What Does a Termite Look Like?

About 50 species of termites occur in the United States, and they all have similar attributes:

  • Like other insects, termites have six legs and a body divided into three main regions: head, thorax, and abdomen.
  • Termites grow to be ¼-½ inch in length and range in color from off-white to dark brown or red in color.
  • These wood-boring insects have soft, straight bodies, straight antennae, and some have wings that are the same length.
  • Individuals within a termite colony may appear quite different and perform specialized tasks.
  • These life forms, known as castes, include reproductives, workers, and soldiers.
What does a termite look like in Atlanta; Call Active Pest Control for Termite Control and Prevention

How do Different Termite Types Differ in Appearance?

There are two factors that determine a termite’s appearance: their type and their caste. For example, drywood termites are larger, pale yellow to darker brown in color and their wings range from clear to smokey gray. In comparison, subterranean termites are smaller and are most often an off-white to dark brown/black color. Knowing the differences between these types of termites is essential in identifying which one may be infesting your home.

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What are the Characteristics of the Termite Castes?

In Atlanta, termite colonies contain distinct types of individuals or castes that differ in both form and function. Each of these differs in size, color, and shape but typically has similar characteristics throughout the types. The three basic castes and their characteristics are as follows:

  1. Reproductive caste: The reproductives produce all the offspring in a termite colony. They also play a major role in the formation of new colonies. Two types of reproductives occur, primary and secondary. The primary reproductives are the king and queen who are the founders of the colony and were formerly swarmers.
  2. Alates/Swarmer: Winged reproductives that vary in color between species, they all have significantly sized wings that enable them to fly.
  3. Worker caste: Soft-bodied, creamy-white insects with large dark heads that damage wood with their powerful mandibles.
  4. Soldier caste: With their enlarged, hard yellowish-brownish head, and two large jaws (mandibles), the primary role of soldier termites is to defend the colony.

Identifying Termites by Appearance

People often confuse termites with ants because of their somewhat similar appearance. Alates and swarmers are the only castes homeowners will ever see, and knowing the differences in caste and appearance can help diagnose and treat any termite infestation you may have.