Your Ultimate Guide to Termites and How to Get Rid of Them

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Termites are eusocial insects from the order of Blattodea along with cockroaches. While they were not classified in the same order as cockroaches until recently, the latest discoveries suggest that the two insects are closely related.

Termites might be small and fragile, but their power lies in the number of specimens in one colony. A well-developed and a few years old termite colony can have several million termites, with a defined social structure.

Considering some termite species are well adjusted to urban areas there, are nearly 200 species that are considered pests because of the damage they cause to man-made structures. Termites  are so persistent that the average damage they make every year exceeds $5 billion.

Are Termites and Ants the Same Species?

While they might look similar, and many people call them “white ants”, termites and ants are not the same species. They are completely different in many ways, with termites being much more destructive than ants. An interesting difference between termites and ants is that a termite colony depends on the monogamous couple of termites that reproduce and create all the members of the colony.

Termite Colonies and Social Life

Termites are well-organized and super-social insects that live in colonies counting a few hundred to a few million specimens.

Each colony has several “casts” of termites as shown in the image below:

Every member of the termite society has a designated role in the colony and a sole purpose to expand to more territories and increase the number of specimens in the colony. Most of the termites you see are workers who do all the foraging, maintenance, and feeding of other members of the colony.

Soldier termites have bigger heads and jaws to guard the colonies, and some species even developed a specialized toxic spray that soldier termites can shoot from their heads. But, because of their large heads and pincers, the soldiers can’t eat and have to be fed by the workers.

The most important members of the colony are the main female and male termites, known as the queen and the king. They mate for life and only increase their fertility over time. The young queen can lay 10 to 20 eggs per day, while the older and mature queen can lay up to 40,000 eggs a day.

What Do Termites Look Like?

Termites are small insects that measure 3⁄16 to 9⁄16 inches in length.

There are some termite species with large queens of the colonies measuring over 4 inches, but that’s the case with older and well-developed colonies. These females swell up over the years to enhance their reproductive powers and can lay up to 40,000 eggs at a time.

Worker and soldier termites are usually sterile and blind, making them focused on the purpose of maintaining the colony. Winged males and females have eyes and well-developed antennae to capture vibrations, taste, pheromones and so much more.

Most of the time the winged explorers will search for the next best feeding ground for the colony, and if you notice a few flying ant-like insects in your home it might be an indicator that termite infestation is about to happen in your home.

Termite Species

There are over 3,000 termite species in the world, and they cover every corner except for Antarctica. These resilient and resourceful insects mainly eat plant debris, wood, and even feces and they love man-made wood structures.

Here are some of the most common termites in the United States that are considered pests:

  • Subterranean termites
  • Dampwood termites
  • Formosan termites
  • Drywood termites
  • Conehead termites

Termites not only reproduce fast, but female queen termites are one of the longest-living insects in the world, with a lifespan of over 30 to 50 years. Termites on the list are considered aggressive and very persistent pests that usually cause substantial damage in the home and do it silently.

Common Treatments for Termites

Termites might invade your home if they find enough food resources and places to hide and build an entire colony. If you notice discarded wings by your windows, unusual piles of sawdust, soft wood that sounds hollow, bubbling paint, or blistering wood structures you probably have a termite infestation.

Termite numbers can be reduced with various insecticides and traps, and many people in problematic areas pre-treat the wood structures in their homes.

However, considering how destructive termites are and the damage they can cause, it’s always a good idea to consult with professionals if you notice any of the mentioned signs of a termite infestation.

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