What Does a Termite Look Like?
Even though termites are best identified by their habits and behaviors, it is important to know their physical attributes to help determine which type of termite you may have.
Although there are many types of termites in the United States, they all typically share similar attributes:
- Termites grow to be ¼-½ inch in length and range in color from off-white to dark brown or red in color.
- They have soft, straight bodies, straight antennae, and some have wings that enable them to swarm.
- Different species of termites have unique physical attributes and behaviors that help identify them.
- Termites also have castes that separate them by their specific role, and each one differs in appearance.
How Different Termite Types Vary in Appearance
There are two factors that determine a termite’s appearance: their type and their caste. For example, dampwood termites are much larger than other kinds of termites and can have a reddish tint to their brown bodies. Drywood termites, on the other hand, can be a yellow-brown color, and wings that range from transparent to somewhat gray. Subterranean termites are typically an off-white to dark brown/black color. Although it’s unlikely you will ever see physical termites in your home, professional exterminators can use the appearance of a termite to determine which type you may have.
Termite Caste Characteristics
Termite populations are divided up into a caste system based on what job they perform in their colony. Each of these castes differ in size, color, and shape but typically hold similar characteristics throughout the types. The main castes and their characteristics are as follows:
- Worker termites: These make up the majority of a colony and have an off-white to creamy colored appearance.
- Alates/Swarmer termites: While these vary in color between species, they all have wings that allow them to fly and are eventually shed.
- Soldier termites: Often confused for ants, soldier termites have large, dark heads with powerful mandibles.
- Queen termites: The queen termite has a large, translucent egg-producing chamber on its body and can grow to the size of a human finger.
Identifying Termites by What They Look Like
Termites are often confused with ants, and homeowners will most often see swarmer termites if any at all. Bottom line: Termites are rarely seen, but a professional can learn a lot about the severity of your infestation if the type of termite is known. The differences in appearance between the types and castes is extremely helpful in diagnosing and treating termite activity in your home.