What do Termites look like?
Termites are a pain in the backside, they cause total devastation to properties and also look creepy. What do termites look like exactly? You may have seen the damage caused in there wake but there physical appearance may have escaped
you. First its important to know the differences between them. The two types of termites you are likely to encounter will be Subterranean termites and Mound termites it is important for you to identify them as they act and look differently then one another.
Subterranean termites tend to be creamy white to light brown or black in colour, they are about an eighth of an inch long and are narrow oval shape. Mound Termites are very similar to the subterranean termite except for their jaw shape.
Most of the differences can be found in their behaviour.
Different species of termites in Australia
There are around 360 species of termites in Australia, but only a small number cause economic damage to crops, timber and other cellulose-based products. The majority of termites are of great benefit to ecosystems through recycling dead and rotten timber and other plant matter and as a source of food to many animals.
Termites have different feeding habits and preferences and differing potential for causing damage. So it is important to identify the species of termite in an infestation to provide the most effective long-term control of the pests. The most common termite species that are found in infestations around Australia are.
Subterranean, drywood and dampwood termites. The subterranean termites is the most common type of termite that feeds upon wood in buildings and is also one of the most destructive pests worldwide.
Outdoors they mainly infest dead wood in contact with the soil, such as fallen trees, stumps and fallen branches. They have a preference for wood that has some degree of rot already, which makes it easier for them to digest it, it is important to note they can still eat away at wood that is not rotting too!
Subterranean termites need to be near a source of moisture to survive, making their nests in or near the ground where they can easily acquire moisture from the soil. They tunnel through soil to access moist soil or timber and in dry seasons they tunnel down deeper into the soil to reach moisture.
What are the differences between termites and ants?
To the untrained eye ants and termites seem very similar, a brief look at a termite and you may be fooled into thinking its an ant, infact many people think termites look like ants. But there’s many key differences that will aid you to identify termites and tell them apart.
Both insects have two sets of wings. Termite wings are pretty much the same in size while ants have two large forewings and two smaller hind wings. Sometimes you may only find wings. And if they’re all the same size then they are probably termite wings.
If the wings are different sizes, then they are probably ant wings. One of the key differences between termites and ants is the shape of their bodies. Carpenter ants, along with other ants, have narrow abdomen Termites, on the other hand, have more broad abdomen.
Another indicator is Termite antennae as they are unique from those of ants because they look like little beads or balls, and are straight. Ant antennae however are noticeably elbowed.
The lifecycle of a termite
The life cycle of the termite starts with a mating flight, where swarming winged reproductive male and female leave their established colonies and begin procreating. After fertilization, winged termites land and shed their wings. This allows them to go on to to start new colonies.
These insects then become the king or queen termites of their new colony. The termite queen and king are at the centre of the termite life cycle and are responsible for reproduction. After the now fertilized queen lays her eggs, they hatch into small pale white larvae. They then molt to develop into worker termites, soldiers, and primary or secondary reproductives within the colony.
The next stage is nymphs which are young termites going through the process of shedding its exoskeleton, to become a reproductive. Termites develops a soft exoskeleton under its current, hard exoskeleton. Once the termite has reached maturity, its outermost skeleton splits open, and the new exoskeleton enlarges and hardens. This molting process continues throughout a termite’s life cycle based on the colony’s needs.
Some research has indicated that maturity and the overall needs of the colony may dictate caste assignment. In fact, research has shown that castes in the termite life cycle are not rigidly set, as termites belonging to one caste may develop into another caste if the colony requires it. Termite soldiers may become a termite worker or a reproductive termite if the colony experiences a shortage of one or the other, or if there is no need to defend the colony.
The termite life cycle also includes swarming. Once reproductive termites become fully mature they develop wings and functioning eyes. The bodies of these male and female termites, now are called alates, they also become harder and darker to help the swarming termites withstand exposure to light and less humid air.
Studies have shown that queen termites can live up to decades under ideal climate conditions. This is massively different to the lifespan of workers and soldiers that live approximately one to two years.
What are the early signs of a termite problem?
The easiest way to discover signs of termites is by finding droppings. Drywood termites may leave behind small, wood coloured pellets. You can find these deposits anywhere. As they tunnel, termites like to keep their areas clean.
To do that, they must remove their excrement from their path. Their droppings can often have the appearance of coffee grounds or sawdust. Certain species of termites need to stay moist. Subterranean termites create mud tubes to get around. If you discovered these tube-like mud structures, you may have a termite problem.
Termites create these tubes from moist soil to get from their colony to their food source. You can spot them around your home on hard surfaces usually or your foundation. It’s important to walk around your home with a sharp eye for signs of these mud tubes.
Termites feed on many types of things as termites are detritivores, or detritus feeders. They feed on dead plants and trees. Termites get nutrients from cellulose, an organic fiber found in wood and plant matter. Wood makes up the majority of the pests’ diet, although termites also eat other materials such as paper, plastic, and drywall.
What did termites evolve from?
Scientists have recently discovered termites evolved from cockroaches 170 million years ago, probably in Africa or Asia. Termites evolved from cockroaches by acquiring the ability to digest cellulose, the main compound in plant cell walls (and wood), and the most abundant organic molecule on Earth.
As for if they will continue to evolve that is up to speculation, it is likely that they will evolve to not need the moisture, which in turn will make them more difficult to manage!
How long does a termite colony take to do damage?
One of the most likely ways termites can infest your home is through wood to ground contact, including doorframes, deck supports, and porch steps. Subterranean termites also enter homes through cracks in the foundation and cracks in brick mortar.
Sometimes, they even use the holes in concrete blocks to travel through foundation walls. So be wary of these areas and check them for any potential signs of infestation. Termite damage is very expensive to repair, so it’s always better to stop it before it happens.
If you suspect you’re dealing with termites in your home, don’t wait to find your local branch for pest control when termite infestation strike. it all comes down to the timing. The sooner you can get them out of your home, the better. Pest management agents will easily be able to your situation and the different types of termites inside your property, from drywood termites, termite soldiers, worker termites and more.
How can you protect your home from termites?
The best and the most reliable method of eliminating termites is the use of baits. It is safe because it is targeted towards the pests and does not affect other animals or humans unlike sprays which potentially can.
Termite baits consist of cardboard, or other termite food, combined with a slow acting substance that is lethal to termites. The bait must be attractive enough to compete against the presence of competing tree roots, stumps, woodpiles etc. also found in the area.
If the bait kills too quickly dying or dead termites may accumulate in the area of the bait station, increasing the chance of other termites avoiding it. Delayed action bait also greatly enhances transmission of the lethal substance to other termites, including those that weren’t initially feeding on the bait such as the termite king and queen.
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