Termite Identification

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Identifying termites is a key step in being able to prevent them from doing considerable damage to your home or business premises.

Correctly identifying them will ensure the most effective treatments are deployed to control them and prevent future infestations.


What Do Termites Look Like?

Termites are typically small, soft-bodied insects that can be white, brown or grey in colour.

They look similar to flying ants which is why many people have difficulty telling them apart but there are numerous differences.

Termites have wings that are of equal size while ants have front wings that are much bigger than the wings they have at the back.

Also, termites have no eyes while ants have compound eyes. The antennas are different too. Termite antennas are long and beaded while ant antennas are slightly curved or bent like an elbow.


Termite Identification: Body Anatomy

Termites do not possess any body armour, and their bodies are divided into three main parts – the head, thorax and abdomen.

They have six legs with two protruding from the thorax and four protruding from the abdomen.

Owing to the fact that the thorax and the abdomen appear as one section, the wood-destroying insects look like they only have two parts – a head and a body.


Termite Identification: The Caste System

Termites live in their colonies according to a caste system where members of each caste or group are adapted to perform specific functions.

This results in some marked physiological differences between castes.


  • Queen termites

They have several roles that vary over time and include locating a suitable nest site, getting the colony started and producing eggs.

Queens have huge bodies which are basically egg-producing factories that can lay as many as 30,000 eggs per day.

This number varies according to the age of the queen and the termite species.

The queen is so large that she is unable to look after herself and so she is fed and cleaned by worker termites.

She has the longest lifespan of all types of termites, ranging from 25 to 50 years.


  • King termites

A king termite is second only to the queen. Their roles have not been greatly studied by entomologists, but they include helping to establish colonies and mating with the queen.

They spend their lives entirely underground.

The king and the queen are also known as the primary reproductives.


  • Workers

They carry out many functions necessary to sustain a colony such as tending to the eggs and young termites, repairing the nest and gathering food.

It’s because of this function that these are the termites that you are most likely to see.


  • Soldiers

These are the defenders of a colony. Their dark yellow heads possess dark brown pincers to attack invaders.

Termite colonies also have secondary and tertiary reproductives, back-up teams to assist with egg-laying if needed.


Termite Identification: Australian Termite Species

There are more than 350 termite species living in Australia and they are classified into three ecological categories.

  • Subterranean termites

These are the most destructive types of termites and infest building timbers, fallen trees, stumps, fallen branches and dead wood that is in contact with the soil.

  • Drywood termites

These insects can survive without living in the soil because they get the moisture they need from the wood they consume and the humidity in the air.

  • Dampwood termites

These are the largest of all termite species and live inside the timber they feast on.

They normally infest decayed wood that is moist because of contact with the soil, such as tree stumps and logs.

Dampwood termites are also sometimes called rotten wood termites.