Characteristics of a Termite

Understanding the characteristics of a termite can help protect your home. Learning to identify the termite's habits, lifecycle and habitat, can help you detect their presence. Early detection can help save your home and property from major damage.

Know Your Enemy: Characteristics Of A Termite

Although ants and termites are closely related, termites have many distinct traits. Learning the characteristics of a termite will help you quickly tell the difference between these insect cousins. Here's how:

  • One big happy family. Termites live in large colonies. A mature termite colony can have as many as one million individual insects! Although most colonies are much smaller, they are all broken down into castes, where each type of termite has a specific job. Workers build the nest, gather food and create pathways between the nest and local food sources. Soldiers protect the nest from outside threats. Kings and queens produce new termites and fly off to create new colonies.
  • Got wood? Termites are insatiable eaters of dead plant material. In nature, this can be fallen trees and dead plants or grass. Unfortunately, given half a chance, termites will happily eat your home, which usually contains lots of nice, dead wood.
  • Kept in the dark. Unlike ants, termites prefer to spend their lives in the dark, making them hard to detect. If you break open a termite nest, they individual insects will quickly try to get back into a concealed space.
  • The swarm. Subterranean termites, the most common type, tend to swarm in the spring when king and queen termites leave the nest to mate and form new colonies. Spotting winged termites is an excellent sign that there is a mature colony close by-hopefully not in the walls of your home.
  • Mud highway. Subterranean termites create mud tubes to connect the nest with nearby food sources. These tubes appear as tan or brown, semi-circular paths along the surface-typically connecting the ground with wood structures above. Crawl spaces and basements are likely sites for termite mud tubes.
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