Formosan subterranean termites - worker and soldierThere are more than 2,000 species of termites. Only about 70 species invade wooden structures enough to be considered pests. The most damaging are roughly 20 species we call “subterranean” termites because of their living and foraging habits. Two of these, the Eastern Subterranean Termites and the Western Subterranean Termites, are by far the most common, widest distributed, and most damaging in the U.S. The following description of biology refers to these two closely-related species.

Termites feed on cellulose, a complex chemical in plant cell walls, and they are very important in the natural decomposition of fallen trees, leaves and other plant products. Subterranean termites build their colonies in the soil or in trees or poles, and they rely mainly on the soil for moisture.

A subterranean termite colony is large (60,000 to 1.5 million termites), and made up of several “castes”, each with distinct functions and behaviors. These include reproductives (the queen, king, and winged swarmers), soldiers, and workers. Worker termites are small (0.1-0.25 in. long), creamy-white insects. Soldiers are larger (0.2-0.4 in. long), about 1/20th as numerous as workers, and have a large, dark head with long, strong, sharp-pointed jaws they use to attack intruders. Property owners seldom see the worker or soldier termites, but in the spring or fall they may see swarming “winged reproductives.” This form of termite can easily be confused with a winged ant unless you look closely.

To learn more about how we can develop a termite management plan best suited to your situation, contact BPC Pest Control today.