What Do Termites Look Like?

What does a termite look like to the human eye? Are they black or white? Do they fly? Find out.

Among the most problematic pest issues homeowners face, termites sit comfortably atop the rankings. Part of the reason why they’re difficult to get rid of is the fact that they’re quite stealthy in their operations.

In other words, they mostly remain unnoticed until damage caused reaches an advanced level.

How Do Termites Look?

Although this might sound surprising, some homeowners can’t identify termites.

They’re likely to mistaken these pests for other bugs. If you fall into this category, there’s nothing to be ashamed about as the goal is to find solutions.

Finding solutions to termite issues begins will proper identification.

Termite Look-Alike Bugs

A lot of times, people are likely to misrepresent or confuse certain bugs for termites. Some bugs have some form of resemblance with termites.

In some other cases, these bugs feed or act in a similar way to termites.

Examples of such bugs are acrobat ants, carpenter ants, carpenter bees, powderpost beetles, and flying ants. So, what are the similarities?

Before we proceed to discuss how termites look like, let’s first briefly discuss why these bugs share some similarities with termites.

  • Similarities of Acrobat Ants to Termites

Acrobat ants have a black to shiny brown coloration and in some cases multicolored. Like termites, these insects are attracted to moisture. However, the main difference is in what they feed on.

Acrobat ants do not feed on wood as termites do. However, they cause their type of problems.

If you’re not observant enough, you may assume these ants for termites. You’ll have to look around to find if there are any mud tubes around.

If you find these ants filing or queuing in strain line without the much-needed moisture shied (mud tubes) which is common with termites, then it’s probably not termites.

  • Similarities of Carpenter Ants to Termites

In terms of physical appearance or features, the resemblance between carpenter ants and termites isn’t much. In other words, anyone can easily tell apart carpenter ants from termites.

However, a similarity between the two is seen in their destructive feeding activity on wood.

In reality, carpenter ants do not feed on wood. They only nibble or burrow through such wood. This activity usually looks as if they’re feeding on such wood.

For carpenter ants, the cellulose contained in wood makes such a ready source of food for them.

  • Similarities of Carpenter Bees to Termites

Like carpenter ants, carpenter bees look nothing like termites in terms of resemblance. However, their action on wood or wooden structures makes them similar in terms of damage.

Similar to carpenter ants, these bees tunnel through wood.

The same tunneling action is common with termites. The only difference is that termites feed on such wood.

  • Similarities of Powderpost Beetles to Termites

There are fewer similarities in terms of powderpost beetles resemblance to termites.

The only similarity lies in the type of damage caused. Powderpost beetles also burrow through wood-like termites.

The only exception is that they don’t feed on such wood.

  • Similarities of Flying Ants to Termites

Flying ants are quite common in winter and target human dwellings. Sometimes, their swarms are mistaken for termite swarms.

Also called alates, these reproductive ants always fly out during the mating season to establish new colonies. Of course, the right temperature and humidity are needed for these pests to move.

How Termites Look

Having mentioned the different bugs sharing certain similarities with termites, it’s time to discuss the physical features that set termites apart.

You’ll only need to closely compare these physical characteristics to any termite situation to see if you have an active infestation.

To identify termites, you’ll need to consider the different species available. There are four main species; subterranean termites, dampwood termites, Formosan termites as well as drywood termites.

These have slight variations in terms of appearance. For further details, let’s consider each.

i. Subterranean Termites

True to their name, subterranean termites are species of termites that mostly live beneath the soil. This helps with their moisture needs.

In terms of appearance, subterranean termites have rectangular heads, with creamy white to black or dark brown coloration.

Other physical attributes of this termite species include a long and narrow shape as well as their size which is approximately 1/8 inch.

It’s also important to state that these termites are quite common in homes.

ii. Dampwood Termites

The look of dampwood termites tends to differ a bit from those of subterranean termites. Dampwood termites have a brown to creamy-white appearance.

Asides from body coloration, they have a long and narrow shape and measure about ½ to 5/8 inch in length.

iii. Formosan Termites

Formosan termites are notorious for the scale of destruction they cause to property. In other words, they’re the most destructive termite species around.

To identify Formosan termites, you’ll need to look at their physical features. The heads of these termites are mostly rounded at the sides and taper to the front.

What more? They have a brown to creamy white coloration and have a long and narrow shape. Formosan termites measure about ½ inches long.

Apart from their characteristic large underground colonies, these termite species may also build secondary nests above ground.

iv. Drywood Termites

How do drywood termites look like?

Their body color ranges from light brown to creamy white while their shape is long and narrow. What more? In terms of size, drywood termites measure around 3/8 to 1 inch long.

Other Ways of Termite Identification Asides the Looks

While the physical attributes of termites are mostly used for identification, this is only one way of identification.

Another way of identifying these destructive pests is from their damage. Termite damage can easily be identified by taking a look at the damage caused.

For subterranean termites, the mode of entry into your building is from the substructure. This ground-up approach to damage affects certain buildings especially those with crawl spaces.

You’ll need to look for any mud tubes around as these reveal their presence.

Drywood termites on the other hand will mostly target structures along the roofline or areas closest to the roofline. They target exposed wood.

You might notice their presence from tiny holes on wood as well as frass (droppings) scattered around.

With the information provided, the difficulty involved in termite identification is resolved. You should be able to spot these pests either from their physical appearance or from the type of damage caused.

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