What Do Termites Look Like?
February 08, 2021 - Termites
In DC, Maryland & Virginia, the most common termite species is the Eastern Subterranean Termite (reticulitermes flavipes). Subterranean termites have a main colony underground. They typically have a very light (appearing white) coloration. Since they are insects, they have three separate body parts (head, thorax and abdomen). Their nymphs (immature/baby termites) can develop into one of four different castes: workers, soldiers, supplementary reproductives and primary reproductives. Each caste looks a little different from each other. Here are the differences between the different castes of termites:
Primary Reproductives (Swarmers)
Primary reproductives or termite swarmers are the caste most often seen by homeowners. They are winged adults that are usually much darker than the other members of the colony. All four wings are the same length and extend more than the length of the body beyond the tip of the abdomen. Both male and female reproductives leave the colony in great numbers (swarms), usually in spring or fall. These swarms are often the first visible indication that termites are present. After emerging and taking a brief flight, the wings are broken off, and males and females pair and attempt to establish a new colony.
Since both termites and ants are often seen swarming in and around buildings, it is important to distinguish between the two so that appropriate control recommendations can be made. There are three primary ways to distinguish termites from ants:
1) Ants have a thin petiole connecting their thorax and abdomen; termites have a broad waist.
2) Termites have two sets of wings of the same length. Ants have two sets of wings of different lengths; the forewings are larger than the hindwings.
3) Termite antennae are straight; ants have elbowed antennae.
Workers are the most numerous individuals in a termite colony. They are usually light colored and do not have wings or any specialized structures such as wing pads or developing wing pads. These termites do all of the work of the colony -- feeding the other castes, grooming the queen, excavating the nest, and making tunnels. The workers are the caste that will do all the wood damage, caused by termites, that homeowners may see.
The sole purpose of termite soldiers is to protect the colony from its enemies. They have large, hard heads, and have larger jaws than the other castes. When openings are made into termite workings, the soldiers gather with their large heads and strong mandibles facing outward to protect the colony from the invaders.
Supplementary reproductives of both sexes are wingless or have only very short, non-functional wings. They usually develop in addition to the primary queen and become the most important source of eggs in the colony. Supplementary reproductives along with a group of males and workers may become isolated from the main colony and can establish a new colony, spreading the initial infestation without being visible from above ground at any time.
Termite Control In DC, Maryland & Northern Virginia
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