What do termites look like?
- Size: Range in size from 1/8 to 1 inch, depending on the caste
- Color: Workers are a pale white hue; soldiers have a similarly colored body but with a brown head; termite swarmers (reproductives) often are dark brown or black with white/clear wings.
- Body Structure: Workers and soldiers feature an elongated oval body with six legs and antennae. The soldier is characterized by a larger, brown head with prominent mandibles. Swarmers, also known as “primary reproductives,” feature similar bodies as workers only with wings. Unlike ants, they do not have segmented bodies.
Characteristics of termites
Subterranean termites are organized by a caste system with workers, soldiers, primary reproductives/swarmers, secondary reproductives, and finally kings and queens. Termites begin the life cycle by swarming. After winged males and females mate, they shed their wings and begin a new colony, becoming the “king” and “queen.” As king and queen, they are the sole reproducers. After the queen’s eggs hatch, the offspring assume the various roles of the caste. Primary reproductives eventually leave the colony to swarm, mate and form new colonies. Wingless secondary reproductives, however, never leave the colony and are present to support the queen. Workers are sexually underdeveloped and do not mate; instead, they oversee building tunnels as well as feeding other castes. Soldiers handle defense of the colony, using their large mouthparts to fight off predators. Queens may live up to 50 years under ideal conditions and produce tens of thousands of eggs in her lifetime. Workers and soldiers, on the other hand, live about 1-2 years.
When are termites most active?
Where do termites live?
Dependent upon moisture for survival, subterranean termites are social insects residing in underground colonies containing as many as several thousand members. The colonies feature an intricate series of tunnels leading to food sources. Termites reach above-ground food sources by constructing mud tubes. The mud tubes shelter subterranean termites from the elements, allowing them to transport food in a moist environment.
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