Termites come in size from 1/8 inch to 1 inch in length. They can be found in black, brown, and white colors. Additionally, age, species, and type of termites may influence their color. Termites in your home are sometimes confused with flying ants due to their antennae and wings like ants. Termites vary in size depending on the species.
Colonies consisting of male and female termites are made of different castes:
They maintain the colony, take care of eggs, and search for food. Worker termites are the majority of termites in the colony. You can find these in infested wood structures. These termites are blind and do not have wings. As they are not a part of the reproductive caste, they are sterile. The older workers build the nest and search for food, while the younger workers take care of the young ones.
Termite soldiers protect the colony. However, their strength depends on their species. Also, they are the smallest among all the castes. Soldier termites are depended upon the worker termites for their food.
Alates or swarming termites reproduce and live the colony to mate and make new colonies. This usually happens during the rainy season. Once they find a new place, they shed their termite wings and make a new nest somewhere depending on their species.
Species of subterranean termites are black to creamy white in color and are 1/8 inch in length. You can find these termites in a colony situated under the ground or in moist places above the ground. These colonies can have millions of termites (~ 2 million). Eastern subterranean termites build mud tubes to have access to food and protect themselves from their surroundings. This species is the most destructive termite in the US.
Drywood termites live in the wood as they get the needed moisture, so they do not need to go to the soil like the eastern subterranean termites. They usually like to stay inside wood like siding, eaves, or roof shingles.
Drywood termites are usually 1/4 to 1/2 inch long and can be light brown, black, dark brown, or cream.
Drywood termites get the moisture they need from the wood they digest, so they don’t need access to the soil like subterranean termites. In structures, they prefer to nest under wooden roof shingles, eaves, or siding. The caste systems with these termites are different than the subterranean termites.
Formosan subterranean termites are the same as subterranean termites in color. However, they can grow half an inch long. You can find them in California, Hawaii, and other southern parts of the U.S. Formosan termites are from China and are very aggressive. They can consume 1 foot of 2X4 wood in ~25 days. Their colonies can have 350,000 workers and build mud nests inside the structure. Important to note that termites can reproduce very quickly.
You can find Dampwood termites in Pacific coastal and nearby states, southern Florida, semi-arid or desert southwest. These termites are usually 1/2 to 5/8 inch long. Dampwood termites can be hard on wood with high moisture. This can include dead logs and trees.
As the name suggests, they are cone-shaped termites. These termites roam above the ground, rather than being underground. This way, conehead termites travel faster than other termites range. Moreover, they are also more efficient to use mud tubes. These termites inside your home mean they can easily make tunnels via wood flooring and walls. This way they will be unnoticed by you for an extended period of time.
What is the difference between termites and ants? Do termites look like ants?
Ants and termites look similar and have similar sizes. That is why it is difficult to identify termites and tell if its actually a termite or ant. You will not see termites crawling here and there unless they are winged termites or have just shed the winds. Termites typically cannot stay for long outside their tunnels, nests, or holes in the wood and walls. This is because they have very gentle bodies and get dried out very easily.
The common species of termites that can forage in the open environment are usually found in remote locations. They feed on leaves, lichen, twigs, or dead grass. Still, they need a humid environment.
You will find ants in your house near the food items such as protein sources and sweet foods. On the other hand, termites have two favorite foods – Wood and cellulose sources. In fact, ants hunt down termites.
Here are some common types of termite and ant differences that will help you identify the culprit at your home
- Waist: Termites: straight Ants: pinched
- Abdomen: Termites: blunt Most ants: sharp (can sting or spray toxins)
- Antennae: Termites: straight Ants: bent
- Wing length of alates: Termites: front and rear wings equal length, longer than body Ants: front wings similar length to the body, longer than rear wings
- Color: Termites (workers and soldiers): beige or tan (alates: brown) Ants: mostly red or black
How to know if I have termite damage in my home?
Talking in general, different types of termites feed on wood. Hence, one of the most common signs of termite damage is the bad condition of your home interior, bobbing floorboards, and wallpapers. Additionally, termites also have the capability to damage wall structures and weaken them; and leave spots or scars behind. If you fail to identify a termite infestation in your home, you may end up having safety risks.
Depending on the termite, the termite infestation can cause them to roam in your home where there are lights. Moreover, they shed their wings around and it will lead to unpleasant mess.
Other signs of termite damage include:
- As termites push their droppings, you can find them on your walls.
- Holes in walls
- Squeaky floorboards
- Peeling of paint
- Hollow-sounding wood.
How to protect your home from termite species?
- To protect your furniture from moisture, avoid exposure.
- Apply aloe vera gel periodically on wooden furniture for protection.
- Invest in wood polish and hire professionals for application.
- Remove unwanted wooden items from your house to prevent infestation.
- Consider occasional chemical treatments by professionals in coastal cities.
Is pest control the solution for ants and termite problems?
Yes, you can go for pest control if you find different species of termites. Termites are sometimes very troublesome as they can damage the area and are very difficult to trace and get rid of. Pest control is the best way to get rid of them, however, you can take precautions by following the above-mentioned tips. Termites can vary in destruction but all species are very difficult to handle. Termite damage looks normal outside, but it is worst from the inside.
In conclusion, I would say that it is not that difficult to identify termites. You just need to look for a few features that make them different from ants. Termite damage can cause you a lot of trouble physically as well as financially. Therefore, it is better to take precautions to avoid termites. In case, you have a termite infestation in your house, it is best to get professional help for pest control.
Frequently asked questions
Q. Can termites harm humans?
Although they can cause huge damage to homes, termites are not known to harm humans. Also, they do not possess any health risks. They do not pose a direct threat to human beings.
Q. What kills termites?
The best chemicals to kill termites are hexaflumuron and fipronil. Talking about it, fipronil is specially designed to use for different liquid termites. If used in high concentration, it can kill termites within a second.
Q. What time of day are termites most active?
Subterranean termites swarm are the most active termites during day time. Moreover, you can find them more in the spring. Formosan termites can be seen at night and during summer. Drywood termites love to come out at night.
Q. What naturally keeps termites away?
The best way to keep termites away naturally is by spraying orange peel or oil around the garden. Other alternatives include spreading boric acid or diatomaceous earth near the entrance. These can help to prevent them from entering your house and destroying things.