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What is a Termite?

posted this on Oct 4, 2016

When you locate termites in a piece of wood most people would describe them as maggot looking little white maybe even clear insects with legs.  Like all insects they do have 6 legs, and their body is divided into 3 clear segments, maybe not as easily defined as some other insects.  Termites do have a pair of antennae that is located on the head.  You may notice that there are wide variations of termites in the one colony, different sizes and they will perform different jobs.  These are called castes and are workers, soldiers and reproductive.  Typically you will see larger amounts of the worker termite caste, they will be feeding upon the wood.  The Worker Termites are pale, soft-bodied, and prone to drying out, so they must live underground and in wood.


Immature termites typically look like miniature replica’s of the adult termites, unlike social insects like bees and ants.  Termites primary reproductive’s will have wings, commonly referred to as swarmer’s.


Many people confuse termites and ants because they can look somewhat similar in appearance.   This is particularly common when they are swarming and contain wings.  Typically they will swarm at the same time of the year, early spring.  How to tell them apart, termites are soft bodied and their color is light.  Ants are hard bodied and dark in color.  The antennae of the termite are straight and the ants typically have a bend.  The termite has a broadly joined abdomen, ants will have a constricted waist.


Termites will primarily live in total darkness and the workers and soldiers’ are blind, they will communicate solely using tactile and chemical signals.  Termites will communicate through grooming a tactile method and this can be used to eliminate a colony.


Swarming in a termite colony typically occurs in early spring when temperature and environmental surroundings are ideal for survival.  During certain times of the year  termite swarmers emerge and burst out from small openings and holes.  The swarm is rather short and they may remain airborne for only a few minutes.  Termites that swarm inside a building rarely survive but for most homeowners it is not easily forgotten.   Drywood termite swarmers are more successful inside a building then subterranean termites.   Typically 3 to 4 years is required of a colony before they can produce swarmers for new colonies.


Not long after landing they will try to remove their wings , these will accumulate in a pile and are indicative of a termite colony.  She will emit a pheromone to try and attract a male.  The male and female together will form a new colony.  The growth of a new colony will be slow because of the number of eggs laid about 50 individuals the first year.


Termites will consume a wide variety of food, but the main ingredient in all is cellulose.  Cellulose if the most common organic compound on the earth and therefore provides the large population of termites an adequate food source.

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