Like all social insects, termites are divided into three groups: workers, soldiers, and mature species, which are able to give birth to other termites.
Workers have soft white body less than 10 mm length. They don’t have eyes and they are not flying termites. But these are workers who find food, look after young termites, and take care of soldiers, the queen and the king.
Soldiers are a very important cast. They have a larger body and big claws. Their main task is to defend the colony from external enemies, which are usually ants. In peacetime, soldiers take an active part in mound construction.
Mature termites form one more cast. They have fully developed species that can start a new generation. Thus, only they have a dark body, developed eyes and two pairs of long triangular wings. They are also called alates. They can use their wings only once – in spring or in summer – they leave the colony for a nuptial flight. Then alates lose the wings and start a new colony, becoming a new king and a queen.
The main mission of the queen is to lay eggs. During her life, the queen can lay up to millions of eggs. Or, in other words, every two seconds a worker takes away a nymph to the safest place in the mound. In contrast to ants, the king lives together with the queen while a male ant dies after mating with a queen.
What do termites look like?
Termites resemble ants and they have even another name – “white ants” because termite workers are very often white or have a light color. But termites very much differ from ants.
First of all, termites have only a head and a body while ants have a head and two-segment body.
Then, flying termites have two sets of equally long triangular wings, while ants have short and long wings.
Ordinary workers have an only one-centimeter long body while a queen can be more than 10 cm in length.
As you may guess, termite mounds are very complex constructions. Scientists divide them into concentric and –non-concentric. The mounds, usually built from excrements, milled timber, and saliva, may reach a height up to 2 meters. Non-concentric mounds have an irregular form and are placed in the trees, stumps, under stones in the ground. Termites have very gentle and soft bodies, sensible to the sunlight. That’s why they prefer to hide in the soil, wood. If they need to reach food, they build special mud tubes, defending them from all enemies.
Flying ants vs termites
Types of termites
Scientists usually point out three main types of the flying termite according to the place they make their settlements:
- Subterranean termites
- Dry wood termites
- Damp wood termites
The first type called Subterranean likes to live underground. They can be found almost in every US state, not counting Alaska. This type of termites builds special tunnels from their saliva and soil if they have to move in the open air to protect themselves. A working termite runs through this tunnel from the mound to the food, bites off and eats it. Then it returns to the rest of the colony and feeds them with the nutrients it disgorges. Subterranean termites like rotted and wet wood, which is closely contacted with the ground.
The second type is dry wood termites. They a little differ from subterranean type. The main difference is that dry wood flying termites do not like to settle in the soil, for they prefer different kinds of clear timber. The colony of dry wood termites is smaller than Subterranean and counts about some thousands of species. There are no workers here. Their functions are taken over by immature termites. Dry wood termites also leave characteristical pellets – little dry balls of their excrements.
The third type is damp wood termites. They like wet wood, but in contrast to subterranean termites, damp wood species settle in felled timber, stumps and rotted wood. They like the Coastal Pacific States. The distinctive feature of damp wood termites is that there are no strict rules of behavior among its species. So a nymph may grow and become a worker, performing its specific tasks. Then, the same worker turns into a soldier. What is more, growing further, a soldier appears an alart, the productive flying termite.
What do the termites feed on?
Termites usually feed on plant food and wood. There are special bacteria that live in their intestinal and digest all food. Termites don’t born with these bacteria – when they are only nymphs, they eat food which was brought by other termites, rich in these protists.
Though many termites damage wood, they altogether make a positive contribution to nature, living in the wild, but not near people. Termites aerate the soil, making tunnels. They saturate the ground with organic substances.
Termites like also rotted wood, paper, and even soft plastic. That is why; if termites fly was noticed not far from your house, take some preventive measures:
- Eliminate all tree stumps in your backyard
- Remove all dry leaves nearby your house
- Get rid of all plants that grow near the exterior walls
- Seal holes and cracks in your house foundation
- Don’t leave standing water near your foundation
Are termites dangerous for people?
Termites aren’t dangerous for people. They don’t do any harm for us, except for tremendous colossal damage to the infrastructure. They chew through house wood construction, feed on books and picture frames. Factually they can ruin the entire house. The damage cost may increase up to $8,000. As a rule, homeowners detect the termites when it is too late. The eradication of termites is also very difficult. There are special companies which provide a full complex of services against termites fly.