What Are the Differences Between Earwigs and Termites

What Are the Differences Between Earwigs and Termites?

Biologists have created a system of scientific taxonomy to classify all living beings. This is explained in detail under “What Are the Differences Between Earwigs and Cockroaches?” As a result of taxonomy, it is clear that earwigs are in a different order than termites. Earwigs are in the order Dermaptera, and termites are in the order Isoptera. Dermaptera means “skin wings” due to the leathery durable forewings. Isoptera means “equal wings,” a hint that termites, for the castes which are winged, have wings of the same size. Even though not all termites are winged, reproductive termites, or alates, are winged. While there are non subterranean termites, for this discussion we’ll focus on subterranean termites, the most common type of termite in the U.S.

While earwigs and termites each have six legs and three body segments, as do all insects, there are many differences. First, termites are social insects, meaning that they have a hierarchy including king, queen, workers and soldiers. Earwigs do not exist in a social structure, and, while there may be many earwigs in an area, say, under mulch, they are not in a “colony” or truly social. Also, earwigs are simply male or female and have no castes such as worker or soldier. Also, termites need moisture as do earwigs, but most earwigs survive well in the open. Termites, especially subterranean termites, are cryptic and cannot come into open sunlight or air for long, since their bodies are soft and desiccate rapidly. Worker termites are usually white since the chitin in their shells has not hardened; earwigs are darker with hardened chitin.

Food choices for earwigs include live or decaying vegetation and, in some cases, depending on the species, other insects. Termites do not eat other insects and eat only cellulose products such as wood.


How Termites Work

Termites are insects. They’re most common in tropical environments, although they can live just about anywhere as long as the ground doesn’t completely freeze in the winter. Although many people think termites resemble ants, they’re more closely related to cockroaches.

All termite species are social, and termite colonies are divided into groups, or castes. Members of each caste have different jobs and different physical features:

  • Reproductives lay eggs. Most colonies have one pair of primary reproductives — the king and queen. In some species, secondary and tertiary reproductives assist with the egg-laying. Only the king and queen have eyes. The rest of the termites are blind and navigate using scent and moisture trails. Kings and queens are usually darker than the rest of the termites in the colony.
  • Soldiers defend the nest from invaders, typically ants and termites from other colonies. In most species, soldiers have large heads and strong, pincer-like mandibles. Soldiers’ heads are often darker than their bodies. Some species can secrete a toxic or sticky substance from their heads, which they use to kill or subdue intruders.
  • Workers are a milky or creamy color. They have smaller, saw-toothed mandibles, which allow them to take small bites of wood and carry building materials. As their name suggests, they do most of the work in the colony. They dig tunnels, gather food and care for young. They also feed the king, queen and soldiers, who are unable to feed themselves. Workers and soldiers are sterile.

Termites’ food comes from cellulose. Cellulose is a polymer, or a compound made of lots of identical molecules. It’s a tough, resilient compound found in plants. Cellulose is what gives trees and shrubs their structure. The molecules that make up cellulose are glucose molecules — as many as 3,000 of them. In other words, cellulose is made of sugar.

However, unlike the sugars glucose, sucrose and lactose, people can’t digest cellulose. The human digestive system uses special proteins called enzymes to break sugary polymers down into their simple glucose components. We then use glucose as a source of energy. For example, the enzyme sucrase breaks down sucrose, and lactase breaks down lactose. Our bodies do not produce cellulase, the enzyme that breaks down cellulose.

Termites don’t produce cellulase, either. Instead, they rely on microorganisms that live in a part of their digestive system called the hindgut. These organisms include bacteria and protozoans. They live in a symbiotic relationship with the termites — neither the termites nor the microorganisms could live without the other.

The types of organisms found in the hindgut divide termites into two rough categories. Higher termites have bacteria in their gut but no protozoans, while lower termites have bacteria and protozoans. You can also categorize termites by where they live. Subterranean termites build large nests underground. Many primitive termites form colonies in the wood they are consuming.

A termite colony is essentially a multigenerational family. We’ll look at termites’ reproductive cycle and how it allows them to form large colonies next.

In most species, the king and queen are monogamous. Although the queen can store sperm in her body, she continues to mate with him periodically. Unlike in social bee species, workers and soldiers can be male or female.


Do Termites Bite Humans?

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Termites are quite common pests and if you have seen a winged termite in your basement or near your windowsill, then you know you already have a problem. They gather in large groups and feast off of the wood contained in your home. Like many insect infestations, even if you see one of these tiny insects, you are likely to be dealing with an infestation.

Seeing these winged and worker termites may first leave you wondering whether or not they are actual termites. They are similar in size and shape to ants, but their colors differ. While they may not be as easily identified, they can cause thousands of dollars in property damage.

As these insects scurry around each with their jobs of tunneling, procreating or defending the colony, you may wonder if more than your home is in danger. After seeing a group of termites, you may be inclined to ask, “Will termites bite me?”

Do Termites Bite Humans?

Termites may bite humans, but their primary target is wood and plant life. This does not mean that you will not be bitten by a hungry termite. But it is less likely to happen if the termite colony has other sources for food.

Formosan termites have pincers that are darker than the rest of their bodies. These insects are the colony’s main defense against predators. They may pinch if picked up, but the pinches are not believed to result in illness or disease in humans.

Termite bites are rare, but have been known to occur when the food supply is scarce. They are not aggressive insects, but they keep their focus centered on the needs of the colony. This means that it is not typical for a termite to bite you, but they may do so if threatened.

If one crawls on you, this could leave you feeling grossed out. But termites do not pose a dangerous threat to humans. In fact, they would much rather tunnel into your property unnoticed and eat through your wooden structures while keeping under the radar.

In cases of severe infestation, it’s best to be safe and keep yourself, pets and children away from these insects. While a bite may not harm you, infestations may cause allergic reactions or asthma attacks.

Avoid Being Bitten by Termites

It is quite easy to avoid being bitten by a termite. If you suspect an infestation, it is best to contact a reputable pest control company to remedy the problem.

Need to hire an exterminator? Get a free estimate online from top local home service pros in your area.

Termites are slow creatures. Thus, avoidance can consist of removing yourself, family members, and pets from the home until the infestation is cleared. It is not common to be bitten by termites, but it is not out of the realm of possibility.

How Bad Are Termite Bites?

In the event that you have been bitten by a termite, you will notice a tiny red dot which is its point of contact with your body.

Being bitten by a termite isn’t much different than being bitten by a mosquito. If you feel anything at all after being bitten, you will not suffer any health problems as a result.

Irritation in the area should subside within a few days, but you do not risk infection or disease because of the bite. If you’ve been bitten by a soldier termite, you may experience the burning of the insect’s mandible which is what they use to break down the cellulose.

These types of bites are not harmful to humans but can sting at the area of contact.

How to Treat a Termite Bite

Before treating a termite bite, make sure that it was a termite that bit you. Many people have mistaken termites for ants, so check for the insect’s color to be a creamy white color. This will let you know if the insect is a termite so that you can take the necessary precautions.

It is common for the pain and irritation of a termite bite to clear up on its own over the course of a day or two. If burning, pain, or irritation persists, you may get some relief from hydrocortisone cream applied to the affected area.

Need to hire an exterminator? Get a free estimate online from top local home service pros in your area.

If the pain or burning persists for a longer period of time, it is best to seek medical attention. In some cases, you may not be suffering from a termite bite, so it’s in your best interests to know for sure.

Soldier termite bites are the worst because their mandibles are strong and may draw blood. Soldiers are tasked with the defense of the colony. So a bite is likely if they feel you pose a threat. Their bites are the most likely to cause pain to humans, but this happens on rare occasions.


What Are the Differences Between Termites and Earwigs?

October 01, 2018 2 min read

When insects invade your home, it’s important to identify the pests correctly if you want to treat an infestation right the first time. If you misidentify the pests and use the wrong treatments, getting rid of termites and earwigs will mean spending more money down the road and dealing with a larger infestation in the meantime. In the case of identifying earwigs and termites, one is not like the other.

The Difference Between Earwigs and Termites

This is an earwig. It’s long, has pincers and invades interior spaces.

Earwigs and termites have nothing in common. They don’t look the same or eat the same foods; they also prefer different living conditions. Termites look like ants with big heads, wide abdomens and straight antennae. They live in massive colonies and consume wood as they attack buildings, furniture and more.

Earwigs may or may not live in groups depending on the species. They prefer dark, moist areas and feed mainly on decaying vegetation. They have long, slender bodies with pincers located at the rear of the abdomen. Most species use the pincers for defense, but predatory species use them for catching prey.

Which Insect Causes More Damage?

Termites in a colony. They devour 6 pounds or more of wood each year.

Termites cause more damage than any other insect combined. They attack wooden timbers and feed on the structures, increasing their colony’s size over time. These insects cause more than a billion dollars in damages each year. It’s important to treat the termites with potent termiticides at the first sign of their presence. Earwigs feed on plant matter and may attack live plants in some cases. When they infest interiors, they’re seen primarily as a nuisance.

How to Get Rid of Termites and Earwigs

Insecticides have various formulations for targeting, killing and controlling various pests. Some formulas wipe out termites, earwigs and other insects, providing broad-spectrum control. However, you may have to use a stronger termiticide depending on the termite species and the infestation level. Spray or granular insecticides, including insect glue traps, will get rid of the earwigs in your home and help to prevent future infestations.


Drywood Termite >

Termites are insects that eat wood, which can lead to the destruction of furniture, homes, and other wooden structures. Termites come in two varieties, drywood and subterranean, and both are often confused with ants.

It is important to determine what type of termites you have as the termite treatment process for drywood and subterranean termites are very different. Use this guide to determine what type of termites you have.

If you suspect you might have ants instead of termites, take a look at our Ant Control Guide for more information.

Termites vs. Ants

Once you have determined that you are indeed dealing with termites instead of ants, you will need to figure out what type of termites you have. It can be difficult to identify the type of termite you have by looking at the insect itself. Instead, it is much easier to identify the kind of termites you have by the damage they cause.

Drywood vs. Subterranean Termites

Drywood Termites:

  • Drywood termites do not require soil contact
  • Drywood termites have protruding mouth pinchers
  • Drywood termites nest inside of the wood they are infesting
  • Drywood termites do not make mudtubes
  • Drywood termites can fly into structures to infest the wood
  • Drywood termites make small “kickout” holes in wood to push feces and debris out of the nest
  • Drywood termites leave small piles of debris outside of the infested wood
  • Drywood termites usually eat across and along the grain of the wood
  • Drywood termites are usually found in coastal regions but they can be transported to other regions in infested wood (usually when a piece of furniture is moved)
  • Subterranean termites have the main portion of their nest underground
  • Subterranean termites make mud tubes to access structures
  • Subterranean termites usually have large colonies
  • Subterranean termites do not kick out feces and debris
  • Subterranean termites typically eat along the grain of the wood
  • Subterranean termites are known to make “carton” nests in wall voids and in trees. A carton is a nest made from the termite fecal matter to maintain the correct moisture level when the termites are unable to return to the actual subterranean nest.

If you have subterranean termites, read our Subterranean Termite Control Guide. If you have drywood termites, continue reading this guide.

Drywood termites range in size depending on their age, from 1/4 inch to 3/8 inch long.

Drywood termites have a thick waist, short legs, and straight antennae. Drywood termite swarmers, also known as alates, have wings that are the same length. Termite soldiers have mouthparts (mandibles) with teeth.

Drywood termites vary in color depending on their maturity and role within the colony. Worker termites are cream colored and can look white against wood. Soldier termites range from cream to brown. Alates, also known as reproductive or swarmer drywood termites, can be brown or black in color.

Drywood termites are often found in southern coastal areas across the United States.

Now that you have identified termites, it’s time to learn where drywood termites can be found in your home before learning how to get rid of drywood termites. Click the red arrow on the bottom right of this page to read the next part of our drywood termite guide.

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The Four Types of Destructive Termites

Terminates can be a real danger to any property. They have been a horrifying villain to most homeowners and it is a rather long battle for humans to get rid of this destructive pest. There are different types of termites across the earth and all of them are described as “silent destroyers” because of their ability to chew through wood while remaining unnoticeable.

Termites are eusocial insects. Just like ants, termites also divide duties among castes consisting of infertile male and female as workers and soldiers of the colony. Each colony has their kings — these are the fertile male termites mating one or more fertile females, aptly called queens. Scientists believe that the total weights of all termites combined are more than the weight of all humans in the world. This simple fact proves that termites are definitely one of the most successful species on Earth. They are able to colonize almost all part of landmasses of the planet except for Antarctica.

There are about 2,000 termite species found and identifies in the world. Below are some of the most well-known and most destructive termite species.

Dampwood Termites


This species is commonly found on the Pacific Coast. Dampwood termites are larger than the other termite species; they have brownish, narrow, and elongated oval shaped bodies. They can grow up 25mm long including their wings. A soldier dampwood can grow up to 20mm with a large head, antenna and a pincer up front. The immature cream color termites or “false worker” can also be as much as 20mm and do most of the labor in the colony.

Habits and Reproduction

Dampwood termites like to eat wood with a high level of moisture – that is why their name is ‘dampwood’. Mating of damp termites usually takes 2 weeks. The queen can produce about 12 eggs each time. This species is usually found to infest dead trees, decaying timber or house stumps. Woods with a constant moisture source or high moisture content are more susceptible to dampwood termites. They attack the wood directly and do not dig holes in the soil.

Subterranean Termites

Appearance and Habitat

Subterranean Termites are social insects as well. Their colonies are divided into three types of termites: soldiers, workers, and reproductive, also called alates. The alates can grow up to 10mm or 12mm long. However, the queen can be more than 14.5mm in length. When she produces her eggs, her midsection grows larger. A white membrane separates her midsection and gives her a stripped appearance. The king and queen termites are dark-colored with grayish translucent wings and are the only group with functional eyes. The soldier termites are the defender of the colony. They have hard, yellowish to brown heads with long and large mandibles that they use to puncture or kill enemies. The worker termites are responsible for all the labor in the colony, their mouth parts are hard and equipped to chew food. The young worker’s tasks are more of domestic duties while the adult workers take the difficult task such as foraging food and nest building. Both classes are about 6mm long, milky-white in color, soft-bodied, blind and wingless.

Subterranean termites require a high level of moisture to survive; This is why they usually build their colony and reside underground since the soil is capable of holding water. The tunnels made from mud and fecal materials are used when workers forage for food. If the tube is damaged, they immediately repair it. If not, the termites located above the ground will die of dehydration.

Feeding and Reproduction

This type of species is the most destructive kind of termite, they eat wood or any cellulose containing products. Subterranean termites have thousands of members in their colonies. Each colony can consume about five grams of wood in a day. Worker termites also used pheromones to send signals to other termites in the colony when the food source is located. Although subterranean termites can chew a lot, they cannot digest the cellulose without the help of the microorganism in their gut. If there were no microorganism, termite could eat continually but will still die of starvation.

Termite swarmers pair up during their flight. Their wings break off when they start to land and search a place to begin their colony. The queen lays her first batch of eggs within a few days of mating, which will hatch in about two weeks. However, the female egg laying capacity develops in the long run and she increases the number of eggs produced every season. The parental termites have the longest life span and often live more than a decade.

Drywood Termites

Appearance and Habitat

Drywood termites often colonize inside dry woods above the ground level. Unlike subterranean and dampwood termite, Drywood termites do not require soil or moisture in order to survive. Drywoods are commonly in about 3/8 inch in size, with narrow and elongated oval shape body in light brown color. These type of termite lives in a small number of members in a colony. Drywood termites form up to 2,500 members. Same with dampwood termite, they have false workers and reproductives into a caste.

Feeding and Reproduction

These types of termites often found in attic wood and uncommon in the structural buildings. They spend most of their entire life inside one colony. Drywood termites eat woods, plastics, and fabric made from organic materials. They extract water from their feces leaving a distinct pellet-like fecal. Once the colony is fully developed for about 5 years, the queen will let go of the matured alate to create a new colony. During the swarming period, the nymph termites will create holes in about 1/6 inch in diameter so the swarmers can pass through the woods.

Formosan Termites

Appearance and Habitat

Formosan termites are native to Formosa (where it gets its name), an island from Southern China. They’re about ½ inch with long and narrow oval-shaped bodies. They are translucent and orange-colored and have a short head with two short pinchers. Their colony can be up to 300 feet long in soil with millions of members. Formosan termites have the ability to create channels to bring moisture to their nest. This allows them to colonize without returning to the soil.

Feeding and Reproduction

These types of termites were hailed super termites’ due to its destructive habits. Formosan termites are the largest and the most destructive kind of termite. They can have several millions of members in a single colony. A developed Formosan colony can consume about 400g of wood a day. They eat wood fibers, fabrics made from plants, crops, and dead trees. However, they are also known to chew through copper sheets asphalt and some plastics.

The Formosan colony may produce 70,000 alates or winged termite. The queen of the colony can produce up to 2,000 eggs per day and hatch within two to four weeks. The workers and soldiers may live 3-5 years while the royal termites have a lifespan up to 10 years.

The damage that all of these termites can cause is enormous, so if you discover any trace whatsoever of termites in your property, please contact a termite exterminator.

For more information about termites, please visit this website.

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