Termites

 

different-termite-castesTermites are tough, determined and highly efficient. According to the National Pest Management Association, termites cause 5 billion dollars in damages to homes in the United States every year and 1 billion dollars in damages in Australia. More than 365,000 homes will need the fire department this year in the US, but over 2 million homes will require termite treatment!
There are no available statistics for Cyprus or Europe about termites yet, but Cyprus has a major problem with termites attacks.

Termites are social insects best described as "little white wormy things" or "little white maggots or “white ants” belonging to the order of Isoptera1.

 They are best known for their wood eating habit. They feed on dead plants, animals, timbers, and anything that contains cellulose. Termites are known to be a good bio reactor as they can recycle anything that contains cellulose in a very short period of time because of their extremely big numbers in each nest. Most are found in climates similar to Cyprus.

The two most common types of termites are "drywood" and "subterranean" termites. Both types of termites eat cellulose for nutrition. Cellulose is found in wood and wood products. Both types of termites have the "flying termite" or "winged reproductive". These winged termites are new kings and queens attempting to establish a new colony. They may also be referred to as "swarmers". Ant colonies also send swarmers, which have nearly the same appearance as termites, but may be identified upon closer inspection. 

Of the two types of termites, subterranean and dry wood, subterranean termites typically do much more damage to structures over a shorter period of time.

Termites contribute significantly to most of the world’s ecosystems. Termites are of greatest importance in recycling wood and other plant material. Their tunneling efforts help to aerate soils. Termite activity results in patchy changes/improvements to soil composition and fertility. Compacted and encrusted soils cannot absorb water and hence will no longer support plant life. Termite tunneling can help to reclaim such damaged soils. Termites also contribute significantly to atmospheric gases.  

Biology

 

Termite Life cycleThere three "castes" in a termite colony:  

Workers: They are approximately 4-14 mm (1/4 of an inch) long, light-colored and wingless. They represent the majority of the colony population and are responsible for caring for eggs, constructing and maintaining tunnels, foraging for food and feeding and grooming of other cast members. They are white and soft bodied. 

Soldiers: They have elongated heads with mandibles. They are responsible for defending the colony. They are white, soft bodied with an enlarged, hardened head containing two large jaws, or mandibles, which are used as a weapon against predators.
Reproductives: They come in several forms, but you are most likely to see the winged, primary reproductives, which are commonly called swarmers. They are usually a brown-black to pale reddish-brown color and

about 1/4 to 3/8 inch long, with pale or smoke-gray wings. They can be confused with winged ants, but there are several distinct differences between them. A typical termite colony will have a single pair of reproductives (a "king" and "queen"). They remain in the nest and are fed by worker termites. Studies have shown that reproductive pairs can live 15-25 years.  

Winged reproductive members produce the offspring in the colony and swarm at certain times of the year. Colonies can have both primary reproductive (one king and one queen), and hundreds of secondary reproductives to assist in egg laying and colony growth.

The King termite assists the queen in creating and attending to the colony during its initial formation. He will continue to mate throughout his life to help increase the colony size. 

The Queen termite creates the colony by laying eggs and tending to the colony until enough workers and nymphs are produced to care for the colony.  She can live for more than ten years and produce hundreds of eggs each year. Colonies can each several million termites with the help of secondary queens who also produce eggs.

Habit

Live in colonies underground, from which they build tunnels in search of food; able to reach food above the ground level by building mud tubes; dependent on moisture for survival. At the surface subterranean termites create mud tubes from the soil to wooden portions of a structure. These tubes provide a protective "highway" for termites to attack your home. 

Diet

Wood and other cellulose material. Termites feed on materials that contain cellulose. These are wood, cardboard, paper and books. Plant products such as cotton and plant fibres also provide nutrition to termites.

Reproduction

Different rates of growth from egg stage to adult depending on individual species; one queen per colony, which can lay tens of thousands of eggs in its lifetime, but most eggs are laid by supplementary reproductive in an established colony.

Termites have the ability to change from one caste type to another during their immature stages. This allows the colony to change the proportion of different caste members as the need arises. 

Subterranean Termites require three things to survive:

Food (wood or other cellulose material)

A consistent source of moisture

Moderate to tropical environment

Subterranean Termites can consume over 15 pounds of wood in a single week. They can create secondary nests above the ground called "aerial colonies". These independent nests may survive independently of the ground if a water source is available.  Common interior water sources include; roof leaks, plumbing leaks, leaky showers or tubs, toilet leaks, etc... Aerial infestations must be located for effective control.

Subterranean Termites die rather quickly from dehydration when exposed to the environment due to their thin exoskeleton. To maintain the needed humidity and protect them from predators they build protective mud tubes and remain unseen most of the time.

Subterranean Termites produce a chemical odour called a pheremone, which other termites, in the colony follow to find food and water.

Termite season in Cyprus

Between March and May and September – October, termites swarm and they often misidentified as "flying ants". This is a common mistake because termite alates look very much like ants. The pictures below shows their differences.                                                        

Differences between ant and a Termite

 Termites are smaller in size

Ants have Elbowed antennae Vs Termites that have straight antennae

Termites have only the head and the body section recognized. An ant has three distinct body segments with two waistlines nearly equidistant from each other.

 

In the case that they appear in your home it would be a good idea to try taking a few photos as detail as possible and take a few samples as well for our technicians to identify with certainty whether they are termites or ants. For more information go to our Termite Control Services.

 Termites in numbers 

  • The cost of termite damage in the USA exceeds $1 billion (unfortunately no such statistics are yet available in the EU)
  • According to some estimates, three times as many homes nationwide in the US are damaged by termites compared to those damaged by fire.
  • A termite nest can easily accommodate over a million members
  • They leave underground 7-10 meters deep.
  • A Termite Queen lays 2500 (two and a half thousand) of eggs every day
  • There are 2600 taxonomically known species of termites worldwide.
  • They can consume about 2% - 3% of their body weight daily
  • A colony of subterranean termites can contain between 60,000 – 1 million members
  • They can consume 5 gr of wood daily
  • It was estimated that subterranean termite colony can consume a 2” x 4” 30cm long of wood within 118 days
  • The termite “Queen” can live between 15-25 years
  • A regular member of the colony can live up to 1 year!
  • They traver between 100m - 200m radius from their nest for seeking food.