No structural pest has commanded more attention over time than termites. Scarcely more than a decade ago, termite managers were experiencing double digit re-treatment rates, damage claims and lawsuits which sapped the profitability from business. Some companies made a decision to get out of termite work altogether. Since then, there has been a renaissance in the availability of highly effective termiticides and treatment methods. Not since the days of chlordane have companies been so confident in their termite control tools and ability to satisfy customers. In a recent industry wide survey, only 2% of respondents felt that termites still were the hardest pests to control ( bed bugs topped the list at 76%, followed by ants 13 and cockroaches at 9% ).

What is a termite?

When termites are discovered, one’s first impression is of small, white maggots withe legs. A closer look will reveal creatures that are far more interesting. Like other insects, termites have six legs and a body divided into three main regions: head, thorax and abdomen. Situated on the head is a pair of straight antennea made up of bead-like segments. Also on he head is a pair of mandibles used for eating, defense and other functions. Termites are sensitive to touch, odor, taste, and pressure. They detect such stimuli with tactile hairs and other specialized sense organs on various parts of their bodies. Individuals withing a termite colony may appear quite different and perform specialized tasks. These life forms, known as castes, include workers, soldiers and reprodctives. The workers are usually the most numerous individuals in the colony, and a caste that feeds on wood. Worker termites are pale, soft-bodied, and prone to desiccation. In order to conserve body moisture, they must dwell underground or withing the wood, away from desiccating air currents and rays of the sun. A key difference between termites and other social insects , such as bees and ants, is that termites have no pupal stage. Furthermore, immature termites look like tiny versions of the adults as is true of cockroaches and crickets. Another unique feature of termites versus other social insects is that the male ( king) termite does not die after mating and remains with the female ( queen ) as a long-time colony member. Termites are classified in the insect order Isoptera ( iso meaning equal; ptera meaning wings) – so named because the primary reproductives, commonly referred to as alates or swarmers, have two pairs of almost identical wings.

Termites versus ants

People often confuse termites wit ants because of their somewhat similar appearance. This confusion is especially true of the winged forms, which often swarm at the same time of the year. Upon closer inspection, however, there are several key differences in the appearance of these insects. Termite workers are soft bodied and light colored, whereas ants are hard-bodied and darker. Termites have straight, bead like antennae and an abdomen that is broadly joined at the thorax; ants have elbowed antennae and a petiole ( waist ), which is constricted. The front and the hind wings of a termite are nearly equal in size, and are held flat over the body when at rest. Winged ants have forewings that are longer than hindwings, and are angled above the body at rest. Termites undergo a gradual metamorphosis in which the immature continues to resemble miniature adults throughout their development. Immature ants retain the appearance of legless grubs until they undergo their radical transformation from pupae into adults.

Although similar in appearance, ants and termites are mortal enemies. Ants may attack termites that are foraging or raid their colonies. Nonetheless, ants and termites often exist in close proximity. It is common to break open a log of wood occupied by nexts of both insects. There is no truth to the belief that termites will avoid buildings or portions of buildings where ants are abundant.