Termites are commonly known as ‘silent destroyers’ as they have the capacity to destroy your basement, yard or furniture, and pretty much anything made of wood of plant cellulose without any immediate signs of damage. Proper identification of various termites is crucial for effective pest control in homes. The nesting behavior and moisture requirement of different termite species vary and hence, it is essential to use differentiating tactics to target and control the behavior of each species. The first and foremost step to the identification of termites is to differentiate between termite and ant. To an untrained eye, swarming termites seem similar to flying ants and worker termites look identical to insect larvae.
The key to the identification of various types of termites lies in understanding their behavioral pattern, type of wood damage, differences in species and castes.
This is an extremely common type of termite found in many parts of the world. They can be easily recognized by the hexagonal pellets that these species leave behind after eating the untreated wood. The dry-wood termites eat the wood from within and create a hollow. If you simply touch your wood in those hollow spaces, the pieces tend to wither and fall down. There are further sub-classifications of dry-wood termite. All these sub-categories have a common habit of building tunnels along the grain of the wood. You can identify various species of drywood termites based on their physical appearance.
- West Indian Drywood Termites – The swarmers have a body length of around 6mm or greater with a head width of bigger than 1 mm. These species tend to swarm at nights. The soldier species have a 5mm long body and head bigger than 1 mm width. You will find the head of this termite rough without an identifiable frontal ridge.
- Indo-Malaysian Drywood Termites – The swarmers have a body length lesser than 5mm and the head smaller than a 1mm width. These species swarm during the morning hours. Soldier varieties of the Indo-Malaysian dry wood termites have 3-4mm long body and their heads have a distinct front rim.
- Western Drywood Termite – The swarmer variety of this termite has a dark brown body with a reddish-brown color on the head. They swarm in the daytime. The soldier species have an extra-long third antenna section that succeeds the length of the subsequent antennas by at least three times. These varieties are more common in places with low elevations.
The second most prevalent type of termite is the subterranean termite. This variety is generally found in premises built on elevated foundations. These species can survive only underground, as they need high moisture levels to thrive. They build mud tubes to maintain the requisite humidity levels. They can also construct the mud tunnel on walls, cracks, wood and anything that comes in direct contact with the ground.
- Eastern Subterranean Termites – They are generally found in North America and found in swarms of thousands. They swarm mainly during the spring season. You can easily identify them by finding mud tubes or the wings of the king and queen termites.
- Western Subterranean Termites – They enter your homes through cracks in the foundation and other gaps which are as small as 1/16″ in width. You can identify them through the colonies underneath the frosty level and above the water table in the ground. They eat the cellulose part of the wood found in dressers, furniture, walls and floors.
- Desert Subterranean Termites – They are commonly found in the dry desert climatic conditions and have long mouths than wider ones found in other species. If you find a small mud tube hut hanging from ceilings, wooden walls, shelves, overhangs and the like, then you can be sure that your house has become a victim of the desert subterranean termites.
The dampwood termites thrive in high moisture conditions, and do not require staying underground or in contact with the soil to survive. You can find traces of the dampwood species near water leaks, in wall voids. They are also found in moist and decaying wood in dead trees, stumps and logs. If you find exterior damage to your wooden furniture, floors or ceilings, then you can be sure about the existence of dampwood termites in your premises. The intensity and pattern of wood damage basically depend on the level of wood decay. These termites are visibly bigger than other termite species. The different varieties of dampwood termites and all have similar identification traits. The immature termites work in colonies and use their fecal pellets to seal their living spaces so as to prevent outside air from entering.
Formosan termites are the most destructive species of termites and are sometimes, considered as part of subterranean species in most places. They can be easily distinguished from other termites due to their comparatively larger size and yellowish brown bodies. These Formosan termites can form cartons inside the wood to retain water for their colony till they find a perennial water source. Their colonies are very large, numbering to thousands and millions of members in each colony. This vast size causes damage to the wood in your premises at a lightning speed.
You should have an eagle eye to identify termites at their point of arrival. This early detection can prevent damage to your premises and furniture, and thereby, save huge costs and energy. If you see something unusual in the appearance of the wood or find many winged insects flying in your home, then it is advisable to take the help of professionals to exterminate the termites from your property.