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Scientific Name: Termitoidae
Physical Attributes: Workers are very small and white; alates are larger, usually black, with wings
Adult Size: Varies greatly depending on the species, ranging from 6 to 25 mm
Color: Some are creamy to yellow in color, while others range from light brown to black.
Habitat: Usually found underground or in various types of wood.
Lifespan: Soldiers and workers survive for a couple of years at most, but the colony’s queen can live for up to 50 years.
Found In: All continental U.S. states

Termites in Nature

Termites are one of the most destructive types of pest found in North America. There are many types of termites, each which has its own unique eating and swarming habits. The subterranean termite is the most common variety of this pest found in the United States, though dampwood and formosan termites are also responsible for large amounts of damage each year.

These pests feed on materials that are high in cellulose, the most common source of this that termites feast on is wood. In nature these pests will eat away on both dead and living trees. In areas of human growth, termites feed on wood that’s used to build homes.

What most people don’t realize about termites is that they play a valuable role in nature. They keep decaying plant matter from building up, clearing forest floors of leaves and dead or decaying trees and other shrubs. It’s only in homes and businesses that termites are a problem.

Termite life cycle and colony structure

Termites are a eusocial insect, which means they have a clearly delineated colony structure and class system. Each colony is headed by a queen, whose primary job is to lay eggs–as many as 30,000 per day for some species–for the continued expansion of the colony. These eggs will either grow to be workers, alates, or soldiers.

The worker caste is responsible for foraging for food and maintaining the colony’s structural integrity. These are the small, white, grub-like termites that you would see if you broke open an infested piece of timber. The workers, as well as the queen, are protected by the soldiers, who typically have large jaws used for defense, primarily against ants.

The alates, also known as winged reproductive termites, are the larger, flying termites that typically appear in Spring. These alates “swarm,” looking for mates and a new place to start a colony.

Termite Control

Termite control can be a difficult task. There are many different types of termites, and some require different types of treatments. Drywood termites, for example, live in the wood inside your home, and require a much different approach than subterranean termites, which live underground and only travel to your home to feed.

There are a variety of proven methods that an exterminator can use for the control of termites in your home, most of which are unavailable to consumers. In some extreme cases of drywood termite infestation, whole-structure fumigation can be used to effectively kill all the termites (not to mention other pests) within your home.

Types of Termites

More than 4,000 different species of termites around found around the globe. The following are the types that are most commonly found in North America: