If you are like most homeowners, just hearing the word ‘termites” makes you shutter. If you found this page by searching “what does a termite look like” then you probably have something in your home that you’re worried about. There are over 40 termite species in the world and it’s very common to have up to 5 of these species in your at the same time, without even knowing it.
With over 20 years of dealing with termites, we’ve become pretty good at identifying them. It’s important for you to know also so that you can understand the best termite control options for getting rid of them and the potential damage that they might have on your wood.
This article will show you what termites look like and help you distinguish between termites and other insects like carpenter ants, fire ants, and others. We’ll start with the termite life cycle and then get into how to identify them.
Termite life cycle
Life cycle stages
Termites develop from eggs in the nest, usually a reproduction of the king and queen. They develop into nymphs and then larvae. It is during this molting process that they assume a role in the colony. Some join the worker caste, others soldiers and the rest become swarmers.
There are only three castes of termites. Note that not species of termites but castes. They are the workers, the pre-soldiers/soldiers, and the alates/termite swarmers caste.
Each caste has a role in the colony and this role usually determines their body structure and a few other features. There haven’t been
Also, termites in a certain caste can develop into another caste if the colony is short of the caste. This simply means that workers can become soldiers, and soldiers can become alates, also known as reproductive termite/swarmers.
Termites have a long lifespan when compared to other bugs. Workers and soldiers can live up to one year or more while queens can stay up to ten years under good climate conditions.
Physical characteristics of termites
Termites can be easily identified by some physical attributes. However, as mentioned earlier, there are over 40 termite species and each one looks slightly different from the other.
Termite identification is easy. Just by looking at them from a bird’s eye view, you’ll know. They have thick waists when compared to other ants and look somewhat fuller.
Termites will usually look different in size. The worker termites will most definitely look smaller than the soldier, termite queen, and secondary termite queen. Generally, termites can range from ⅛ of an inch to one inch.
Termites have straight antennae that can easily set them apart from other ants. Not only are the antennae straight, but they look like a bunch of tiny balls stacked up together on a straight line. Termites are the only bugs that look like this.
The termite body is where most people can’t tell the difference between a termite and ants. They have the same body segments. Just like any other insects and ants, termites have antennae attached to a head, a head attached to the thorax, a thorax attached to the abdomen, and legs underneath.
Some differences can be seen in how some classes of termites look. For example, the queen usually has a bigger abdomen than every other termite. Just as the soldier termites have longer and bigger mandibles (for attacking predators and preys).
Termites that have wings usually have short legs. That’s one way to identify a termite infestation in your home. Unlike other pests, both pairs of a termite’s wings are of equal length. When termites are not in flight mode, the wings encapsulate the entire body.
Just as in size, termites differ in terms of color. Generally, almost all species of termites have a yellowish-brown color. However, the worker termites usually have a brighter color than both the soldier and the winged termites.
Remember that the structure of termite castes is usually dependent on their position in the colony.
Common termite species
As mentioned earlier, there are over 40 species of termites and most of them share your home with you. Although they’re commonly found in some parts of the United States and not others, these pests are destructive and are unfit to be seen in your home.
You should quickly call a pest control and management company to rescue your home and property from termite damage. Before you do that, let’s take a look at some of the most common termite species you can find in your home.
1. Drywood termites
Popularly known as wood termites, drywood termites will damage any kind of wood in your home and that includes the wood in your foundation as well. Not to be mistaken for carpenter ants, drywood termites are of three types, including:
- West Indian drywood termite
- Southeastern drywood termites
- Western drywood termite/desert drywood termite
The wood and wooden structures in your home are in great danger if you have these termites living with you. The destructive effects of these pests may not be visible to the naked eye but will be evident in the long run.
2. Subterranean termites
Subterranean termites can be found everywhere in the United States, except Alaska. They thrive better in hot weather conditions, making them the most popular in the southern part of the U.S. below are the 7 types of subterranean termites you will find in the United States:
- Light southeastern subterranean termite
- Dark southeastern subterranean
- Arid land subterranean
- Desert subterranean
- Western subterranean
- Eastern subterranean
- Formosan subterranean termite
- Super Termites In South Florida
Subterranean termites are usually dark brown and form very large colonies. All they need is soil contact and they can multiply. There hasn’t been any information as to whether these termites are harmful or damage property.
Subterranean termites usually have their termite nest underground in mud tubes, where they have their termite larvae. Tiny burrowed holes and raised lines on the sand are signs that you have termites in your household.
3. Formosan termites
Formosan termites are the most destructive. If you find these in your house, find your local branch of pest control or management company to get rid of them before they wreak more damage to your household.
Their colony is one of the largest when compared to other termite species. A Formosan termite colony can contain over 10 million individual termites. They will bore holes through your walls and wood. Hire a pest control expert to exterminate all termites in your house today.
Note that every specie of termites has workers, soldiers, queens, and kings. Every specie may have the same body and size, relative to whether they’re workers, queen/king, or soldiers.
Do all termites have wings?
The question of whether every termite has wings is very often asked and the simple answer is no. Flying termites are usually the king, queen, alates, or swarmers. They are the only reproductive types of termites in the colony.
As a matter of fact, flying termites are the reason you have those termite colonies in your house.
Differences between ants and termites in your home
The difference between ants and termites is very evident in their physical attributes. You can identify termites by the six physical structures listed above, including the color, body, size, wings, waist, and antennae. Ants, especially carpenter ants look different, and below are some things you might notice.
- Waist: termites have thick waists, ants have a much slimmer waist.
- Wings: both flying ants and winged termites have two pairs. However, identification with the wings is very easy. Flying ants have a pair of wings in front and another pair at the back but the wings at the back are shorter than the ones in front. To identify termites, you’ll see that both pairs of wings are of the same length.
- Antennae: while termites have straight antennae, ants have curved ones.
- Color: termites can have colors ranging from yellowish-brown to dark brown. Note that this will vary by colony. However, termites in that colony, including workers and soldiers, will have the same color scheme.
What other pests/bugs look like termites?
The identification of termites may be difficult if you have other ants in your household. Below are some pests you can easily mistake for termites.
4. Acrobat ants
These ants will wreak the same level of damage on your household as termites will.
Signs that you have termites in your house
There are certain signs that this pest currently lives in your house. Below are the most common:
1. Drywood termite droppings
When drywood termite workers infest your wood, you’ll notice some tiny balls of yellowish-brown droppings when you give the wood a little shake.
2. Hollowed wood or wall
Termites damage wood. The deeper they eat into your wood, the more hollow it becomes. The more hollow the wood becomes, the weaker it gets.
3. Mud tubes
Mud tubes are the first sign you will notice with subterranean termites. You will most likely find these mud tubes connected to the walls of your house and window sills.
4. Evident swarms
This takes away any kind of confusion as to whether you have termites in your household or not. They’re not only destructive, but they’re also irritating to see when moving around in swarms.
Termites are destructive and should not be allowed into your household. Call an experienced pest control and management company to help get rid of them before more damage is done to your property.
You can reach out to us via a call or find your local branch for a free quote. We do the job one time and thoroughly. The results after our services will give you peace of mind, a healthy home, and a termite-free environment.