Every year when termite colonies mature, alates or reproductive termites go out to start new colonies.
This happens once or twice a year and is the time you see winged swarming termites in and around your house. Big ants look like termites so it’s easy to confuse flying ants with termite swarmers.
Knowing what color termites are will prove useful in identifying which caste or which type it belongs to and differentiating it from flying ants. This will keep you from calling your local exterminator for false alarms where you've really got an ant problem, not a termite problem.
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Let us dig deeper into the different colors and common types of termites.
So, What Color Are Termites?
Termites may be secretly multiplying and hiding an entire nest in your yard or even your house without you knowing. These detritivores, consume cellulose in dead plants, trees and dead parts of living trees. Termites love wood in trees, soil, houses, and other things made of wood. These sneaky critters can be divided into different groups. These termites even vary in color and other characteristics.
Based On Caste
Termites, like their look-alike ants, are grouped into three primary castes corresponding to their duty and function in the colony. The color of termites and their physical characteristics differ based on the chores they have to accomplish.
Worker Termites. These workers are non breeders, smaller in size and are great in number. They have soft bodies and are pale in color. They can be off-white or rice-colored that can sometimes look like jelly but not see-through like glass. If the termite has a mottled color, this means the termite is sick. For instance, subterranean termites that dry out easily above ground.
Soldier Termites. Soldiers are also sterile, but are slightly larger than workers but smaller than breeders. They are also pale in color with soft bodies. Their heads are enlarged and have more pronounced mandibles. The colors of their big heads come in a range of colors from yellow to red orange to black for more biting power to protect the colony. Their larger heads have white spots that look like eyes although all termite soldiers and workers are blind.
Reproductive Termites (also known as Alates, Breeders, Termite Swarms). Breeders’ colors are darker than non-breeders and ranges from pale yellow to light brown, and even dark brown to black. They have larger and harder bodies with long wings. These characteristics aid the alates in retaining moisture especially when they fly out of their nests.
Based On Type
The United States is home to about 45 various kinds of termite species that fit into one of the three main termite types. Every species has its particular biology and behavior that influence which part of the country they stay in, where they form their colonies and their tendency to tear homes.
Subterranean Termites. The subterranean swarmers have solid black bodies with white wings. These termites are most abundant in the United States because they can thrive in any state except Alaska. Because they are greater in number and are spread more widely than other types, this type causes the most damage in the country. They live in soil and build huge nests connected to food sources via mud tubes because they need contact with soil. Another species of subterranean termite worth discussing are the Formosan termites. The Formosan swarmers are distinct from other subterranean termites because of its bigger size and yellowish brown body. The Formosan can cause massive damage due to their very large nest and not because of their eating speed or habits.
Drywood Termites. Drywood swarmers have solid red bodies with black wings. They love dead trees, hardwood floors or structural timbers. These termites do not require contact with soil and have smaller colonies so damage caused is not as massive as that of subterranean termites.
Dampwood Termites. These thrive in very moist wood so are usually found in the western US and do not need contact with soil.
Termites of various species all live in colonies with different castes. Knowing their color will help you in identifying whether you have a real termite problem at home or an ant problem. Knowing what the real issue is half the battle of dealing with it.