Properly identifying termites compared to other insects and other termite species is crucial for effective control. Since the nesting behavior and moisture needs of termite species vary, pest control experts must use different methods to target and control each species' behavior.
The first step to identify termites is to recognize a termite as a termite. Many homeowners may fail to make this distinction. To the untrained eye, swarming termites may look like flying ants and worker termites may look like any insect larvae.
Differences in Castes
Even within the same species, termites that belong to different castes can look very different. Worker termites tend to be lighter in color and soft-bodied. Soldiers tend to have worker-like bodies, but with hard heads that are often dark in color and have large jaws. Alates (swarmers) have wings and hard exoskeletons that may be very dark in color.
Different Kinds / Stages of Termites in a Colony:
From left to right: soldier, worker, nymph, larva
Differences in Species
Among different species, soldier and alate castes typically have the most noticeable attributes to distinguish between different types of termites. For example, experts can recognize slight color variations or differences in head shape.
Differences in Behavior
Experts also are trained to identify termites by their behavior. Subterranean termites build mud tubes, which can be seen on a home's foundation. Drywood termites push fecal pellets called frass through kick out holes. These pellets form small mounds near wood damage.
Differences in Wood Damage
The pattern of wood damage can help a pest control expert identify the type of termite causing the damage. Subterranean termites eat along the wood grain, leaving wood with a honeycomb appearance. Drywood termites eat across and with the grain, excavating large rooms connected by tunnels.
The Termite Image Gallery contains the following images for assistance in identifying termites: