Common Name: Termites
Order Name: Isoptera
They are blind, eat your home from the inside out causing $5 billion in damage per year in the United States alone, and since they need shelter to stay moist, you hardly ever see them. These are the termites. There are many types of termites but the ones causing most of the damage are the subterranean termites. In nature, they live in the ground as they need carefully measured amounts of moisture to survive, but when they invade our homes, they build their own conduits or shelter tubes to get the moisture that they need.
In some parts of the world, such as Australia, subterranean termites can build mounds taller than a human. All termites species live in social colonies meaning that they have a queen and a hierarchy with each type of termite, or caste. Each caste is responsible for specific work such as tending young, defending the colony, or reproducing. Termite colonies encountered by homeowners typically have multiple queens which can lay eggs.
Termites are some of the most fascinating insects in nature. A colony works twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. They communicate through scents called pheromones, and by their droppings. Not all termites are subterranean, however. Drywood termites live above ground in structures and eat the wood. Termites, both subterranean and non-subterranean, consume wood as they have special microbes in their guts which help digest the cellulose found in wood. They will consume anything made of cellulose including wood in houses, drywall backing, books, cardboard boxes, cabinets, floors, and anything else which contains cellulose.
Termites are responsible for more damage than any other household pest. In nature, they play an important role, breaking down waste cellulose such as fallen trees. There are documented cases where termites have caused up to a million dollars in damage in homes. The information contained in the following pages will give you a great insight into this incredible insect.