Pests’ identification procedure or what do termites look like?

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Subterranean termite is a real hidden pest.

The insect leads an extremely secret way of life, that is why sometimes it is very difficult to identify the presence of termites’ colony nest inside your house.

Slightly but surely, termites destroy all wooden structures of a house including basement, walls and ceilings, making a house unlivable and ramshackle.

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In the USA, for example, there are, on average, from 13 to 14 subterranean termite colonies per acre, which means that a typical home may easily have three to four colonies situated under or around it.

There can be as many as 1,000,000 subterranean termites per colony; the threat of infestation becomes a very real one indeed.

What do termites look like to the human eye? Termites could be confused with ants that are their closest relatives and the most principal rival in nature.

But there are still some differences in shape of their bodies, color and other structural differences. Let’s speak about termite identification process in more detailes.

How to Identify a Termite?

Termites are widely divided into three huge groups: subterranean, drywood and dampwood. If you are trying to classify a specific termite colony into a group, you need to look at the soldiers and the alates (the winged, reproductive caste), since worker termites in different groups look just the same.

Photo 2Also important is the appearance of the damage wood they consume. So, what do termites look like?

Alates (swarmers): Dark-brown to black color, about ¼ to ½ inch long with two pairs of wings equal in length.

Workers: Have no wings, approximately ¼ inch or less in length and cream colored.

Soldiers: Have no wings, large jaws, termite colony defenders, are creamy-white in color, their heads have brownish color.

Besides, you can identify termites through their body shape, legs and wings.

Recommendation: you can catch a termite, or the insect you suppose to be a termite, and put it in a small jar. Termites may live and feed inside and outside a building if there is an infestation, or you may notice them near the windows or doors at night because they are attracted to light.

Precisely examine the termites size shape for a broad waist and a soft body. Many people find it difficult to tell the difference between ants and termites.

A winged ant surely has a narrow waist, somewhat similar to a wasp. Termites also have soft bodies and do not possess any body armor.

Pay attention to the black or dark brown color of the body of winged insect versus the white color of worker termites. You may find working termites in a termite mud tube or shelter, that will always be of white color and almost translucent.

Mud tunnels are represented by soil colored and usually the diameter of a pencil. You may find these outside and inside the infested buildings. You can cut a tube open to check for termites.

Advice: if you want to receive evidence, that you have found exactly a mud tube made by subterranean termites, you can remove the portion of a tunnel with a screwdriver and see if there are still termites inside. If you see an active movement inside with termites running back and forward it means, that you have a serious infestation.

If the tunnel is empty, you can check it in a few days and see, whether the tube is repaired. Even if it is not repaired it does not mean, that the insects have abandoned your house for ever.

It means, probably, that they have built a new tube somewhere nearby.

Take a look at the straight antennae. In comparison, an ant’s antennae will be bent, or “elbowed.” Measure the termite’s body size placing the insect on a piece of paper in front of a ruler.

Photo 3How big are termites? Basically, size of termites is not very big. Winged subterranean termites are typically about 3/8 inches long.

Workers will be smaller, and between species there will be variations in size.

Count the six short and stubby legs.

Take a notice, that the termite has 4 equally sized wings that are double of its body.

Winged ants have wings that has a span of their bodies and the front pair of wings is a little bit larger than the wings on ant’s back.

Check for wing stubs if the termite has recently shed its wings. A termite will have small stubs that stick out from the body where the wings were attached.

Use a magnifying glass to examine the patterns on the wings. Subterranean termites always have two main veins on their wings and few cross veins.

Eating Habits of Termites

How to identify termites? Subterranean termites have well-established social system within their colony and nest, with perfect engineering capabilities and acute survival instinct.

These termites obtain moisture from the decaying timber and soil and communicate with the help of pheromone signals.

The “diet” of termites mostly consists of timber and other cellulose products. Termites do not eat all wood species, but the condition of the wood is more important for probable infestation.

Decayed wood is eaten faster and preferred over sound wood. Termites can digest sound wood, but decay fungi make their “dish” more eatable.

Reproduction of Termites

Queen and king are among the termites, capable for reproduction within the nest. They are the insects that have already lost their wings after mating and perform the reproductive function.

Mature queen can lay several thousand eggs a day, turning into a kind of “reproductive machine.”

The king is located in the queen’s chamber and it is slightly bigger than a common working termite. The king continues to mate with the queen during its lifetime, unlike, for example, ants, where the males die soon after mating, and its sperm is stored inside the queen.

Photo 4The rest of reproductives have wings and are used to create new colonies.

The development of the termites proceeds with incomplete metamorphosis.

Hatched from eggs larva looks like an adult termite. After several molts the nymphs are turning into adults.

Winged reproductive termites with wings fly out of the nest, and then mate. The active mating phase occurs during warm spring and summer months.

After the mating the male and the female termites went down to the ground, bite off their wings and set up a new colony, where they lay their own eggs.

In some species of termites, immature reproductives make up a podcast, which is intended to replace the king and queen in case of their death.

Warning: This is a real danger sign that a large mature termite forms a nest near your house. Such a nest can contain hundreds of thousands subterranean termites within range of infesting the timber of your house.

Summing Up Distinctive Features

In this section we will be speaking about termite size comparison, color and other charachterictics.

  • Size How big is a termite?

Termites: swarmer termites actual size – about ¼ to ½ inch long; workers – ¼ inch or less.

Ants: Winged queen – 1 inch (2.54 cm); winged reproductives, males and females – 3/4 inch (1.9 cm); workers – range from 3/8 to 1/2 inch (1 cm to 1.3 cm).

  • Color What color are termites?

Termites: termite swarmers – dark-brown to black color; the workers are cream colored; soldiers are creamy-white in color and their heads have brownish color.

Ants: worker ants – white color; carpenter ants are reddish or dark colored.

  • Legs

Termites: have six short and stubby legs.

Ants: adult carpenter ants have six legs that are longer than that of the termites.

  • Wings

Termites: has four wings that are of equal size and shape. Its wings are also longer than its body.

Ants: has four wings, back wings are shorter than its front, fore wings.

  • Antennae

Termites: has straight, beaded antennae.

Ants: has antennae that are bent or “elbowed.”

Photo 5To tell termites from ants is very important in terms of your house safety.

Though, ants are also quite dangerous for the household (can eat through the wood), termites represent more serious hazard to a human.

The best option is to prevent the appearance of termites in your house, though they are not always possible to detect before it became a real problem.

Nowadays there are many accessible and safe methods to destroy termites’ colony.

But only a specialist from termite control service will help you to choose the best option to get rid of the pests inside your house for a long-time.


How do termites look like, see pictures below:

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Helpful video

Learn to tell the difference between termite and ant with information from a pest control specialist in this free video:

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