Termite Scientific Name: Isoptera

All About Termites

Termites have a distinct reputation for eating wood and are sometimes known as white ants in Australia. They commonly feed on dead plant material, such as household furniture or fallen trees. Much like ants, termites work together to feed, nurture and protect their colony. There are currently more than 4,000 known species and these insects are considered a major pest when they are found in residential or commercial buildings due to their diet and expensive taste.

These pests are social creatures and can be found living in warmer climates. They prefer subtropical or tropical areas that have a dense woodland environment. They are also commonly found in major cities that have extensive wooden architecture, such has New Orleans. Termites can be a positive influence on the nature surrounding their habitats with their ability to recycle and rejuvenate woodlands but are typically considered a pest when found in undesirable areas.

Termite Habitat

Termites are similar to ants in many ways. These wood-eating creatures build communal nests underground. The nest may be constructed of any number of local resources, including the less desirable contents of saliva, feces and mud. There are rare instances in which termites build their nests above ground. These are referred to as ‘mounds’.

Inside the nest is a social structure created from differing responsibilities within the group. Workers are responsible for building and creating the mound. These creations are often complex and must be able to meet a wide range of living conditions. They are often complete with rooms (or chambers) created for specific functions. Some rooms are designed for collecting water to ensure that the group always has a fresh moisture supply, while others are created as nurseries that house newborn termites. Much like humans, they even have areas delegated for ‘free time’.

In tropical areas where termite populations are not controlled, mounds have been known to extrude as far as 30 feet in the air and are quite a sight to behold. The typical shape of a mound ranges from a small dome to a large conical structure. If a view of an above ground mound is available, the complexity of the nest can be observed by the naked eye.

Life Cycle of Termites

Each termite may be assigned one of three main life duties. These are known as castes, and each caste covers the general responsibilities of production, protection, and reproduction. The reason for these classifications is unclear, but scientists are conducting research to learn more about the social structure of these creatures. After a caste has been assigned to a new termite, it is still possible for that individual to change castes as required later in life. This process allows for adaptability within a colony.

Soldiers are able to change over from protective to reproductive duties if there is a necessity. This process is controlled by pheromones, chemicals in their bodies, and alerts soldiers to the change. In each colony, there is only one queen termite that has a separate and specific pheromone. This means soldiers may be able to reproduce, but they will not be able to take the position or duties of the queen. A queen is only replaced upon death or if she is no longer able to produce the specific pheromone.

Termites and Humans

Termites are well known to most humans and have a bad reputation as being expensive household pests. They often feed on furniture and wooden building structures. They also have an expensive taste, favoring antiqued or aged wood. Their ability to build mounds inside walls means their presence may be undetected until major damage has been caused. Termites may also devour carpets, clothing and other common household items including rubber and ever soft plastics.

Termites may also be found in gardens. They often build their mounds underground, which may protrude into lawn areas. They can devour fallen trees, leaves and other dead plant material. Termites located in gardens are prime candidates for becoming household pests due to their constant search for food. Once everything within the garden has been consumed, these insects will go to the next available food source: the house.

Pest Control for Termites

If you have a termite population living in your home, immediate action must be taken to prevent structural damage. The first step is to assess the current level of infestation. If an established colony has built a mound within the walls of a home, it is prudent to call a professional for a structural evaluation. There are certain telltale signs of a termite infestation including:

  • Flying insects within the home or garden
  • Termite tubes formed on walls in home
  • Disrupted paint work (chipping, bubbles or peeling)
  • Termite droppings (often called termite poop or termite frass)
  • If a hollow sound resonates within walls or furniture when knocked upon.
  • Tenting for Termites may be your only option if the exterminator is unable to reach the infected area.

There are several do-it-yourself methods for early extermination of these pests. These can include:

  • Insecticides: Common insecticides may be used to destroy the colony. This may or may not be possible depending on how deeply rooted the mound is within the structure.
  • Bait stations: Bait stations may be used to control termite populations. They rely on chemicals that disrupt the termites’ pheromones and may also be used as a preventive measure. Termite stakes are a great bait station for do it your self options.
  • Extermination: In severe cases, extermination is often the best and only way to ensure the colony has been completely eliminated.
  • All natural:  Orange Oil Termite Treatment is a cheap alternative to insecticides.

The best way to control termites is through preventive measures. There are several steps that can be taken to prevent an infestation. Eliminating moisture within the home decreases the chances of wood rotting. Watch for signs of damage to outside decking or furniture. Repair leaking faucets or air-conditioning units and try to prevent standing water within the home and yard. Maintaining a clean and organized yard and garden will also help preventative measures. Large piles of debris or leaves are attractive feeding grounds for these hungry creatures.

By removing food sources and desirable living conditions, termites will be encouraged to find new food sources elsewhere. Piles of firewood, lumber or large amounts of tree-sourced papers should be kept above any ground-level dirt. Screens can be placed on any outside vents that could serve as a point of entry for these insects.

Termite Entomology

Termite Scientific Name: Isopter

Termites belong to the Animalia kingdom and within the Arthropoda phylum. They belong to the Insecta class and are categorized under the Pterygota subclass. Termites belong to the Dicyoptera suborder. They are classified as an Isoptera.

Termites are social insects. They are commonly called white ants in Australia and Africa, though this is technically not true; they are only distantly related to ants but share many common characteristics. In fact, termites share a closer genetic tie to another common household pest – the cockroach. This recent discovery has led to much debate on whether or not termites should be classified as their own single family.