Termites are the threat for wooden buildings and cause a real danger for people’s life. Strong trees infested by these insects can crumble from a little push. The same things can happen with wooden buildings and constructions.
But along with this termites are genius builders and architects of the wild nature. Nests of several termites are three meters in height. They are so strong that only heavy tools or explosion is able to destroy them.
Many people suffer from infestation of termites. They are also called “silent destroyer” as they hide and thrive in walls (especially in drywall) and wooden constructions of houses. It takes them about 3-5 years to destroy the whole house, that is why it is important to discover and get rid of them.
What is a termite?
Termite scientific name is Isoptera. Termites are an infraorder of herbivorous insects. They are often called “white ants”, but ants are not their relatives. They are closer to cockroaches, but termites live in societies so they are referred to social insects as ants, wasps and bees.
Their highly developed social organization based on different functions of the three main castes, soldiers and workers.
TermitewWorkers are white small insects, their body is about 10 millimetres in length. Most workers and soldiers’ eyes are reduced or totally blind, while the reproductive caste has a dark body and mature eyes.
As a class termites came from the cockroach order Blattodea in the Triassic period. Termites’ bodies are various colors, from white-yellow to black.
Life cycle and caste system
Termites begin their life cycle from an ovicell. Then the nymph comes up. It goes through several molts and becomes an adult termite. In some types the nymphs go through 4 molts. After the first molt there is a transformation in the work of termites, and then some insects continue to molt and transform into soldiers.
Their amount from the total number of insects in a termite mound is usually 5-15%, it depends on the types and external conditions. Some nymphs become reproductive individuals when it is required.
The growth of nymphs to adulthood takes several months. It depends on nutrition, temperature and the population of the colony. Some reproductive individuals have wings. Females and males form pairs and fly away from the mound to search for a suitable location for a new colony.
When there is such place the king and the queen dig a chamber closing the entrance and proceed to mate. After the first mating they remain in the nest until their death.
There are 10-20 eggs in the first egg rafting of the queen. Then their number gradually increased to 1,000 per day. Termite mounds often have underground tunnels connecting termite mounds to each other.
These insects live in colonies that can include several hundred to several million insects. Each colony is a decentralized self-organizing system and its members are divided into castes. They are the nymphs, workers, soldiers and reproductive insects of both genders (kings and queens).
A king exceeds the working termites in size. Its task is to fertilize the queen throughout life.
Other reproductive individuals have wings, and their task is to create other colonies. For these purposes the male and the female leave the nest, mate, fall to the ground and create a new colony.
Workers have such duties as construction and repairing termite mounds, gathering and storing food. This caste is only one which is able to consume and digest cellulose, so they feed all other members of the colony.
Where do termites live? The insects known as a great buildres they live in huge moubds.
Termite mounds are built from shredded wood, soil, mud and saliva. The maximum height of these structures can reach up to 9 meters, but usually no more than 2-3 meters.
The soldiers are a caste which defends the termite mound from external enemies. These insects have a body covered with strong armor, wide head and extended jaws. The soldiers usually block the narrow passages of the termite mound and do not allow enemies to enter into the nest. Soldiers are usually blind but some types of them have a partially functional vision.
The majority of termites prefer the warm parts of the world, such as Africa, Australia and Asia. 1000 species of termites are found in Africa. African termites build great termite mounds which height can reach to 8-9 meters.
There are 435 types of termites in Asia. The population of these parts of the world is most susceptible to invasions of termites. Over 400 types of termites are known in South America and 360 species live in Australia.
Despite the heat-loving nature of termites, they are able to move to less warm areas of the globe. Due to urbanization and heating systems development, they have opened the way to the north. They live in heated buildings in winter and move on when it is warm. So, recent years we can clearly observe the trend of displacement of termites’ habitat, farther to the north.
The season of termites’ swarming: when are insects most active?
Each new mound appears after the so-called settling summer, when the matured winged termites go out for their first and last flight.
Before the rainy season, leaving the nest through the holes, a swarm spends a few hours in the air, while females acquiring partners.
Then pairs gnaw the wings and mate on the ground. For several hours they are completely defenseless and they can be a feed for insectivorous birds, so most of the insects are killed.
The few termite couples begin to build a new nest digging nesting chambers in which the female – the future Queen – lays first batch of eggs. When the larvae hatch parents feed them until full maturation, and since all duties including food and mound building entirely should be done by them, and the first male and female have only the reproductive function.
Some species of termites swarm only in rainy weather or at night to protect theirselves from birds and other insectivorous animals. Others prefer to do it every month, but they swarm in small groups.
What do termites eat?
what kind of diet does a termite have? The main diet of termites is cellulose and everything made of wood. They eat dry dust, plants with tree stem, a cardboard and paper.
Also they can consume linen, wool and cotton fabrics, leather products and felt. But termites eat these materials unwillingly.
In a wild nature termites eat rotten stumps and trees, dry stalks of cereal plants, dead branches and fallen leaves. The gut of these insects contains some bacteria that split wood and transforming it into acetate.
Further digestion is realized by other protozoa living in the gut of termites. Produced acetate and nitrogen during the splitting are allocated by insects with feces and they can be a fertilizer for forest soils.
But not only wood is in the diet of termites. They also eat the decaying remains of animals, various plants, and even fungi — the main food of the larvae, which termites breed arranging the whole plantation on previously manured soil.
A small termite colony can eat a huge tree or a house from the inside for a few days, working so carefully that no one will suspect them until the moment when the outside shell starts crumbling.
Signs of infestation
Many types of termites are a real danger for people.
Due to the fact that these insects consume wood and other substances that contain cellulose they can do harm for houses and wooden buildings.
Eating wood, they gnaw everything inside, but the surface remains intact.
They are very difficult to detect. If they get dwelling, they eat not only wood, but also books and other paper.
We can find termites using the following methods:
- you should observe wooden constructions and furniture in your house, then you can notice small holes;
- pay attention to small piles of sawdust under wooden furniture;
- carefully inspect with a flashlight: if damage is not visible outside, then tap the wood;
- identify what type of termites infested your house.
Methods of termite control
There is a plenty of methods which help to get rid of termites. There are natural and chemical methods of termite control.
Natural methods include treatment with following methods:
- heating or freeing;
- boric acid;
- using nematodes;
- using herbal products: aloe vera gel, orange oil etc.
Chemical methods include using the following treatments which can you but at a local store:
- Talstar Pro 3/4 Gal Multi Use Insecticide / Termiticide;
- Spectracide Terminate Termite Detection and Killing Stakes;
- Termidor foam etc.
All these methods can be combined to raise the efficiency of treatment.
How to avoid termites? If you have not met termites in your house before and you do not want to have a deal with them it will be better to use some preventive methods.
Many specialists recommend the following measures:
- Termites love water and wet ground, so make sure the water system in bathroom does not leak and keep your house dry and clean.
- Remove stumps and branches away from your house.
- Monitor walls of your house for holes and piles of sawdust.
- Create a barrier around your house using termiticide treatment.
- Seal holes and crack in your house’s foundation.
If you interested in more information of termites we recommend you to read the following articles:
- What is the difference between drywood and subterranean ones?
- What does swarmers of different species look like: drywood, subterranean, formosan?
- Signs of infestation outside and in the house: in walls or furniture.
- What does termite holes look like? What is droppings and is it toxic to humans? Do termites make noises?
- Posible termite damage, how does it look like? Examples of damage in walls and wood floors.
- All about flying termites: how do they look like, swarming season and what to do if there are swarmers in your house?
- How do they do nests and mounds? How to find it in your garden or inside the house?
- Did you know that termites can infest living trees, for example a palm or a pine tree. They also like to live in stumps.
- You can prevent the infestation by using barriers, such as: HomeGuard, Physical systems, Safeguard, Stainless steel mesh, Kordon.
Taking everything into account, termites are unique insects. Many of them do harm for people. However, it should be noted that termites are great benefit to the soil cover as ants and worms. Due to them soil is fertilized and its yield is growing.
This is especially noticeable in Australia, where there are no worms, but the yield of wheat reach record amounts in places where a lot of termite mounds. But we all would like to meet them only in a wild nature, not in our houses. Now you know all about termites!