- Termites are extremely important in nature because they recycle fallen trees back into soil. Unfortunately, a termite cannot tell the difference between a pine log and a pine board. Termites cause more destruction to wood products and structures in homes in California than any other insect. Therefore, homeowners must understand termites and how they can be controlled.
The Termite Colony
Termites are social insects that live in highly organized colonies. Like many insects, termites have an egg, an immature, and an adult stage. There are three main types of adults: reproductives, soldiers, and workers. The reproductives include the king and queen and supplementary reproductives that produce eggs. The soldiers protect the colony from attackers such as ants. Workers are the heart of the colony. They clean and care for all the other termites and forage for food (wood and paper products).
When a colony is several years old and relatively large, it may produce another form of adult termite called a "swarmer."
Swarmers have four wings, are often brown or black, and range in size from approximately 1/4 to 3/8 inch. Swarmers are the colony's way of sending out new kings and queens to start colonies of their own. In the spring, great numbers of swarmers can fly from a single colony.
Swarmers are the most visible form of termite. Usually a homeowner realizes termites are present in or around the home when a swarm is seen. Swarming termites can be confused with many ants that swarm in the spring. If you look closely, you can see that swarming ants have elbowed antennae, a narrow waist, and front wings that are longer than the back wings. Swarming termites have straight antennae, a thick waist, and all the wings are the same length.
As their name indicates, subterranean termites usually live underground, excavating passageways to reach wood. Their passageways can be quite complex, extending 10 feet underground and over an acre in area. The soil provides a source of moisture that protects the termites from drying and shields them from predators. The soil also provides building materials for the protective shelter tubes the termites use to forage for wood above the ground.
For more information, check out: http://www.ardentermite.com/subterranean.html