Identification of the common termite can be done quite easily even by people who don’t know much about termites themselves. Most commonly, people refer to the identification of a termite as a “little white ant”. While this is generally true as termites do closely resemble the common ant, there are differences in termites which can make identification a little more in-depth.
Termites are social insects and live in a very strict social civilization. Each termite in the colony looks different which makes identification a little more complicated. Their specific job within the colony dictates how they look. Inside the termite colony, there are workers, soldiers, queen, kings, and reproductives.
Workers represent the majority of the colony population and are responsible for caring for eggs, constructing and maintaining tunnels, foraging for food and feeding and grooming of other caste members. They are white and soft bodied. Identification of the worker termite is where the “little white ant” comment comes in because the worker termite does look like a lightly colored ant.
Soldiers are responsible for defending the colony. They are white, soft bodied with an enlarged, hardened head containing two large jaws, or mandibles, which are used as a weapon against predators. Identification of the soldier termite can be done by looking at the head and noticing it is larger than a worker termite.
The Queen termite creates the colony by laying eggs and tending to the colony until enough workers and nymphs are produced to care for the colony. She can live for more than ten years and produce hundreds of eggs each year. Colonies can each have several million termites with the help of secondary queens who also produce eggs. Identification of the queen termite can be done by looking at her body as she will have a longer body that is lightly colored with a small head.
The King termite assists the queen in creating and attending to the colony during its initial formation. He will continue to mate throughout his life to help increase the colony size. Identification of the King termite, again, can be done by looking at his body. His body is shorter than the queen’s and dark in color, but it is still larger than that of the other colony members.
Finally, there are winged reproductives. These termites produce the offspring in the colony and swarm at certain times of the year. King and queen termites are included in the reproductive classification, but they are not winged. Identification of the reproductive termite is not surprisingly done by looking for the wings on the body. Their size is somewhere in between the King and queen.