Isoptera: Termites

(from the Greek isos = equal + ptera = wings)

Termites are small soft-bodied, social insects with incomplete metamorphosis, chewing mouthparts and “beaded” antennae composedTermite Swarmer of a series of round segments. The three principal types of termites in Florida are subterranean (nest in the soil), dampwood (infest damp wood), and drywood termites (infest dry wood). Subterranean termites are the most destructive and frequently encountered kind of termite found throughout the state. They nest in colonies and stay undergrouand at all times, except for the kings and queens, which are active during the swarming season. The colony is made up of castes, including many workers, some soldiers, and a queen. Termites either feed on wood that is beneath the soil or they build hollow, mud-like, shelter tubes from the ground to reach wood not in contact with the soil. The shelter tubes protect the termites from being exposed to light, dry air, and predators. In nature, termites are an essential part of the ecosystem. But when termites attack homes and other structures, they are serious pests. Millions of dollars are spent each year to protect homes from termite attack.


Ants that nest or swarm around homes are often confused with termites. Ants can be distinguished from
termites by making the following comparisons:

Termites Ants
1. Abdomen broadly jointed to the thorax
2. Antennal segments round, and all of equal size
3. Workers and soldiers lack eyes
4. Wings of swarmers are twice the length of the body
5. All wings the same length
1. Abdomen narrowly jointed to the thorax
2. First antennal segment about as long as the rest combined
3. Workers and soldiers almost always have eyes
4. Wings of swarmers are less than twice the body length
5. Hind wings are shorter than front wings