body, leaving plenty of room for the digestive, respiratory, and reproductive systems. Notably, termites do not have the pinched waist constriction between the abdomen and thorax. This makes it easy to separate them from other wood-boring and swarming insects, such as carpenter ants.

Social vs. Solitary Insects

While solitary insects have no social structure and hunt or forage alone, social insects live in complex colonies. Termites are considered social insects because they establish organized colonies in which reproductive queens produce offspring and other individuals cooperate to care for the young. Termite colonies that reach maturity may house millions of workers and soldiers.

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All About Termites

All about the Different Types of Termites, Termite Life Cycle, Identification, Facts & Other Information

What is a Termite?

The termite belongs to the order of the roaches called Blattodea. It has been known for decades that termites are closely related to cockroaches, predominately the wood eating species of roach. Until recently, the termites were the order Isoptera, which is now the suborder. This new taxonomical shift is supported by data and research to confirm the new comparison that termites are actually social cockroaches. This suborder of Isoptera has over 2,600 species worldwide, and 50 species that call North America their home. The heaviest populated areas are located in the tropic and sub tropic regions.

The origin of the name Isoptera is Greek and means two pairs of straight wings. The termite has been called the white ant over the years and commonly confused with the true ant. It wasn’t until modern times and the use of microscopes they were able to observe distinguishing features between the two orders. The features were the straight termite antennae, the four equally sized wings, the broad waist of the thorax, and broad abdomen.

The earliest termite fossil known in existence dates back to over 130 million years ago.

Termite Map(s)

Image source: DOW AgroSciences

Image source: Bug Master

Termite Infestation Probability Map

Image source: publicecodes.cyberregs.com

The map above outlines the probability of a termite infestation occurring based on climate factors and habitat needs of termites.

Termite Habitat

The termite species spans the entire world. Habitats are the heaviest in the tropic regions, subtropics, and warmer climate regions. Termites thrive in the warm moist lowlands and along coasts. Some species of North America have adapted to colder temperatures allowing them to infest homes and other wood sources farther north.

  • Europe has 10 species of termites
  • North America has over 50 species of termites
    • Three most prominent species:
      • Subterranean Termites: causing less than 75-80% of damage economically
      • Dry wood Termites: causing 20-25% of damage economically
      • Dampwood Termites: causing less than 0-5% of damage economically
  • Africa has over 1,000 species of termites
  • Termites are highly successful insects.
    • They practice many habits to survive

Termite Taxonomy

  • Kingdom: Animalia
    • Phylum: Arthropoda
      • Class: Insecta
      • Subclass: Pterygota
      • Infraclass: Neoptera
        • Superorder: Dictyoptera
        • Order: Blattodea
        • Infraorder: Isoptera
          • Families:
          • Mastotermitidae
          • Termopsidae
          • Hodotermitidae
          • Kalotermitidae
          • Rhinotermitidae
          • Serritermitidae
          • Termitidae

Termite History

Where do termites come from? The termite order branches from an ancient wood cockroach-like insect about 100 million years ago. The advances in molecular data gives the proper evidence to confirm the origin of the termites. Termites as a majority are known to inhabit the tropical regions around the world. Few of the species are able to branch out into the northern territories. With the characteristics of being social insects, termites mimic other social insects like bees, ants, and wasps. Termites, though, are different in the simple reason that any cast can be male or female, but in other social insects all workers and soldiers are female! Throughout history, the termites, also called white ants or wood bugs, have destroyed structures and invaded homes over countless centuries. They continue to cause billions of dollars in damage every year all over the world. Termites today that spend their lives within the food source are the most primitive of termite species. The next more moderately adapted termites live in the soil and forage for wood. African termites are some of the most advanced termites in the world that farm funguses and grasses. These termites live in the soil all of their lives and construct mounds that are in the record books. They also rank amongst the largest in the world. The movement to understand these insects has led to many discoveries and ideas. Leading researchers and engineers are copying the structure and venting mechanics of African termite mounds. There are also experimental trials being conducted using termites to create biofuels. The termites are truly novel insects that are ranked amongst the most successful insect pests.

Types of Termites

Order Blattodea (Termites)

Over hundreds of years have been spent on just understanding termite types and the way they live. The world of termites has been mapped out extensively to discover over 2,800 members throughout the world today. The niche of these social cockroaches success is the division of labor and going undetected by most predators.

Family Termopsidae

The dampwood termites of the family Termopsidae are among the largest termites in the world. They come in at a whopping 25mm in length. There are around 20 species in the world, spread amongst the Americas, Eurasia, Africa, and Australia. They live in the forests and nest in the wet, rotting, and rotten woods on the forest floor. The queens of this species have a longer egg production than the other families, around 30 or less a day. The colony sizes are around a moderate 10,000 members on average. Due the extreme nutritional investment of having larger individuals, the eggs produced had to decrease exponentially.

  • Pacific Dampwood Termite (Zootermopis angusticollis)

  • The winged termites are the reproductive adults and are around 23-26mm in size including wings
  • The soldiers are around 15-20mm in size
  • Workers are around 10-15mm in size
  • Workers are pale milky white color
  • Soldiers are a darker pale color with a dark brown head region
  • This species ranges from British Columbia to Southern California

Family Rhinotermitidae

The Rhinotermitidae is better known as the subterranean termite family. The family is known best for its typical requirement of the nest they create to maintain contact with the soil. There are some exceptions in some genera. The soldiers of this family are known for having a flattened region behind the head called the pronotum, and for producing a defensive fluid. Both the worker and soldiers of this family are quite small, less than 5mm in size. The workers and soldiers both share the pale white color. The average queen in this family produces 100 termite eggs a day. This family is found on every continent except for the Polar Regions and nearby lands. There are more than 300 species worldwide.

Eastern Subterranean Termite (Reticulitermes flavipes)

  • Soldiers and workers are both a pale to pale-tan color
  • The soldiers have the darker head region and mandibles
  • Reproductive males and females are brown to black in color with brown wings
  • The black termites or dark termites are always mature adults
  • Winged termites or reproductive adults are around 10mm in length
  • The workers and soldiers are from 5-7mm in size
  • This species is found anywhere from Ontario down to Florida, west to Texas, and in to Mexico.

Formosan Subterranean Termite (Coptotermes formosanus)

  • AKA: Formosan Termites

  • Soldiers are a pale yellow to pale tan color with oval shaped heads and sickle shaped mandibles
  • The workers are a pale yellowish brown and lack enlarged mandibles
  • Reproductive males and females are a yellowish brown with hairy wings
  • The termites with wings, or reproductive adults, are around 12 to 17mm including their wings
  • The workers and soldiers are from 6 to 19mm in size
  • This species is known to attack a variety of structures
  • The warm humid months trigger this species’ mating cycles at dusk or in the evenings
  • This species is found anywhere from California, Arizona, New Mexico, eastern Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina and Florida.

Family Termitidae

The nasutiform termite family is not known for destroying any homes. This family is actually a beneficial species to the desert ecosystem. The family contains the builders of great mounds some recorded as high as eight meters. The species range is grouped around the tropical climates in Asia, Africa, Australia, and South America. Few species of this family are in the deserts of North America. There are over 1,800 species from this family that call Africa their home. This species is known to be one of the most prolific animals in the animal kingdom, generating over 10 million eggs a year per queen.

Tube-building Termite (Gnathamitermes perplexus)

  • AKA: Tube-forming desert termite, Desert-encrusting termite, Long-jawed desert termite
  • The termites are known to create termite tubes or termite trails of mud to foraging sites. These termite mud tubes act as protection from most predators and provides needed moisture.
  • Soldiers are pale off white with yellow head and dark antennae
  • Soldiers also have mandibles that are curved and as long as its head
  • The workers are a pale white and lack enlarged mandibles
  • Reproductive males and females are a yellowish brown with hairy wings
  • Winged reproductive adults are around 12 to 17mm including the wings
  • The workers and soldiers are from 6 to 19mm in size
  • This species is known to attack a variety of structures
  • The desert termite is an important species that recycles the nutrients back into the earth
  • This species is found anywhere from California, Nevada, and Texas in to Mexico.

Other Families

Family Mastotermitidae:

This family is the primitive species found only in Northern Australia and Papua New Guinea. It is said to be the most primitive of all the termite species. The fossils found of this species date back to the tertiary era. The hind wings are very similar to those of the cockroach. The females of the Mastotermes genius actually lay egg cases that have up to 24 eggs arranged in two regular rows. The primary queen of these colonies has never been found. There are many secondary reproductives that raise the populations in the millions. The soldiers have powerful mandibles and excrete a toxic brown substance to repel intruders.

Family Kalotermitidae:

This is the dry-wood termite family. The name dry-wood comes from the family’s need to feed on wood above the ground, unlike most termites who most come into contact with the wood through the soil. However, this species has habits to feed and dwell in damp wood and rotten wood. There are over 400 species of dry-wood termites worldwide. This family is also found commonly in almost all continents with the exception of Antarctica.

Family Hodotermidiae:

The Hodotermidiae family is known as the grass-harvesting termites. This family currently has 15 species that closely resemble the dampwood termite species. The grass-harvesting termites are fairly large, at around 15mm in size. This species occurs most commonly in the savannas of India, the Middle East, and Africa. This species is best compared to the dampwood termites.

Family Serritermitidae:

The Serritermitidae family is very similar to the family Rhinotermitidae which are the subterranean termites. They prefer to create nests with contact to the soil. There is a single species in the world. This species only occurs in South America. The soldiers have unique mandibles that have serrated teeth-like projections on the inside.

Common Species Comparison

Roaches vs Termites

The changes in recent research suggest the comparison of ants and termites is all wrong. The current scientific termite report states that the termites may look similar to ants, but they are actually decedents of a common ancestor of cockroaches. Ants derive from the bee and wasp lineage. Who would have thought that termites are actually social cockroaches that split off from the roach order 130,000 or more years ago! It has been concluded that the termites and cockroaches you see today have evolved from a common cockroach mantis like ancestor. This ancestor eventually gave rise to the mantis, cockroach, and termite insects.

Image source: ucdavis.edu

The image above shows the lineage origins of cockroaches, mantis, and termites before the new revision.

Image source: ucdavis.edu

This image above shows the timeline of the shifts in the organization of the Dictyoptera superfamily which includes the mantis, cockroach, and termites. This chart shows that the three major orders derived from a common cockroach like ancestor.

Image source: blattodea-culture-group.org

The image above shows the current lineage organization of the termite families, cockroaches families, and mantis order.

Termite Reproduction

King and queen termites swarm in the summers in large groups of thousands in search of a mate. The two mates have a mild courtship dance, and then begin to start their own colony. The male or king shares the labor with the queen as she is fertilized and ready to begin having baby termites. The first year of laying eggs the queen can have anywhere from a hundred to thousands of eggs a day. The two care for the first few generations until there are enough young or workers to help the two. When hatched into larvae, the young termites can become workers or soldiers depending on the pheromones and temperatures the eggs are exposed to. The workers are the sole providers in the colony’s division of labor and it relies on them to care for all of the feeding, maintains order of the young and developing babies, and foraging. The workers and soldiers can be male or female; it doesn’t matter because both are sterile. The population of the colony will continue adding massive numbers for about five years, then the queen will have her first reproductive alates, or young kings and queens. They will mature and prepare to swarm and leave to start another colony in the summer. The cycle continues over and over.

Termite Life Cycle

Image source: science.howstuffworks.com

The development of a termite is called an incomplete metamorphosis. This is scientifically known as hemimetabolus life cycles. The termite’s life cycle can result in three different types of termite or caste types. The three types consist of reproductive, workers, and soldiers. The life cycle contains an egg, young termite larvae or termite nymph, older nymph, worker, soldier, pseudergate, drone, and queen. This is a typical social insect system allowing for proper labor division. Once a termite egg amongst countless thousands of others hatches, it is then called termite larva or larvae. The larva can become one of the three castes: worker, soldier, or a secondary or supplementary reproductive termite. This happens based on social, environmental, and termite pheromone cues. The larva then molts until it reaches maturity, which usually takes three molts. The larva can become a worker or soldier and its life cycle is over until it dies. The larva also could become a reproductive alate or secondary reproductive, where it goes on to reproduce and become a king or queen termite for another colony. The queen has the longest life, spanning on average from 25 years. The other types of termite’s life span vary from 12 to 24 months.

  • All termites are paurometabolous, which means they have many nymph stages
  • Can range from 5-13 nymph instars till they reach full maturity
  • The stages of development are: Egg -> Nymph -> Adult (which can be secondary reproductive, worker, or soldier)

Termite Identification

  • Termites have six legs
  • Termites have straight pointing beady antennas
  • Termites have large heads with no distinct body segmentation more ribbed texture.
  • Termites are pale white to a pale yellow
  • A swarm of termites can be darker colored, much like most species of ant.
  • The difference is that the reproductive adult termite’s pairs of wings are the same size, while the flying ant’s wings are not.
  • The presence of termites in the house can be determined by their wood colored pellet fecal remains.
    • Note that ants do not ingest the wood; they more so reposition the wood and kick it out.

Members of the Colony or Termite colonies:

  • Workers:
    • Worker termites make up nearly 90-95% of the colony and they are the providers and foragers of the colony; without them the colony would fail.
    • The workers are sterile, wingless, and blind
    • They can be female or male; the sex is irrelevant because they are immature and do not reproduce.
    • The exoskeleton, or cuticle, is soft and uncolored instead of a pale white
    • The worker’s job is to care for the colony members like the termite eggs, termite larvae or nymphs, secondary reproductives, soldiers, king and queen.
    • Workers are the sole providers and home keepers of the colony performing a host of tasks.
    • They will clean the colony, feed the colony, and regulate the temperature of the eggs and nymphs.
    • The workers make up the largest populated caste in the colony.
    • The average life span of worker in any termite family is usually two years.
  • Soldiers:
    • Soldier termites make up nearly 1-3% of the colony population.
    • The soldiers are much like the workers for the simple fact that they are wingless, blind, and typically lacking pigment.
    • Soldiers are soft, like the workers, throughout much of their bodies but have a modified head region that has powerful mandibles.
    • These characteristics allow the soldiers to defend the colony
    • They use the mandibles or they secrete a toxin from their head to ward off invaders.
    • Soldiers are usually how you can label or identify the species of termite more easily by the mouth-parts, which are unique to different species.
    • The number of soldiers is far lower than the workers.
    • Soldiers are unable to feed themselves, and are fed by workers.
    • The average soldier lives for about one to two years much like the worker.
  • Mature reproductive adults:
    • There are usually few reproductive adults that are present in the colony.
    • There are usually 5-10 kings that mate with the queen throughout her lifetime.
    • These adults are the swarmer termites and swarm to find mates.
    • There is usually only one queen in a colony, though large colonies can have two or more queens.
    • King and queen are the only reproductively active members of the colony.
    • The king is present to keep the queen fertilized so she can lay eggs.
    • The queen starts the colony, but once there are a sufficient amount of workers to care for her she increases her egg production and begins producing on average 100 or more than 1,000 eggs a day in various species.
    • Some queens produce 30 or less a day but larger individuals.
    • Some queens are capable of producing over 10,000 eggs a day.
    • They are dark brown in pigment, and fully developed with wings.

Termite Anatomy

External Anatomy

Image source: science.howstuffworks.com

Internal Anatomy

Termite Morphology

Termites are classified in the suborder or infraorder Isoptera, more commonly known as the pale white ant. This suborder has four North American families and seven total families worldwide. The four families of North America contain 44 known genera, and of total seven genera make up 2,300 species. Termites are known for creating massive colonies making them one of the top economic pests. Within each colony there are three distinct types of termite or ways to classify each member. The colony is made up of both immature and reproductive adult termites. The immature termites make up the bulk of the colony. The adults in each colony are known as the king and queen. The last type is the fully developed winged adults. The adults are the darkest and most developed in the colony bear wings until they find a mate. Once the king and queen find each other, they then form a new colony by mating. Then the two mates shrug off their wings and care for the first batch. Once the queen is fertilized she begins producing eggs around the clock. The smallest immature type is the worker it has a pale transparent white color and has small or absent eyes. The next is the soldier easily distinguished by having massive mandibles and a slightly darker pigment than the worker. The soldier uses its large chewing mouthparts defend of the colony. The termite species are hemimetabolus which means that they lack a complete metamorphosis.

Weather Effects on Termites

Termites, like most insects in the world, prefer moist warm conditions in which they can thrive. Termites become most active during the spring and summer months. Termite season can occur year around. During these months, locating termites can be as easy as finding a fallen tree. The warmth allows even the smallest population of termites to thrive. The key to their population growth is food, water, and warmth. The warm plays a key factor in the incubation of the baby termites as well. The fall and winter months are possibly the most frequent times to find them near or in homes. Termites hide in the walls of our homes to feed and stay warm. Termites can be found in the home for these reasons. The warmth produced by the home itself makes for a perfect shelter to inhabit with moisture and food. Termites in winter are not thriving this time of year so finding termites in the wild becomes harder as most populations go deep in the ground or die.

Frequently Asked Questions About Termites

Are termites blind?

Out of the three casts in a termite nest there is only one that has fully developed eyes, which are the adult reproductive termites, or the king and queen termites. The ground termites or worker and soldier termites are all blind or have poorly developed eyes. They forage much like ants for wood daily. They trail and located wood with the use of pheromones and sensory organs.

Why do termites eat wood?

The termite has modified over time to digest the wood cellulose and thrive off its energy.

How do termites eat wood?

The adult workers feed the whole colony, by regurgitating food or wood decomposed in its gut. The workers feed soldiers, termite larvae, termite babies, kings, and queens. The wood is decomposed in its gut by flagellate protozoa within the fauna of the gut that digests the wood to a source of sharable nourishment. This termite symbiosis has allowed them to thrive over countless millennia.

Do Termites bite?

Termites do not bite humans. It may look like termites are capable of biting. The only one that may bite or light pinch the skin is a soldier termite. Termite bite never occurs on purpose they have poor vision and wouldn’t grab you unless you pressed your finger on them or made them bite you. The soldier class of termite has massive mandibles to protect and defend the colony. This feature is mainly to prevent intruding ants or other small insects from entering into the colony. The termite itself solely feeds on wood and is slow moving. They do not feed on anything else.Termites are herbivores which mean to eat plant matter or hylophagous which means to eat wood

Do termites fly?

Many wonder how termites travel. Can termites fly? Do termites have wings? Do termites jump? Well yes, termites fly! But they don’t jump their legs are not specialized for jumping. They have two sets of wings the same size. But not all termites in the colony have the capabilities to fly. The only class or caste that flies is the reproductive adults. The reproductive adults can be seen both in the colony and in termite swarms during reproductive events. The termite swarmer’s are only kings and queens.

How big are termites?

What is the difference in the termite sizes? The kinds of termites vary in niches across the world along with their habitats and sizes. The size of termites also varies in amongst the species, climate regions, country, and population size. In North America there are four popular species such as the dampwood, subterranean, Formosan, and tube-building termites.

  • Pacific Dampwood termites
    • Soldiers are 15-20mm
    • Kings and queens 23-26mm including wings
    • Workers are 10-15mm
  • Eastern Subterranean termites
    • Soldiers are 5-7mm
    • Kings and queens 10-11mm including wings
    • Workers are 5mm
  • Formosan termites
    • Soldiers are 6-19mm
    • Kings and queens 12-17mm including wings
    • Workers are 5mm
  • Tube-building termites
    • Soldiers are 5-6mm
    • Kings and queens 14-15mm including wings
    • Workers are 3-5mm

What does termite damage look like?

Termite signs must be checked for frequently and often. Termites bore and live in the wood or near a wood source. They can construct elaborate galleries in the home or wherever they nest. The signs can be wood pellets in the floor or near base boards or doorways. The evidence of termites is sometimes a mud tube(s) or mud mounds on or around the source of wood like posts, support beams, or exposed wood in crawl spaces. If the damage persists there can be signs of the wood thinning and holes on the surface of the wood. There can even be termites in the garden where they’re known to feed on any available plant and organic matter. The termite diet revolves around cellulose, which is in every plant or tree.

What do termite droppings look like?

The most common misconception is that every hole in wood, kick out, and sawdust debris is from a termite. This is incorrect. The termites actually ingest the wood, so the sign of termites in the wood are wood colored or darker brown pellets of excrement. The ants or carpenter ant species just moves the wood out, squeezes its moisture out, and burrows into the structure to create a colony. The debris of ants looks just like sawdust

What attracts termites?

Just like all insects, termites behave on the basis of the four simple needs. Termites need shelter, food, water, and warmth to thrive. The primary source of food for the termite is wood, so any form or structure with wood is at risk. Do termites really EAT wood? Yes! The wood that termites feed on gives them cellulose nourishment. Cellulose is a plant fiber found in wood and lumber, and anything made with it. The shelter can consist of anything from a fallen tree or firewood to a household. The season heavily determines on where the termites will harbor and move towards. Homes make for great warm shelters in the colder months.

What do termites do?

  • The colony operates as a team to provide for the best interest of the colony.
  • What do termites eat? They eat wood and any available organic matter containing cellulose.
  • Signs for termites are kick out holes on the wood or sealed kick out holes
    • The kick outs are signs of current or past infestation.
  • Tan or pale termite pellets near these holes are another clue. They also eat each other’s feces which is rich digested wood.
  • Termite poop is treated as a viable source of nutrients amongst the termite nest and is shared.
  • Particularly hard to remove insect for the simple reason that the typical termite nests can have anywhere from 2,000-4,000 individuals per square meter, and as high as 10,000.

Do termites carry disease?

Termites do not transmit diseases to humans. The only disease or result of termites’ presence is for mold and fungus to allow them to further kill the tree or weaken the wood.

What is the average termite lifespan?

The termite’s life cycle and length varies amongst species and cast. The lifespan for an average worker and soldier is 10-14 months. The reproductive adults typically live anywhere from 1 year to 4 years or more. The reproductive females, or queens, live the longest at around 25 or more years.

Where do termites live?

Termites are drawn to their food source and that makes them drawn to any type of wood. So you will find termites in homes, logs, fallen timber, firewood, and other wooden made structures and products. Termites in trees will actually destroy and kill trees. Termites are often drawn to mulch, and the termites in mulch then move into the home.

What color are termites?

Termites are dark brown, black, pale white and pale yellow in color. The workers are the most numerous and all white. The soldiers are yellowish white color. The kings and queens have wings and are the dark brown or black colored termites.

Do termites make noise?

Can you hear termites? If the termite population large enough you may be able to hear the colony at work marching through the walls, boards, trees or fire wood. The best way to hear the termites is to expose the termite tunnels.

How do termites look?

The termites do not look or see. The termites actually feel and smell their way around. The sensory and chemical pheromone receptors organize the colony. Only the mature fully developed kings and queens can see.

What eats termites?

What are termite predators or natural predators? Termites are preyed upon for their great source of protein. There are a host of amphibians and reptiles that feed on the cockroach species. Small reptiles like geckos, lizards, iguanas, and young snakes, as well as amphibians like frogs and toads. There are also a host of insects and arachnids, along with beetles, wasps, and most spiders that take roaches as a meal. The roaches are also attacked by funguses that spread through roaches contact with one another.

  • Top predator is the Ant
  • Ant eaters
  • Wood peckers
  • Skunks
  • Bears
  • Wasps
  • Spiders
  • Scorpions
  • Even carnivorous plants like the Venus fly trap

How do you get termites?

Termite colonies reach massive sizes with every year and at five years old the colony begins producing reproductive adult king and queens. The constant need to feed these constant growing colonies requires food. The harvests of any and all wood types are on the menu of worker termites. You are always at risk for termites unless you create termite walls of protection or line the soil with control products.

When do termites swarm?

Termites swarm on summer nights with thousands of other king and queens from many other colonies to mate and create new colonies. The termite swarm season may vary depending on the region and the weather if it is warm enough to swarm and reproduce.

Some insurance companies have set up policies to cover termite damage. Termites cost North America anywhere from one to two billion dollars annually. The termite insurance mainly covers collapses and other severe instances involving termites, but these policies are all different and only pay for certain amounts of damage or none at all. Homeowners insurance is a must have and will save the investment’s value from depreciating. Most mortgages and home loans require homeowners insurance.

The insurance will not cover any form of infestations of termites. So you must protect yourself as well by making your property less inviting to these gregarious creatures.

What are the top termite pests?

  • Eastern Subterranean Termites
  • Formosan Subterranean Termites
  • Dampwood Termites

Termite Facts for kids

  • Termites work all day long and eat all day long.
  • The workers and soldiers are white and pale
  • Termites are slightly larger than most ants if not the same size.
  • Termites have no distinct body segments.
  • There are two pairs of wings on a termite that are exactly the same length.
  • There are three kinds of termite workers, soldiers, and the leaders: the or king and queen.
  • The queen lays eggs all day long and she produces 100 to 10,000 or more eggs a day depending on what type of termite it is.
  • The worker termites feed and care for every member of the colony.
  • The soldiers darker colored huge mouth parts or pinchers that they used to defend the colony.
  • One colony can have millions of termites in it.
  • Young king and queen termites can fly to meet in large numbers on summer nights.
  • Termites love wood, warmth, water, and shelter.
  • Termites are actually social cockroaches.

Other Interesting Facts about termites

Did you know?

  • Termites are the longest living insect with a lifespan of 50-100 years by the queen termite, but in captivity the longest living queen was 25 years.
  • Termites also have the largest mounds of any animal except for the humans.
  • The termite mounds in Australia come in at an astounding 20 feet high and 30 feet in diameter.
  • The African species found in the Democratic Republic of Congo created a mound coming in at 42 feet high and 10 feet in diameter.
  • The largest termite in the world is the African species known as Macrotermes bellicosus the queen is 14 cm long and 3.5 cm in diameter, and capable of laying over 30,000 eggs a day.
  • The oldest termite fossil found dates back to 220 million years ago.
  • There has been termite like wings found that date back to 100 million years ago.
  • The oldest fossil of termite damaged wood dates back to over 70 million years ago.
  • Soldiers will sacrifice themselves by blocking termite tunnels with their bodies from intruders and exploding their insides all over the intruders.
  • Termites are the only hemimetabolus insect order to exhibit a social behavior similar to ants.
  • In recent research, termites are linked in classification orders with cockroaches, specifically the wood roach, based on the comparison of the insect’s lifestyles.
  • The termite and wood roach share similar habitat areas and regions, feed on wood, both have intestinal symbionts to digest wood, and show parental care for offspring.
  • Termites will chew through lead, asphalt, plaster or mortar to find wood.
  • Termites can be found in every state except for Alaska.
  • Termites on Earth outweigh the mass of the human population on Earth, just like the ants.
  • The protein content of termites is higher than in beef.
  • Termites emit Methane gas which is a harmful greenhouse gas, or global warming gas.
  • Termite methane emission is higher than any animal or insect on the planet.

Eiseman, Charley, Noah Charney, and John Carlson. Tracks & Sign of Insects & Other Invertebrates: Guide to North American Species. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2010. Print.

Evans, Arthur V. National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Insects and Spiders & Related Species of North America. New York: Sterling Pub., 2007. Print.

Resh, Vincent H., and Ring T. Cardé. Encyclopedia of Insects. Amsterdam: Academic, 2003. Print.

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