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About the Behavior of Termites

Updated on October 12, 2012
A worker termite
A worker termite

The Termite

Termite colonies work together through the communication of vibration and touch because they are blind. They have a distinct hierarchy that begins with a king and queen. A king and queen are born into a colony and they take flight to start new colonies. When they find a food source, like an old untreated wooden porch, they use their saw like jaws to bore and eat into the wood. In the wood, the king and queen will shed their wings, seal themselves in the wood, and mate. The new colony of termites starts when the queen, who can live up to 25 years, begins to lay her eggs.

The new termites are born as workers and soldiers. The queen termite feeds the workers until they are able to feed on the wood themselves. The worker termites help spread the new colony by making tunnels and providing a trail of scent to new food. The worker termites are responsible for feeding the soldier termites. The soldier termites defend the colony. The termites of each colony make a certain scent and the intrusion of a new scent can cause the soldier termites to react in defense.

The Food Source

Termites seek out food to help feed the young workers and enrich the colony. The termites like to stay hidden and protected and create small tunnels, known as “mud tubes”, to travel to the source of food. It is common to see a termite mound built from the ground to the infested structures. The types of food termites seek out must be cellulose based. Termites have a protozoa in their metabolism that will allow them the ability to digest anything cellulose. Termites take off small bits at a time from the wood or food source. Food sources include wood, sheet rock, wood paneling, flooring, paper, and fabrics made from plant fibers.

The Damage

Damage from termites may take anywhere from three to eight years to show up. Renovations or minor repairs may uncover some infestations. "Mud tubes", holes in various directions, and regurgitated wood particles and other material around openings are some signs there is infestation and damage. Damage from termites include damage to porches, dressers, shelving units, dead trees, docks, roofing, and cause major amounts of costly damage over years to building foundations. It is good to recognize a termite infestation before too much damage happens upon the structure.


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