Subterranean Termite Facts
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What Are Subterranean Termites?
Like all other termites, subterranean termites are eusocial insects. This means that they partake in cooperative care of offspring, divide labor between reproductive and non-reproductive groups. This division of labor creates specialized groups of termites that perform specific tasks. These groups are called castes. Termites live in colonies whose castes consist of soldiers, reproductive, and workers.
Subterranean termites have been around for millions of years. Subterranean termite colonies can range in size from 20,000 to 1 million individual insects depending on the maturity of the colony. A subtype of subterranean termites called Formosan termites lives in enormous colonies that can include around 10 million individual insects.
Subterranean termites are the most common species of termite found in North America and are considered the largest contributor to termite damage annually. Subterranean termites require moist environments and usually nest in or near the soil which keeps them safe from the threat of death by dehydration. Because they need moist environments, they are commonly found in decaying wood that is touching soil which acts as a source of moisture.
Behavior And Appearance By Caste Position
Each member of a termite caste is a different size and color. Worker termites are around 1/8 to 3/8 of an inch long. Worker termites have soft bodies and are creamy-white in color. They are also blind and wingless. Soldier termites are the same length as workers but have larger, rectangular heads with long, black, powerful mandibles. Soldiers have white bodies and yellowish-brown heads. Both workers and soldiers are sterile. Alates are winged, sexually mature adults that do the reproductive work of the colony. They are larger than other termites, are typically dark down to brownish-black with brownish-gray wings.
Worker termites make up about 90-98% of the members of the colony. They perform most of the work of foraging for food and water, build and maintain the mud shelter tubes, and feed and groom all the other termites in the colony. It is even their job, along with the King termite, to care for the eggs and young of the colony. The soldier termite’s primary job is to defend the colony from invaders. Soldiers are not capable of feeding themselves, so worker termites feed them regurgitated food.
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