Termites are considered to be the most widespread insects on the globe. Although for most people they turn into a real nuisance, some find these creatures very peculiar. Learn basic information about mighty insect. Read the most frequently asked questions and answers.

Where termites come from?

Scientists identified that these insects’ ancestors reminded of cockroaches and lived more than 100 mln years ago. Perhaps, their common ancestors lived on Earth 300 mln years ago. Fossils from ancient periods were found.

Where termites live in the world?

These insects can be met on every continent except Antarctica. For instance, 49 US states have the problem of termite infestations (Alaska is counted out).


These insects can be met on every continent except Antarctica.

How many species are known?

Nowadays, more than three thousand kinds are described. In addition, about one hundred kinds stay unexamined. In North America, 50 species are widespread. Ten species are typical for Europe, and South America is home to more than four hundred types. Great diversity is in Africa: 1000 species of bugs live on the continent.

When termites are active?

These bugs do not sleep at all. They eat or search for food on 24/7 basis, so this creature may be called the most hard-working in the world. Considering the fact that one insect lives for several years, the volume of damage caused by them is enormous.

How many termites there are?

Bugs outnumber humans significantly. It is estimated that for every person there is about 1,000 pounds of insects. Just compare your weight with a full-grown cow’s tonnage, and you will comprehend the difference.


Bugs outnumber humans significantly.

Are termites blind?

Not all. As far as workers and soldiers spend most of their time in the dark (nests or wooden structures), they don’t need to see. Vice versa, reproductive species have vision, because sooner or later these bugs have to fly for finding a partner and a site for future colony.

Are they preyed?

Termites face numerous natural enemies: they are preyed by ant eaters, echidnas, birds, pangolin and many different huge bugs. Ants also organize attacks on them: gathering large armies, they invade nests or kill bugs one by one. Moreover, people in many countries serve termites as specialty dish…

Which termites are the worst?

Formosans are the largest representatives of species capable of doing very much harm. A colony may consist of tens of thousands bugs, living underground or in mounds and nests. When they invade a house, a lot of damaged is done to it. These insects consume dry and wet wood in large amounts, and also thrive on fabric made of plants.

Are termites attracted to water?

Some kinds of termites that feed on wet material need a source of water. For example, Formosan, Dampwood, and undergound species. So if you have leaking pipes in your house, liquidate the  issue as soon as you can. Do not store firewood in your house.


These bugs do not sleep at all.

How do termites communicate?

Insects emit chemical scents, or pheromones, to control each other and lead conversations. With the help of glands on their chest, they leave traces to leave messages and create paths. Every colony has its own distinct smell. To alert other insects about danger, a termite can knocking, which generates vibrations.

Do termites groom?

It’s hard to believe, but a bug that spends days and nights in dirt tries to stay clean. They often groom each other. This is essential for survival, because it helps to keep bacteria and parasites under control.

Are males good fathers?

Unlike many other insects, male bugs do not leave females after mating. When so-called “nuptial flight” is over, a male stays with his queen to fertilize eggs and help to breed larvae with predigested food. Luckily, females don’t have the habit of eating partners.

How much damage do they cause?

The most aggressive type of bugs, Formosans, can occupy the territory of a football field in search of food. It is estimated that a colony consumes about 1,000 pounds of wood early. Every year, all bugs on Earth cause about $5 bln of damage to property.

Subterranean species are also highly pestilent, being able to destroy house foundations, insulation, wooden beams, plastic piping system, liners of swimming pools and filters. They also eat fabrics produced of plants and wallpapers.

An average colony consists of 1 mln insects.

Are termites nocturnal?

Termites stay active throughout day and night, but their habits remind mostly of nocturnal creatures. They are afraid of light, and only reproductives during mating period are attracted to it. Interestingly, some species perform nuptial flights during daytime, while other kinds of bugs mate only at night.

How many insects are in colonies?

As far as bugs reproduce very quickly, a colony may count from tens of thousands to three millions of bugs! Typically, an average colony consists of 1 mln insects. Some African and Australian colonies measure so many bugs that they are enough to fill seven huge pick-up trucks.

How termites reproduce?

When mating is over, and insects select partners for each other, they find a place for starting a new colony. Female lays eggs, and a male fertilizes them as required. A queen lives from 15 to 25 years, and produces an egg every 15 seconds, which means it generates about 30,000 eggs daily! This is why bugs multiply so quickly.

wood termite

Every year, all bugs on Earth cause about $5 bln of damage to property.

Where do termites nest?

Different species choose different places for sheltering. For instance, subterranean bugs dig tunnels and prefer staying underground. Drywood insects may live within wooden structures, furniture and inside walls. Termites living in nature create so called mounds: hills made of dirt, mud, soil, digested wood and their feces and saliva. These structures are very solid, and may reach 42 feet in height (a two-storey building!). The biggest mounds even serve as sightseeing in many reservations of Africa and Australia.

Are they social?

They are also called “social cockroaches” because every insect plays its role. A colony is composed by defenders, working insects and reproductives, and each representative of its group performs his duties and responsibilities. Workers search for food and dig tunnels, soldiers defend their site from parasites and invaders, knocking the wall if alerted, while queens and kings’ task is to mature, leave mound, involve into a so-called nuptial flight, reproduce and start up a new colony.

Does competition between insects occur?

If there are two colonies located close to each other, it may cause conflicts, competition and angonistic behavior. When bugs are aggressive towards each other, attacks occur, and sometimes that leads to numerous victims from both sides. In other cases, insects may intentionally block passages to prevent invasions. Several termites may squeeze into passage and die to put an end to angonistic actions. However, such behavior does not always necessarily occur: colonies may just ignore each other, continuing to develop side-by-side.

Are they resistant to chemicals?

Termites’ weak point is the absence of immunity to chemicals. Interestingly, wood-destroying creatures have never developed resistance to remedies and pesticides. Probably, it is due to their “tasters” who taste and process nutrition before bringing it to queens.


Luckily, females don’t have the habit of eating partners.

Can termites harm humans?

While most people facing infestation worry about their property first, health issues should be taken into account, too. The good news: bugs do not spread disease, and their bites and stings are not toxic. But some individuals who have allergy to insects’ saliva and droppings are exposed to risks. They can even be disturbed when inhaling ventilated air containing particles of bugs’ nests. Another problematic issue is chemicals used to kill the pests: you should not re-enter your dwelling before making sure than everything dissolved, and concentration of chemicals in the air is low enough.

Do termites fly?

Not all of them. Colony falls into three castes: workers, soldiers, and reproductives. Only the third group has such ability. When young kings and queens reach maturity, they leave nests to search for mates. Then mature insects swarm with bugs from other colonies. In the end, bugs get rid of their wings which sometimes can be found lying in heaps.

How to identify a flying termite? It usually has tan or light brown coloring and two pairs of equal wings. In comparison with ants, their thorax is not divided from the rest of body by narrowing.

Are termites decomposers?

Despite doing so much harm for us, these insects play significant role in nature. They recycle solid wood fibers, helping to decompose decaying and fallen trees, turning cellulose into soil. Thus, they help to renew life in forests. They also aerate ground by digging tunnels.

Termites cannot digest what they eat! It is done by microorganisms (protozoa) living in their stomachs. To saturate the digestive tract with these bacteria, insect have to consume others’ poop. Otherwise, bugs  feed on plants, decaying arbors and fungus.

Most species are light brown, with darker heads.

Do termites look like ants?

Some people claim that these insects are hard to distinguish from ants, but, actually, they look differently. First, they have bigger bodies (from 1/2 to 5/8 inches) of oval prolonged shape. There is no narrowing between thorax and abdomen, which is their main distinctive feature. Vice versa, ants have thin waist, and the second couple of wings is smaller. Most species are light brown, with darker heads. Besides, they have longer antenna.

What are the signs of infestation?

Most often, infestations are revealed in March-May when flying insects become active and swarm near and inside houses. Attracted to light, they invade rooms, and their considerable number lets people know there is nest somewhere nearby. Before such situation appears, check your dwelling and look for:

  1. Feces that look like small wood-colored pellets.
  2. Mud tubes on exterior walls or wooden structures.
  3. Wings of the same size lying near your house (they reminds of fish scales).

How come I have termites in my house?

Think that bugs have chosen your house accidentally? Most likely, there is something that attracts them, for instance, a lot of moist wood, or leaking pipes that serve as the main source of water, These insects can even consume books and wallpapers, so anything produces of cellulose is a great lure for them.

And note that the pests can enter a house through tiny cracks, even as thick as penny! Check for damages in walls and the floor to prevent infestation.

How termites are treated?

There are several basic methods that can be successfully used in houses:

    • Bait Systems. These are mostly used for Subterranean type, and are considered to be quite safe.
    • Chemical treatment is more efficient, but application of remedies can be hard, or even impossible in areas out of reach.
    • Fumigation gives 99% warranty that all insects inside a house will be killed. However, this is a costly method that requires living outside one’s dwelling for several days.

Should you fumigate termites?

When no other remedy helps, or insects hide in hard-to-reach areas, fumigation may be the only way out. The procedure is not complicated: a house is covered with tarps and sealed, then Vikane gas is blown inside to penetrate wooden structures. It stays inside for 18-24 hours, then released entirely. A specialist measures gas concentration, and when it decreases to a safe level, inhabitants can re-enter their dwelling. This is a reliable and effective method of treatment, but it should be performed by professionals only.

Now you know way more about termites. Although being nuisance for people, this is a very interesting creature that plays a great role in sustaining ecological balance and keeping forests clean.