Amazingly, over $2 billion a year is spent on prevention and control treatments for termites. They have been called the most common but most economically critical wood damaging organisms in the U.S.
Generally, termites are pale brown with a darker head, or have a white body (which is the reason they are sometimes called "white ants") with a dark head and antennae. The two segments of a termite, the thorax and the abdomen are not separated by a visible waist. Non-reproductive varieties are wingless and blind with very thin skin that makes them susceptible to drying out. Reproductive forms typically have two equal sized wings, eyes, and unlike their counterparts have thicker skin that allows them to survive for short amounts of time outside a colony.
Remarkably social insects, termites live in large colonies that may contain several hundred thousand individual organisms. Colonies are made up of a caste system with five distinct levels.
There is usually one main queen of the colony that often is the founder of the colony. The queen is typically larger than other termites in the colony because she is swollen with eggs. Some queen termite species can live and reproduce for as many as twenty years. Within the colony, supplementary queens will take over reproduction when the primary queen dies.
The original or founding king of the termite colony spends his time fertilizing the main queen and tending to the young as the establishment of the colony progresses.
Soldier termites do as their name would indicate, they defend the colony. These termites are often the same size as workers with darker heads, but on occasion they are larger. There are some species of termite that have two size classes within this one--major and minor soldiers.
Depending on the species, reproductive termites can be either with or without wings. They have darker and more durable bodies than others in the colony with compound eyes. The more durable bodies in this caste helps them to survive for a period of time outside of the colony, which allows them to fly off and begin their own colony. Reproductive's are bound to either leave the nest in colonizing flight or to take over the colony in the event the queen dies.
Worker termites have white bodies and thin skin that is susceptible to drying if they were to leave the colony. The most numerous group of the colony, workers are involved in gathering food, caring for and feeding the young, and in building and maintaining the nest.
Termites feed on cellulose (which consists of wood, dead plant material, paper, etc.) in its various plant fiber forms. Subterranean and Dry wood termites are primarily responsible for structural damage associated with termites. Wood eating termites get cellulose, sugars and starches from the outer wood of trees. These termite species will also do extensive damage, given the chance, to wooden structures like tree stumps, logs and constructions built by humans.
Nests and Living Structures
Termite nests are formed in one of two places, in higher places like trees or in soil mounds beneath the ground. Nests can be found specifically in several areas:
Cellulose in the form of wood, dead plants and even paper that is in contact with moist soil offers termites with a readily available source for food. There are some fairly basic steps to preventing damage to a home or other building and causing a great deal of monetary damage.
On a yearly basis, homes and other structures should be inspected for places and areas that may be ideal for termite colonies to thrive.
Pest Control - Interesting Facts
Carpenter ants do more damage to a home in a shorter amount of time than termites.