Termite Guide: What Do They Look Like?

Termites are wood-eating insects of the order Isoptera. Like bees and ants, termites are eusocial and can live in colonies of over a million individuals. They get their nutrients from cellulose-based materials and, in large numbers, can eat away at a significant amount of wood, paper, and plant matter.

Termites are the greatest economic pests in the United States and can destroy buildings, books, documents, and photographs without a thought for their monetary or sentimental value. If you think you have termites in your house, it’s vital that you act immediately to put a stop to the damage. But how big are termites, what do they look like, and how can you tell them apart from other, similar insects?

What do termites look like?

Termites are very small insects. They are similar in size to ants, and are typically reddish, dark brown, or black in color. Some termites (the swarmers) have wings, but others (the workers and soldiers) do not.

What do baby termites look like?

Baby termites are called larvae, and they are very small and white in color.

They look like tiny versions of the adult termites and have segmented heads, legs, and antennae.

What does a queen termite look like?

The termite queen often lives for around 20 years, and is the oldest member of the colony. She is responsible for laying all of the eggs, and looks like a small termite body attached to an enormous, pale-colored abdomen. Eventually, the abdomen expands so much as a result of her egg-laying activities that she can no longer move around, and must be cared for by other members of the colony.

How to tell termites apart from other lookalike insects

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Thanks to their small size, termites are often mistaken for ants (and vice versa). Fortunately, there are some key differences between them that will help you in your identification efforts.

Wings of termites vs. wings of flying ants

Swarming termites (AKA alates) have wings and are often mistaken for flying ants. However, the wings of termites are all roughly equal in length, whereas ants have longer front wings than they do hind wings.

Antennae of termites vs. antennae of ants

As insects, both termites and ants have antennae. The key difference is that the ant’s antennae are usually bent at a 90-degree angle, whereas the antennae of termites are straight and may droop a little.

Conclusion

Termites cause enormous economic damage to homes and businesses across the United States, and must be exterminated as soon as they are found. Termites are small and dark-colored, and swarming termites have wings. As a result, they are often mistaken for ants.

However, the wings and antennae of termites are very different to those of ants. Termite wings are all roughly the same size, whereas ants have longer front wings than hind winds. Termites have straight or slightly drooping antennae, whereas ant antennae are bent at a 90-degree angle.

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