What do Termites Look Like? Termite Facts & Identification

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What do termites look like? termites have been known to cause damage and massive destruction to household properties which results in regrets by those they attack.

Their large mandibles give them the upper hand to cause these damages, but do you know that of all the members in the colony, only the workers have the ability to chew on wood.

Well, you probably didn’t know that right? then read on to find out more!

We normally get calls and queries from people: hello, pestclue I think I’ve got a termite infestation in my home, or wait is it a termite? I’m not so sure.

Pestclue as an organization is set up to assist individuals to identify this pest, know more about them, and help get rid of them.

What do termites look like? where do they live? what are they? what brings these uninvited guests to my home? these and many more questions are what this info-filled article is set to answer.

We hope to give satisfying facts to our readers and ensure you leave with happiness in mind, and peradventure you’re asked: “hey, what is that?” you’ll give a bold answer: Alas! its a termite.


Read also: Benefits of Eating Ants; Top 10 Nutritious Facts About Eating Ants


What do I Need to Know About Termites?

What do termites look like?
A Termite Nest

What do termites look like? How can I identify a termite? Before getting to identify these pests, you should know little about them and have an oversight of their behaviors.

In the world, there are over 3, 106 species of termites populating the globe and that’s not all as there are many more yet to be identified.

Termites belong to the Order Blattodea and according to scientists are described to have evolved from roaches (a member of the same order).

One very big mistake people often make is calling these guys ants or even comparing them to ants.

Termites are not in any way related to ants and do not even look anyway like ants, but only behave like ants, wasps, and bees in terms of colony division.

The colony is made up of several divisions ranging from the workers, the soldiers, of course, the king, and a fertile queen (s).

Termites are a part of the most successful groups of insects on earth as they are found on every continent of the world from Europe to Asia to Australia to Africa, e.t.c.

Although these insects can be found on every continent, there is one place you won’t and will never find them.

You obviously know this place, its Antarctica! yeah, you guessed right. Of all insects in the world, the queen termite has the longest lifespan, as they’ve been known to live for close to 50 years.

Wow! that’s a lot to take in, isn’t it?

As you read further, you’ll see that we’ve been able to describe what do termites look like and the life cycle of a termite but just to give you a glimpse you should know that termites, unlike ants, undergo incomplete metamorphosis starting from the egg through the nymph and finally to adults.

Below is a brief insight about termites we think you should know:

  • Sleeping Pattern: Sad but true, Termites never sleep! but work to build up the colony until the day they die. I guess it would also be right to say, as busy as a termite. Won’t it? (smiles).
  • Competition: A termite’s worst competition is the ants, as the soldiers of each colony (ants and termites) often battle for boundaries, food source, and dominion.
  • Damage Rate: Every year termites are estimated to cause damage to items worth 5 million dollars. Wow, that’s a whole lot of damage.
  • Feeding Abilities: In the entire colony, only workers are known to have the ability to chew wood. So try blaming the termite workers not the entire colony, that ain’t fair is it?
  • Disease Spread: You shouldn’t be scared of getting any disease from these guys as they are highly hygienic (each member of the colony spend time grooming each other to prevent disease spread).
  • Senses: Some species of termites are able to detect food sources by sensing vibrations from using their antennas.
  • Colony Division:  The queen is the one who determines which role her young one will play as it grows in the colony. Here’s how it happens: The queen secretes pheromones into her feces and feeds the little ones with these feces, the type of pheromone secreted by the queen determines the role (worker, soldier, king, or queen) each member of the colony is going to play.
  • Dependance: every member of the colony from the king to the queen to the soldier depend on the worker for food. Imagine how the colony would be like without the worker.
  • Warning Moves: Soldiers always stand guard outside the colony and hit their heads on the walls of the colony whenever they sense threat or danger.
  • Age: Termites have been known to be on earth for over 250 million years.
  • Population: In the world, there are over 2, 700 species of termites.
  • Eggs: Queens have the ability to lay up to 40, 000 eggs per day and over 10 million eggs a year. Wow, that’s way too much!

Termites are very interesting creatures and are incredibly fascinating but would you want these pests in your home? well, let’s find out.

With these brief facts, we belief you’ve gathered knowledge on what do termites look like? Keep reading to discover more.


Behavior Of Termites

Just like other insects, the termite has certain things it gets attracted to. People often term them to be very dangerous because of their large mandible structure, but are they really dangerous? well, keep reading to find out.

One thing’s certain, these insects do not deliberately bite humans or cause any damage to household properties or any wooden furniture they come across, or is that true? let’s find out!


Read also: Termite Eggs: How to Identify Termite Eggs


What do Termites Eat?

Termites are detritivores (get their food by decomposing plant or animal parts) feeders and feed on a wide range of dead plants and trees.

These insects derive nutrients found in wood and plant in the form of cellulose (organic fiber).

Although termites feed on a variety of food materials, most of their diet is made of wood (dead trees or living trees).

The food preference of these insects varies for each specie of termites involved. Below is a list of some termites and the type of wood they would prefer:

Specie of Termite Wood Preference
1. Subterranean Termite Softwood.
2. Damp Wood Termite Moist-decaying wood.
3. Dry Wood Termite Dry wood with low moisture content.

Termites feed on :

  • Wood
  • Animal feces.
  • Plant parts.
  • Paper.
  • Carpet
  • Fabric
  • Cardboard.

With the type of feeding habits these insects exhibit, you wouldn’t want to have them around would you?

Well, the feeding habit of termites is somewhat beneficial to man as they help get rid of decaying wood and trees as well as feces around us.

One amusing fact about these guys is that they have the ability to digest cellulose quickly, unlike in ruminant animals like the cow and goats which find it difficult to digest cellulose materials and end up chewing the grass for a long time to ensure the cellulose is well digested.

As stated earlier, not all termites can chew on wood but the workers alone. The feeding habit of termites is a thing of great concern as they can chew on a wide piece of wood causing damage to household properties.

You may view these pests as very small harmless creatures, but you should rethink that as these small insects can cause massive destruction to properties (causing destruction to household furniture, books, and even important documents).


What Eats Termites?

There are lots of animals that get attract to the termites with a mere sight, this will make them do anything to have the termites as diet.

However, this will compel you to know what do termites look like. Even though these uninvited guests are very disastrous and cause damage to household properties as well as crops, they also got predators that cause them bodily damage.

Below is a list of predators that will feed on termites:

  • Ants
  • Birds
  • Lizards
  • Roaches
  • Centipede
  • Frogs
  • Toads
  • Spiders
  • Dragonflies
  • Aardvarks
  • Anteaters
  • Bats
  • Bears
  • Foxes
  • Mice
  • Pangolins, etc


How do Termites Feed on Cellulose so Easily?

As mentioned above these guys have the ability to digest cellulose quickly, unlike in ruminant animals like the cow and goats which find it difficult to digest cellulose materials and end up chewing the grass for a long time to ensure the cellulose is well digested.

Why is it easy for termites to digest cellulose more than other animals? well, it’s simple, Termites have in their stomachs “Bacteria” and “Protozoa”.

I know what you’re thinking, won’t these organisms hurt them? the answer is No they don’t.

The termites have a mutual relationship with the bacteria and protozoa as these organisms produce enzymes that break down cellulose naturally.

After the cellulose has been digested, the termites (workers) receive the nutrition in the form of sugar and feed it to the other members of the colony through a mouth-to-mouth feeding process.

Their feeding habits are not so favorable for humans as they cause damage to the wooden structures of a building.

They feed on different types of food materials (especially wood which makes up most of their diet) and feed on different types of woods based on the species of termites involved.


Read also: What is a Baby Sheep Called? Sheep Grouping


How do Termites Search & Find their Food?

Termites are very hardworking insects and will work till they die. Still thinking about this query, what do termites look like?

Whenever you view a worker wandering about, it’s obviously searching for food and will share whatever they find with other members of the colony.

Whenever they find a food source, these insects start feeding on it and later on go back to the colony to recruit extra hands (workers) to come and partake in the feast.

Unlike most humans, sharing is a vital part of the termite’s hunting skill.

One amazing thing about the termites is that most species of workers do not have eyes to locate where the wood is.

How then do they locate the food source? well, these pests use strategies to find the food source.

Below is a list of strategies exhibited by the termites when searching for food:

  • Whenever food source has been located, the workers go back to the nest to get extra help, leaving behind them a chemical scent for others to follow.
  • They follow fungi scents (fungi are known to break down food materials, so where there are fungi there’s obviously a food source).
  • Wherever there is an increasing amount of soil texture, there is probably a food source close by as most soil organisms live in moist areas of the soil.
  • If they tunnel around the soil (above and below ground level)  they are likely to find a food source.
  • The more workers sent out to search for food, the more the chances to find food.


Termites and their Food Preference

In the world, there are several species of termites that inhabit the earth. These termites have the food type they would prefer, and the one they wouldn’t prefer all depending on the specie of termite involved.

We’ve been able to highlight these points in a tabular form for you the reader to understand:

Specie of Termite Food Preference
1.       Subterranean Termites & Damp wood Termites


These species of termites feed on wood that is already decaying or is in contact with a water body. If you have these pests in your home you will often find tube-like mud on walls leading from the termite nests to their food source.
2.       Dry Wood Termites This specie of termites feeds on fences, furniture, and wooden structures of the homes that remain dry. They tend to nest above ground level and will rarely come in contact with the soil. This termite enters the home directly through attic vents.


Where Do Termites Live?

Anywhere there’s wood, there are termites! or so they say. Termites will live in places close to their food source.

They can be found in furniture, soil, decayed trees, etc But based on their feeding habits, these guys live in places that seem to be more favorable for their feeding pattern.

Between the damp wood termites, the Subterranean termites, and the dry wood termites, which do you think is more abundant in a habitat? it’s the Subterranean termites (they are found in massive population in the United States of America and are usually found in the soil.

Within these mounds, termites construct a mud tunnel through which they access above ground level the food sources.

The nest of a termite is made up of two parts: the inanimate and the animate.

The inanimate part of the nest is the structure while the animate part is composed of every termite living in the colony.

Although the nest is a single structure, it is made up of 3 categories:

  • The Subterranean.
  • The Epigeal.
  • The Arboreal.


What does a Termite Look Like?

Now to the main question of the day, what do a termite look like? how do I identify one? Most people often mistake these pests for ants because of their looks.

However, there are lots of features that you can use to identify these insects and differentiate them from the ant.

Below are differences between ants and termites:

Termites Ants
1.       Termite Colors range from white to light brown in color. 1.       The color of ants varies from yellow-brown to brown and red-black to all black.
2.       Termites measure between 0.25 and 0.5 of an inch long. 2.       Ants are about 2.5 millimeters to 3 millimeters long.
3.       Termites have 4 wings with different sizes 3.  Ants have 4 wings as well but all are of the same size.
4.       Termites have 2 straight antennas. 4.  Ants have 2 curved antennas.


Termite Control

Having know what do termites look like, since termites are very hazardous and cause a great deal of damage to human properties, you obviously wouldn’t want to have them around destroying things.

Well below are brief points to be noted on termites infestation, and how to control them and prevent them as well.


Read also: What is a Group of Deer Called? Facts About Deer


How did Termites get into My Home?

These uninvited guests will force themselves into your house when a food source has been spotted. These pests usually create a link between their nest and the home they invade. Now you’ve known what do termites look like, this pest can get access into your home through:

  • Cracks around pipes and gaps around wires.
  • Furniture that is in direct contact with the ground.
  • Stacking firewood against the wall of houses.
  • Gutters near the foundation of a building.
  • Trees and shrubs planted close to the building.
  • Above ground level locations in the house that remain moist enough to support termites.


What are the Signs of a Termite Infestation?

Being able to identify what do termites look like is different from identifying termites infestation.

People often notice a termite infestation after it has already gotten deep and caused so much disaster.

What about you (the reader), do you know if you have an already massive infestation? well, worry no more as we’ve got the right solution for you.

Below are signs that show a termite infestation in your home:

  • You will obviously notice fallen wings of termites inside or outside your home.
  • Sighting of a termite is another clear sign of an already begun infestation.
  • Termite poop will be spotted if there is one.
  • Hollow sounds made by wood when hit shows an already massive infestation.
  • Tube-like walls are usually seen on the exterior parts of the walls of the building.
  • If you hear tapping sounds in the walls of your building (usually by a soldier ant) that’s a sure sign of an infestation.
  • Chewed up wood is another clear sign of a termite infestation in your home.


How do I Prevent a Termite Infestation?

Now you know the signs of a termite infestation, peradventure you have not noticed any of these signs then lucky for you, you’ve got no infestation.

But not experiencing an infestation now doesn’t guarantee you of not experiencing one later on. Which is why we are here to help you with ways to prevent a termite infestation:

  • Get rid of the food sources.
  • Keep firewood far away from your home foundation.
  • Get rid of stumps near your house.
  • Inspect furniture for any damage.
  • No wood in your home should make contact with the soil.
  • Ensure to repair leaks in water pipes and Alternative Current units.
  • Divert water channel from your building foundation as this may lead them straight to your home.
  • Keep gutters clean
  • Remove excessive plant cover and wood mulch in your surrounding environment.
  • Get rid of stagnant water on the roof of your building.
  • Keep all vents cleaned and opened.
  • Seal entry points around water pipes


Do Termites Bite?

People often ask these questions, will a termite bite me? well, the answer is Yes, but not deliberately or because they want to but because they’re forced to.

A termite wouldn’t bite you unless it is scared or feels threatened. The soldier termites are the ones with this ability, as they bite and chew insects, but it is indeed rare for a termite to bite humans.

There isn’t much of a difference between being bitten by a termite and being bitten by a mosquito, as you won’t suffer any health implications whatsoever.

Irritation in the area should subside within a few days, but you do not stand a risk of getting infections or diseases because of the bite (termites are very hygienic insects as each member of the colony spends time grooming each other to prevent disease spread).


Read also: Bumblebees vs Honey Bees; Facts, Differences, and Comparison


How do I Treat a Termite Bite?

If you’ve been bitten by a termite, you don’t need to be alarmed as listed below are simple remedies to termite bite:

  • Mix skimmed milk and water in an equal proportion.
  • Soak a rag in the mixture.
  • Apply the soaked rag on the affected area of your skin for at least 6 minutes.



There are a lot of mistakes people often make when it comes to nature such as the case of the termite and the ants.

People often mistake the lovely termites to be ants, they are not sure if its an ant or a termite, they are sometimes confused if these termites are dangerous, or if they bite humans.

But luckily this article has been able to answer one of these many questions, What do termites look like? After reading this article we’ve been able to give you the courage to say ” Alas! I know what a termite looks like.

For more info, contact us and make your contributions or queries. We’re glad to have been of help to you and do well to subscribe to get more info about pests, pets, animals, as well as pest control services. Thank you!

Ememobong Umoh is one of the prominent authors of Pestclue. He is an undergraduate who is experienced in the field and has written numerous mind thrilling articles about insects and animals.

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