Interesting Facts about Termite Biology & Behavior
- There are approximately 45 species of termites in the U.S. There are more than 2,300 species worldwide.
- Termites are social insects that live in colonies with caste systems, which means termites are organized into different social classes based on their roles and responsibilities.
- The termite caste system has three levels: reproductives, workers and soldiers.
- Worker and soldier termites are blind. Only termites that have become fully mature, reproductive termites develop eyes.
- Since termites live in dark places and many of them are blind, termites communicate through pheromones (chemical signals) and vibrations caused by head-banging.
- Termites build the largest nests of any insect.
- Termites cannot "eat" wood. Termites require the help of single-cell organisms in their guts to digest cellulose (wood).
- Ants are termites main predator. Ants can attack termite colonies or termite workers looking for food.
- In the U.S., subterranean termites cause more damage than drywood and dampwood termites. Formosan termites, a species of subterranean termite, are responsible for the greatest amount of damage in the U.S.
- In Australia and Africa, very large and architecturally impressive termite mounds have become tourist attractions.
- Termites have lived on Earth for approximately 250 million years.
Termites digest cellulose:
While termites have natural predators such as birds and even larger insects, the use of predators to control a colony is generally unsuccessful. Nematodes, or small worms, have been used in some cases, they cannot control entire colonies.
Termites have the ability to digest cellulose and worker termites must feed and care for workers, the king and queen, and the young. Worker termites communicate via pheromones or scents about food sources, where to go, etc.
Termites are capable of seriously damaging wooden structures. While worker termites consume and damage wood, it is the soldier termites of a few species that pinch, but they cause no injury.
Flying termites, distinguised from ants by straight antennae, straight waists, and four wings of equal size, are winged reproductive termites. Their purpose is to establish a new independent colony away from the original colony.
Termites are social insects meaning that they have a heirarchy and live in a nest as opposed to being solitary. They feed and cooperate with eachother for the success of the colony. The worker termites must feed the young and the soldier termites.
In the US, there about 45 species of termites with just a few species being of structural damage importance. Three groups can cause damage: subterranean, drywood, and dampwood termites. Termites are social insects living in colonies.
Colonies of subterranean termites, the most prevalent, need cellulose as food, moisture, and shelter. Native subterranean termite colonies usually number 60,000 to a million while Formosan termites can number over a million.
Some people call termite colony areas dens as the population is very concentrated and dense. This is primarily true of Formosan subterranean termites. The Formosan nest or den can be very large totally well over a million members.
Most common termites in the US do not build a visible nest or a mound but there are some species that are notable which do. The nose termite builds mounds but this termite is only found in a few areas. Formosan subterranean termites can infest trees and build carton nests.
Drywood termite droppings or pellets are the waste from drywood termites, usually kicked out of the gallery by the termites. These 1mm pellets are six sided and the color of the wood that the termites are consuming usually a wood color.
When a colony is healthy or extremely stressed, alates or winged reproductives are sent from the colony to start new colonies. Alates emerge from the colony and find their way into living spaces through cracks around windows and door frames or any space accessible.
Subterranean termites connect their colonies in the soil underground to their above-ground food sources via mud tubes. These tubes are made from soil and wood combined with termite saliva. These tubes protect the termite from drying out.
Termite tunnels or "tubes" are sheltered pathways created by termites to ensure adequate moisture is maintained and protection is afforded from predators. Tubes are pathways to explore for food or to move from food to the soil.