What do Termites Look Like?

Termites have three different castes, each of which performs different roles within the colony. These castes include reproductives (including kings, queens, and primary and secondary reproductives), soldiers and workers. Each caste has unique physical features to help it fulfill its role in the colony.

In general, workers and nymphs are soft-bodied and look like larvae. Soldier termites have soft bodies with hard, enlarged heads and large jaws (mandibles) that help them protect the colony. Fully mature, reproductive termites have wings and hard bodies that prepare them for leaving the nest to start new colonies.

While there are broad descriptions of what each termite caste looks like, not all members of a caste look exactly alike. There are variations in size and color between termite species. For example, western subterranean termite soldiers have yellowish heads, while western drywood termite soldiers have reddish brown heads.

Termites can range in size from 1/4 inch to 1 inch long, depending on the species, caste and maturity level. Workers are the smallest of the castes. Dampwood and drywood termites tend to be larger than subterranean termites.

What Does a Winged Termite Look Like?
Flying termites have two sets of wings of equal length, and these wings are almost twice the size of the termite's body. Termite swarmers appear to have two body segments with a straight abdomen, and straight antennae.

Termite Look Alikes
Some homeowners may confuse flying ants and flying termites. Pest control experts are trained to distinguish between these two insects based on differences in their appearance. Flying ants have two sets of wings. However, their wings are not of equal length like termites – flying ants- front wings are about the same length as their body and longer than the back wings. Flying ants have three body segments that narrow at the waist and bent antennae.

Identifying Termites
While you should regularly monitor for pest activity, you should contact a trained professional for termite identification, prevention and treatment. Pest control experts can distinguish between termites and other insects, and identify termites by species to make sure prevention and treatment techniques target that specific species- unique behavior.