What do termites look like?
Termites are a small, soft-bodied insect with short antennae with strong mouthparts used to chew wood, seeds, leaves and other cellulose-containing material. Termites range in color from white to light brown and are typically between 1/4 and 1/2 of an inch long. The main difference between termites and other insects is the antennae and the waist. A termite has a straight, beaded antenna and has no waist.
Scientists have identified approximately 2,800 termites species around the world, including about 45 in the United States. Termites are widely distributed throughout the tropical and sub-tropical regions, close to the equator, while other species live at higher altitudes.
Are termites social animals?
Termites, like bees and ants, are flying, highly social insects. However, unlike bees and ants, termites can be more than just a pest – they can cause significant damage to your home or other structures. Subterranean termites are the single most significant economic pest in the United States.
Termites live in organized colonies developed around a nest system where labor is divided between reproductives (kings, queens and nymphs), soldiers and workers. Within a colony, hundreds, thousands and even millions of termites work and live together. Termites will share with each other food, water, and even droplets of fluid to help keep themselves supplied with tiny organisms for digesting wood. In addition to wood, termites can eat papers, dead tree roots and mulch.
What’s the difference between a termite soldier and a termite worker?
Soldiers are responsible for defending the colony. Their large heads and highly modified, powerful mandibles are used to protect the colony against many predators such as ants, spiders, reptiles and amphibians. The heads and mandibles are so large that termite workers cannot feed themselves and are fed by the worker termites.
Worker termites take on the most labor and are the main caste(or group) of the termite colony. They are responsible for searching and gathering for the termite colony, maintaining the colony’s pheromones, tending to the eggs and nymphs, taking care of the queens and kings. They are also responsible for building or repairing the nest, tunnels, and feeding tunnels. Termite workers are the first to emerge from the eggs and shake while in the queens and kings presence.
The termite queen is responsible for producing eggs for the colony and unlike ants, the king will mate with the queen for the entire time of the queen’s life.
The termite king is the second most important member of the termite colony. While the termite king will spend his entire life underground, the king’s sole purpose is for mating with the queen.