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Termites

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termite workers, soldiers, queens, swarmers

Termites are social insects.  Their workers are best described as "little white things" or "little white ants" that are often found in damp, rotting wood. Termites have a strict caste system, which consists of worker termites, soldiers, winged reproductive termites, a queen termite, and a king termite.

  Termite images, termite description

TERMITES: Termite Worker

Workers represent the majority of the colony population and are responsible for caring for eggs, constructing and maintaining tunnels, foraging for food and feeding and grooming of other caste members.  They are white and soft bodied.

TERMITES: Termite Soldier

Soldiers are responsible for defending the colony.  They are white, soft bodied with an enlarged, hardened head containing two large jaws, or mandibles, which are used as a weapon against predators.

Termite Winged Reproductive/termite swarmer

Winged reproductives produce the offspring in the colony and swarm at certain times of the year.  Colonies can have both primary reproductives (one king and one queen), and hundreds of secondary reproductives to assist in egg laying and colony growth.  See Flying Ants article for more. 

TERMITE KING

The King termite assists the queen in creating and attending to the colony during its initial formation.  He will continue to mate throughout his life to help increase the colony size.

Termite Queen

The Queen termite creates the colony by laying eggs and tending to the colony until enough workers and nymphs are produced to care for the colony.  She can live for more than ten years and produce hundreds of eggs each year.  Colonies can each several million termites with the help of secondary queens who also produce eggs.

Termites have the ability to change from one caste type to another during their immature stages.  This allows the colony to change the proportion of different caste members as the need arises.

The two most common types of termites are "drywood" and "ground" termites.  Both types of termites eat cellulose for nutrition.  Cellulose is found in wood and wood products.  Both types of termites have the "flying termite" or "winged reproductive".  These winged termites are new kings and queens attempting to establish a new colony.  They may also be referred to as "swarmers".  Ant colonies also send swarmers, which have nearly the same appearance as termites, but may be identified upon closer inspection.  Below you will see the obvious differences between ant and termite swarmers.

How to Distinguish Between Termites and Ants

Termites or Ants. A comparison.

 

Of the two types of termites, ground and drywood, ground termites typically do much more damage to structures over a shorter period of time.

TERMATROL  stations have been developed to detect ground termites, also called subterranean termites.  Ground termites randomly and constantly forage for new food sources; and may travel up to 100 yards from their primary nest.  It is this "foraging" tendency that allows TERMATROL  stations to detect activity near a structure.

At the surface ground termites create mud tubes from the soil to wooden portions of a structure.  These tubes provide a protective "highway" for termites to attack your home. 

 Other less obvious access points include:
        through construction joints
        through retaining wall joints and cracks
        through floor cracks over 1/16th"
        through plumbing, electrical, or other slab penetrations

GROUND TERMITES require three things to survive:
        food (wood or other cellulose material)
        a consistent source of moisture
        moderate to tropical environment

GROUND TERMITES can consume over 15 pounds of wood in a single week.

GROUND TERMITES can create secondary nests above the ground called "aerial colonies".  These independent nests may survive independently of the ground if a water source is available.  Common interior water sources include; roof leaks, plumbing leaks, leaky showers or tubs, toilet leaks, etc...  Aerial infestations must be located for effective control.

GROUND TERMITES die rather quickly from dehydration when exposed to the environment due to their thin exo-skeleton.  To maintain the needed humidity and protect them from predators they build protective mud tubes and remain unseen most of the time.

GROUND TERMITES produce a chemical odor called a pheromone, which other termites, in the colony follow to find food and water.

 

 

DRYWOOD TERMITES

GROUND TERMITES

FOOD CELLULOSE (derived from wood and wood based products.) CELLULOSE (derived from wood and wood based products.)
MOISTURE No outside moisture needed.  Can survive on a small amount of moisture within wood. Require an outside moisture source.  This may be from the soil, leaky plumbing, roof tops, etc...
ENVIRONMENT Colonies live within the wood and do not require contact with the soil. Normally live and forage in the soil.  Can establish a nest above the soil if an acceptable moisture source is found.  Build protective mud tubes that lead from the soil to the home.  Can move colony within soil when environmental conditions require.
COLONY SIZE SMALL (few hundred to a thousand termite members.) LARGE (A well  established colony may contain over 7 million termites.  Some species have numerous smaller colonies of several thousand termite members.)
EVIDENCE OF
ACTIVITY
"Sand-Like" pellets or "droppings".  Kick-out holes on the walls, ceilings or wood.  Infestation may take two years before evidence of droppings is present. 1) Mud Tubes ascending from the ground to the structure or protruding from walls and/or trim.
2) Heavy termite swarming within the structure
3) Slits in the wood (flight slits)
4) Uncharacteristic waviness in the wood.
PREVENTIVE
MEASURES
1) Use treated lumber during construction.
2) Coat any untreated wood or exposed wood end cuts with an appropriate termiticide.
3) Seal all cracks and crevices with caulking.
1) Install a termite monitoring or detection system at the home or structure.
2) Perform treatment to the soil before construction with an appropriate termiticide. 
3) Eliminate conditions conducive to infestation.
CONTROL
MEASURES
Light Activity:
1)  locate kick-out holes
2) lightly puncture kick-out hole
3) inject appropriate insecticide in kick-out hole.
4) Seal kick-out hole with caulk.

Heavy Activity:
Tent fumigation
**Prevention through education, detection and elimination of conducive conditions are the most effective and cost efficient control measures.  When activity is already present, treat the structure with a liquid termiticide.
DAMAGE LEVEL Minimal*
* When compared to subterranean (ground) termites.  Takes up to two years for evidence of activity to be present.
Some species of subterranean termites can consume 15 pounds of wood per week.
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