There over thousands termite species around the world. The great majority of termite species live in tropical climates while a few live in other climates. In United States there are about 45 species. Subterranean termites live in soil or in wood that is in contact with the earth. In character, they perform a vital function by eating wood and breaking down the cellulose, so that the soil gets enriched again. However when they try to do the same thing with wood used in human construction they become pests.
Termites like other social insects like bees or ants tend to live in huge groups centered on their nests. Like bees and ants, termites in the same nest are divided into various groups according to the roles they perform on behalf of the nest, such as soldiers, workers, nymphs, etc. These functional groups differ quite considerably from each other.
Termite eggs look like jelly beans and are quite small. Once the queen lays them it is the duty of the workers to look after them. Larvae are the next stage. They are colorless and have soft heads. They too are dependent on the workers to care for them. Termite workers have a soft creamy white body and a darker head with hardened mouth. They are the most numerous group of termites and perform various roles. These include finding and eating wood so that they can satisfy the others, and they also build and continue the tunnels to prevent the nest from drying out. The termite workers will molt several times during their lives renewing their mouth pieces. Some of them can also start reproducing if separated from the nest.
Termite soldiers are large compared to others and guard the nest. They have huge heads and long mouths to attack any invaders. They have to depend on the workers to satisfy them. comparatively few soldiers are found in a termite nest. Nymphs are a special group that can molt into winged termites that can fly away to find new nests. They too can start reproducing if separated from the nest.
Reproductive termites produce eggs. There can be several reproductive termites in a nest but there will always be at the minimum one male and one female. There are several types of reproductive termites. Main brownish black colored reproductive termites only appear when the nest mature and will try to fly way to create a new nest after pairing with another one.
Termites workers locate wood on the surface of the soil and starts feeding on them after constructing tubes or tunnels to the wood from the nest so that termites can get protected access to it. However, feeding will progress at a very slow rate. It will usually take months for anyone to see any noteworthy damage to the wood. Termites prefer the soft grained part of the wood so that after they have infested a piece of wood to the complete, only the hard grained part and an outer shell will keep. This makes it hard to tell whether the wood is infested or not.