What Does a Termite Look Like?
Termites are commonly referred to as white ants. The truth is that they are neither white nor ants. In fact termites are more closely related to cockroaches than ants. Termites have three castes that are commonly found by homeowners so we will deal with those three here. Most worker termites tend to take on the colour of the timber that they are consuming as they have an opaque skin.
Alates are the winged reproductive caste of termites. The size of alates varies from species to species however generally they will be between 6-10 mm long. Alates (called swarmers in the US) are usually only seen in spring or summer, after a very warm and humid day and given quite nevertheless conditions they will leave the nest en masse. They have clear veined wings which they drop very shortly after landing. The purpose of this colonizing flight is to establish new colonies.
The soldier caste of termites carries out the function that the name indicates. Large numbers of soldier termites exist throughout the colony placed strategically to ensure that if intruders are found that they can be swiftly dispatched. Some species of termite have the ability to exude a substance from the fontanel on their head which is useful in warding of enemy ants etc. Soldier termites do not satisfy themselves they are fed by the worker termites and are often the last in the colony to receive food.
Worker termites are the caste which causes the most damage to buildings, being the termites at the coal confront. except being the gatherers of food, these termites are responsible for the dispensing of food to the Queen, King and other castes. The workers are also responsible for building the shelter tubes that protect the termites from the outside ecosystem and also for providing moisture for the colony.
Have a look at the following link to a video of some coptotermes spp termites in a tree
If you speculate that you have found termites ensure that you consult a termite specialist company. Termites are not the kind of pest that you should treat yourself. If you are unsure that the pest you have found is a termite take a digital photograph (close up) and email to me at the address below. I will endeavour to confirm if it is indeed a termite. Due to some dubious photography skills this is not always possible however I will do my best.