Their mounds can be up to 9 meters tall!
Termite Scientific Classification
Termite Conservation Status
This post may contain affiliate links to our partners like Chewy, Amazon, and others. Purchasing through these helps us further the A-Z Animals mission to educate about the world's species..
Termites never sleep!
Often referred to as silent destroyers, termites are responsible for an estimated $5 billion in property damage each year. The insects have six legs and large heads compared to the size of their bodies. Termites are typically white or a light-yellow color. The insect species live in colonies with a queen, and she lays eggs continuously. A termite’s diet is wood, and they eat a lot of it.
• There are thousands of termite species
• Termites live in every part of the world
• The insects live in colonies
• Queen termites can live for as long as 25 years
• Most termites are blind
Termite Scientific Name
The scientific name for a termite is Isoptera, and they are eusocial insects. They are under the Termitoidae epifamily inside a cockroach classification called Blattodea. In the past, termites were categorized within a different order of insect than cockroach, but additional research has determined that they originated from cockroaches. Termites are under the animalia kingdom and the arthropoda phylum. The bugs are a part of the insecta class and the pterygota subclass.
In North America, there are more than 50 termite species and Europe features 10 termite species. In Africa, there are more than 1,000 different species of termites. They are successful bugs that use various methods to survive. The name Isoptera comes from two Greek words. The first is Iso, and it means equal. The second word is ptera, and in the Greek language, this means winged. The name “Termite” is from a Latin and Late Latin word, which is Termes. This word refers to a white ant or a woodworm. Before the word “termite” became the common name for the species, the insects were called white ants or wood ants. According to research, the modern term for the bugs was first used in the late 1700s.
Termite Appearance and Behavior
Termites are a small insect that typically measures from 4 millimeters to 15 millimeters long. Queen termites are the largest, and they are often more than 10 centimeters long. During the Miocene era, a giant termite called the Gyatermes Styriensis existed, and its wingspan measured around 76 millimeters long. It also had a body length that was around 25 millimeters long. Modern-day termites have soft bodies and long, straight antennae. The insects vary in color from white to a pale brown. Worker termites are usually a lighter color than swarming ones. There are size and color variations between the species too. For instance, western subterranean soldier termites have heads that are a yellow hue, and the termite soldiers of the western drywood species feature reddish brown heads. Subterranean termites are usually smaller in size than dampwood and drywood termites.
Termites operate in a caste system, and there are three. Each caste has a different job to do in a colony. Along with this, each caste features distinctive physical characteristics that allow it to do its job. The different castes may have a very different appearance from one another even when they are a part of the same species.
Worker termites are usually a lighter color than their fellow bugs. They are also the smallest termites. For the most part, worker termites and nymphs feature soft bodies and resemble larvae. Soldier termites generally have a similar body structure to worker termites. However, soldiers have hard heads that display a dark color. They also have large jaws. These features allow them to keep their colonies safe. Worker and soldier termites are generally blind. When termites reach the reproductive stage, they form wings. They also have hard bodies that protect them as they fly away from their colonies to begin new ones. Flying termites have wings and dark exoskeleton bodies. Also called alates, or swarmers, flying termites have two equally sized wing sets that are almost twice as big as their bodies.
There are a lot of termites in the world. In fact, if you could somehow place them in one big pile, they would weigh more than if you did the same with all the humans in the world. According to some estimates, there could be 1,000 pounds of termites for each human.
Termites are not highly aggressive insects unless their nests are under attack. Soldier termites use their large jaws to poison other insects that may attempt to attack their nests. The number of soldiers that are in a termite colony is based on the colony size. When a colony is just starting out, it will have more workers to become established. As it grows, more termites become soldiers for greater defense.
Termites have the ability to communicate when they are inside their nest. They do it using pheromones and vibrations. This allows them to recognize other colony members and know what part of the caste other termites are from. To make vibrations, termites bang their heads.
Termites are found throughout the world. This means that their habitats include tropic and subtropical regions in addition to climates that are warm. The insect species does well in moist lowland areas as well as along coasts. Some of the North America species have become accustomed to living in chillier areas, which means that they are found in the north part of the country too.
Different termite species have different habitats. Subterranean termites form colonies in the ground, and they build pathways inside of it that they use to find wood sources. To get to wood that’s located out of the ground, like the framework of a home, the insects create mud tubes that they travel through. These tubes connect from the soil to the wood source. Dampwood termites make their colonies in damp wood that may be in the ground or on top of it. The insects search for damp wood that remains that way from ground contact. This may be from a clogged rain gutter or a water leak. Drywood termite colonies usually form their nests in wood that’s solid. These bugs do not need to be in touch with soil to survive. Drywood termites usually make their homes in furniture, wood framing sections, attics and doors.
The big termite mounds that you may have seen on television or in magazine ads are made by mound-building termites. This insect species lives in South America, Australia and Africa. These amazing mounds can be as wide as 98 feet, and they are usually constructed in well-drained areas. In many cases, termite mounds outlive the colonies that build them. The structure of these homes can be highly complex with the insects taking proper ventilation into account.
What do termites eat? The insect species eats plants. They also eat the fungus that develops and grows on plants that are in a state of decay. Termites eat wood because their bodies need cellulose, which is a wood component. The insects have a digestive system bacterium, and it breaks the cellulose down, giving the bugs access to hydrogen. Termites don’t come by their digestive system bacteria naturally. To get it, they eat one another’s poop.
Termites never sleep. The insects work 24 hours a day every day of their life. During this time, they eat, keep their queen happy and safe and build their nests. Since the bugs never stop, they are capable of eating a large amount of wood. If they decide to dine on a person’s home, they can do a lot of damage to it. In fact, a colony of Formosan termites have been known to eat as much as 1,000 pounds of wood in one year. The insects are able to ingest the amount of wood that would fill a football field. Along with this, termite workers look for food as far as 250 feet away from their homes.
Termite Predators and Threats
Many creatures prey on termites including 65 different bird species in addition to bats, bears and foxes. The aardwolf is a mammal that mainly feeds on the insects. To find them, it uses scent and sound. According to research, a single aardwolf can ingest thousands of termites in just one night. Sloth bears eat them too as do chimpanzees. Ants are a big risk to termites. Some ant species hunt termites and may even move into termite mounds.
Termites are good at protecting themselves, but they are vulnerable to some parasites such as dipteran flies, pyemotes mites and nematodes. When attacked by parasites, a termite colony may relocate. People exterminate termites when the insects make a meal of their homes.
Termite Reproduction, babies and lifespan
During the summer months, king and queen termites start swarming in the thousands as they search for a mate. When they find one, they perform a simple courtship dance and begin a separate colony. The male termite participates in the labor of building a nest once the queen becomes fertilized and ready to lay eggs. In the first year that a queen termite lays eggs, she can have from one hundred to several thousand eggs each day. The king and queen termites take care of their first termite generation until they’ve made enough babies to help them.
Once the insects hatch into larvae, the juvenile termites can turn into worker termites or soldiers. The kind of termite that they become depends on the pheromones that are released and the temperature that the termite eggs are in. Worker termites complete the nest’s labor and provide food for the colony. They also take care of the baby termites. Worker and soldier termites may be male or female. Both types are sterile. For around five years, a termite population will grow. After this period, the queen will have young king and queen termites, so they can expand into another new colony. This is a cycle that repeats itself continuously.
When it comes to the life cycle of the insect species, termites go through incomplete metamorphosis. Scientifically, this is called a hemimetabolous life cycle. A termite’s beginning life cycle consists of an egg, larvae and nymph and older nymph while the mid-life cycle is worker or soldier. The last stage is drone. A queen termite’s average lifespan is 25 years, but the other types of termites live from just 12 months to 24 months.
According to reports, subterranean termite colonies may include as many as 5 million termites. Worker termites make up an estimated 90% to 95% of a colony while soldiers are 1% to 3% of a colony. Each colony has very few reproductive adults with five to 10 kings in total. The kings take turns mating with the queen.
Termite FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Are Termites Carnivores, Herbivores or Omnivores?
Termites are herbivorous creatures, so they eat organic plant matter. The insects dine on a blend of grasses, plants and woods. Some termite species are a threat to homeowners who have wooden houses.
What Are Some Termite Signs?
The signs that a home or a property has termites include discolored drywall, peeling paint and wood sections that sound hollow when you knock on it. Buckling or squeaky floorboards are another sign of termites as is mounds of termite pellets along the exterior of your home. You may also see shed wings that look like fish scales or mud tubes erected along the outside of your house.
Can Termites Harm People?
Termites can bite or sting people, but these injuries are not dangerous. Along with this, termites don’t transmit diseases to people. If your home has a termite infestation, you could be allergic to them. Some people even experience asthma attacks. Termites can be dangerous to people because the insects may damage their homes. This is why termite prevention methods are a good idea.
Should You Treat Your Home for Termites Yourself?
There are a few things that you can do yourself to prevent termites from infesting your home and property. For instance, make sure that you don’t have wood piles stacked up near the foundation of your home. Also, inspect your property regularly for termite swarms and mud tubes. However, if you suspect that you have an infestation, it’s best to let a professional pest control company handle it.
What Kingdom do Termites belong to?
Termites belong to the Kingdom Animalia.
What phylum do Termites belong to?
Termites belong to the phylum Arthropoda.
What class do Termites belong to?
Termites belong to the class Insecta.
What order do Termites belong to?
Termites belong to the order Isoptera.
What type of covering do Termites have?
Termites are covered in Shells.
In what type of habitat do Termites live?
Termites live in forests and areas with high humidity.
What do Termites eat?
Termites eat organic plant matter, wood, and grass.
What are some predators of Termites?
Predators of Termites include birds, reptiles, and mammals.
What is the average litter size for a Termite?
The average litter size for a Termite is 1,000.
What is an interesting fact about Termites?
Termite mounds can be up to 9 meters tall!
What is the scientific name for the Termite?
The scientific name for the Termite is Isoptera.
How many species of Termite are there?
There are 2,800 species of Termite.
How do Termites have babies?
Termites lay eggs.
What is the difference between carpenter ants and termites?
The primary differences between carpenters ants and termites are that carpenter ants don’t eat wood, termites have larger colonies, and they both have distinctly different appearances. Carpenter ants and termites are two household pests than can result in a severe structural damage in homes with wood.
Although it’s easy to confuse the two, there are some major differences between them.
What is the difference between mud daubers and termites?
The primary differences between a mud dauber and a termite are their size, social structure, and nest construction. Mud daubers are common wasps across much of the United States, often placing nests around homes, patios, and park shelters. Termites are small insects known for their large colonies and destructive habit of eating wood (especially human structures).
What is the difference between earwigs and termites?
The key differences between an earwig and a termite are size, color, diet, lifespan, key features, and infestation.
Earwigs and termites are not related in any way at all. They don’t look alike or eat the same things; they also have varied preferences for living arrangements.
What is the difference between carpenter ant frass and termite frass?
The key differences between the carpenter ant and the termite frass include their size, weight, components, color, shape, and placement.
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.
- David Burnie, Dorling Kindersley (2011) Animal, The Definitive Visual Guide To The World's Wildlife
- Tom Jackson, Lorenz Books (2007) The World Encyclopedia Of Animals
- David Burnie, Kingfisher (2011) The Kingfisher Animal Encyclopedia
- Richard Mackay, University of California Press (2009) The Atlas Of Endangered Species
- David Burnie, Dorling Kindersley (2008) Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Animals
- Dorling Kindersley (2006) Dorling Kindersley Encyclopedia Of Animals