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TERMITE INFO

PESTS INFORMATION - TERMITES

Subterranean termites are social insects that live in colonies that may contain hundreds of thousands of individuals. Termite colony members are dispersed throughout the soil and can extend underground tunnels tens to hundreds of feet to reach feeding sites.

Each termite colony contains three forms or castes, which are the workers, soldiers, and reproductives. These castes are physically distinct and perform different tasks in the termite society.

Workers are about 1/8 inch long and are blind, wingless, soft-bodied, creamy white to grayish-white with a round head. Workers are the most numerous individuals in a termite colony, and they are the termite caste that actually eats the wood.

These sterile individuals forage for food and water, construct and repair shelter tubes, feed and groom other termites, care for eggs and young, and participate in colony defense. Soldiers are also wingless and resemble workers except that they have a large, rectangular, yellowish-brown head with large mandibles (jaws). The soldiers primary function is colony defense.

Male and female reproductives can be winged (primary) or wingless (neotenic). Each can produce new offspring. Winged primary reproductives are called alates or swarmers. However, they shed their wings soon after flight. Their body color varies by species from black to yellow-brown. The eastern subterranean termite, Reticulitermes flavipes, is the most common termite in Ohio and its alates are black and about 0.4 inch long, with pale or grayish, translucent wings.

A pair of primary reproductives that heads a colony is called the king and queen. Neotenic reproductives often serve as replacements if something happens to the king and queen. Neotenic reproductives are generally yellow or mottled black and the female’s abdomen may be distended due to developing eggs.

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