Termite Identification: What Do Termites Look Like?
- 1 Identification
- 2 What do termites look like?
- 3 Why is identification so difficult?
- 4 Identifying termite species
- 5 Termites with wings
- 6 Control and prevention of termites after identification
- 7 Identifying termites from their damage
- 8 Facts, Identification & Control
- 9 TYPES OF Termites
- 10 HOW DO I GET RID OF TERMITES?
- 11 Asian Subterranean Termites
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.
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.
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.
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.
Facts, Identification & Control
Termites all belong to the phylum Arthropoda, the class Insecta, and the order Isoptera. There are over 2,000 different species of termites with over 40 species in the United States alone. Although they have distinct characteristics, most look similar. They typically measure between 1/4 and 1/2 of an inch long and have soft bodies with straight antennae. The queens and kings are larger, capable of reaching over one inch long. Colors range from white to light brown where worker termites often appear lighter, while swarming termites darker. Flying termites, also called reproductives, have two pairs of prominent wings.
TYPES OF Termites
- Dampwood Termite
- Drywood Termite
- Formosan Termite
- Subterranean Termite
HOW DO I GET RID OF TERMITES?
What Orkin Does
Based on the layout of your home and the degree of termite infestation, Orkin will create a customized treatment plan tailored for your home. This can include a variety of treatments such as Termidor Liquid, Dry Foam and OrkinFoam, and Sentricon Bait and Monitoring dependent on the areas of usage, situations, and species of termite. Learn more about our termite treatments here.
How Serious Are Termites?
A termite infestation and damage can be devastating to your home or property. Termites are often called the “silent destroyer” because they may be secretly hiding and thriving in your home or yard without any immediate signs of damage. All termites consume cellulose-based plant materials. Unfortunately, all homes, regardless of their construction type, can provide cellulose food for termite infestation.
Termite Warning Signs
Some indications you may have a termite infestation:
- A temporary swarm of winged insects in your home or from the soil around your home.
- Any cracked or bubbling paint or frass (termite droppings).
- Wood that sounds hollow when tapped.
- Mud tubes on exterior walls, wooden beams or in crawl spaces.
Termites invade homes by crossing from their colonies in yards to foundations. Cracks or gaps around pipes and wires give the pests access inside. Homeowners can also get termites from:
- Wooden structures, like porches and decks, in direct contact with the ground
- Stacks of firewood that lean against the house
- Damp soil near foundations from leaking faucets, gutters, or downspouts
- Trees and shrubs planted close to the building.
Above ground locations in the house that remain damp enough to support termites without them needing to return to the moist conditions found in the soil.
HOW DO I PREVENT A TERMITE INFESTATION?
Since termites are a constant threat to your home, here are some things you can do during the year to help maintain the effectiveness of Orkin’s termite treatment plan. Small steps make a big difference in termite prevention and sustaining an effective termite treatment plan. Start by eliminating moisture conditions and termite food around your home. These simple steps make your home a less attractive target, helping deter termites.
Eliminate Moisture Problems
- Repair leaking faucets, water pipes, and A/C units
- Divert water from foundation
- Keep gutters and downspouts clean
- Remove excessive plant cover and wood mulch
- Get rid of standing water on roof
- Keep all vents clear and open
- Seal entry points around water and utility lines or pipes
Remove Termite Food Sources
- Keep firewood, lumber or paper away from foundation or crawl space
- Get rid of stumps and debris near house
- Place screens on outside vents
- Check decks and wooden fences for damage
- Wood on your home shouldn’t contact the soil
BEHAVIOR, DIET & HABITS
Where do they live?
Commonly, termites live in wooden structures, decayed trees, fallen timber, and soil. Habitats vary among species as some termites require different amounts of moisture. The pests are found in greater numbers in tropical regions where living conditions for termites is optimal.
Subterranean termites are the most abundant variety and can be found throughout the United States. Both dampwood and drywood species are generally more localized in the Southern states.
Subterranean termite homes are usually formed in soil. Within these mounds, termites build elaborate tunnel systems and mud tunnels through which they access above-ground food sources.
Drywood termites live within the wood they consume and oftentimes infest walls and furniture.
When a colony has matured, winged, swarming termites can be seen around windows and doors. Winged termites are highly attracted to sources of light and are most active in springtime. After mating, these termites locate a new breeding site and create another colony, spreading infestations throughout multiple locations in the case of drywood termites.
What Do They Eat?
Termites are detritivores, or detritus feeders. They feed on dead plants and trees. Termites get nutrients from cellulose, an organic fiber found in wood and plant matter. Wood makes up the majority of the pests’ diet, although termites also eat other materials such as paper, plastic, and drywall. Most species prefer dead wood, but some termites feed on living trees.
Each type of termite has its own dietary preferences.
- Subterranean termites prefer softwoods, but may invade most species of wood.
- Dampwood termites generally stay close to the ground, but will choose moist, decaying wood anywhere it is found.
- Drywood termites are often found in attics and require little moisture in the wood they eat.
A termite’s mouth is capable of tearing pieces of woody material. This ability is what causes concern in human dwellings: while termite workers only measure approximately 1 cm to a few millimeters in length, their feeding habits are capable of causing costly damage to property. House foundations, furniture, shelves and even books are all possible feeding sites for termites.
LIFE CYCLE & REPRODUCTION
Workers and soldiers live approximately one to two years. Queen termites may survive for over a decae under optimal climate conditions.
Workers are responsible for gathering and feeding the colony members, maintaining the nest, and caring for young. Soldiers protect the termite colony using their large mandibles to fend off predators. Reproductives are the only sexually mature members of the colony, aside from queens and kings. Read more about termite colonies.
The life cycle of the termite begins with a mating flight, wherein swarming winged reproductive males and females leave established colonies and procreate. After fertilization, winged termites land and shed their wings, going on to form new colonies. These insects then become the king or queen termites of their newly established colonies. The queen and king termites are at the center of the termite life cycle and are responsible for reproduction.
After the fertilized queen lays her eggs, they hatch into pale white larvae.
Eggs hatch into larvae and molt (shed their exoskeletons) to develop into workers, soldiers, primary reproductives and secondary reproductives. A nymph is a young termite that is going through molts to become a reproductive.
The termite growth process begins with a process called molting. First, a termite develops a soft exoskeleton under its current, hard exoskeleton. Then, once the termite has reached maturity, its outermost skeleton splits open, and the new exoskeleton enlarges and hardens. This molting process continues throughout a termite’s life cycle based on the colony’s needs.
Over the course of several molts, these larvae grow to assume a role in one of the three termite colony castes: workers, soldiers and reproductive termites, also known as alates.
Are Formosan subterranean termites dangerous or destructive?
Formosan termites are the most destructive species of termites in Florida. Formosan subterranean termite nests are much larger than that of a native subterranean termite. While native subterranean termite nests have members in the hundreds of thousands, Formosan subterranean termite nests can have nests in the millions. Their sheer numbers make them a danger as an invasive pest. They are the most destructive termite in the world. These destroyers are known to eat through such things as:
Asian Subterranean Termites
What do Asian subterranean termites look like?
Asian subterranean termites do resemble their cousins, the Formosan Subterranean termites in some ways, but not in others. They have huge underground colonies, and their sheer numbers and size far surpass their Formosan cousins. They also build large mud carton nests in the walls of structures. The Asian Sub Termite has 3 distinctive castes in their colonies.
The reproductives lay the eggs. Each colony only has one pair of primary reproductives and these darker and larger termites can live for up to 20 years and lay 1,000 eggs each day, which is how their colonies get so large, so fast. They are the only ones who have eyes, the rest of the termites are blind.
The soldiers defend their nest from invaders. This blind caste of Asian sub termites has a larger sized jaw and head to help block the tunnels of the colonies from intruders. They produce a rattling sound which is something that they do to warn off nest-mates by banging their heads against the walls of the tunnels. If the colony is large enough and the environment quiet enough, this sound can be heard in infested buildings.
The workers work for their colony. They dig tunnels, care for the young and gather food. These small milky white termites have saw-tooth mandibles that allow them to take small bites of wood and carry it back to the nest. These are the ‘destroyers’ themselves.
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