The Subterranean Termite Colony
The termites most likely to attack your home are subterranean termites. All are social insects that live in large, underground colonies. Although they could number in the millions, you might never see them or any evidence of them — until you discover that they've done serious damage to your home.
King and Queen
At least one king and queen are at the center of every termite colony. The queen's sole purpose is to reproduce. Some live for as long as 30 years.
Queens can lay thousands of eggs every year. Eggs hatch into nymphs.
While in the nymph state, termites diverge into different castes:
Workers are blind, wingless termites that maintain the colony, build and repair the nest and tubes, forage for food, and care for the other termites. They are the most numerous caste and the most likely to be found in infested wood.
Soldiers are sterile, wingless, and blind. Their sole function is to defend the colony.
- Winged Reproductives
These termites will eventually leave the colony as adult swarmers. After swarming, they shed their wings and pair up. Each male-female pair attempts to start a new colony.
- Supplementary Reproductives
These termites help increase the population of established colonies and can serve as replacements for the king or queen if they should die.
Those "Ants" Might Be Termites
Like ants, subterranean termites live in the ground and often move in single file, but there are differences, and it's important to know them:
- Both ants and termites have two pairs of wings, but ants' wings are different sizes while the termites' wings are all the same size.
- Ants have elbowed antennae while termites have short, straight antennae that resemble strings of beads.
- Don't be fooled by color or size. Ants can vary in size, and winged termites can be brown or black.