Although beneficial to nature, in 2005, The National Pest Management Association estimated that termites caused over $5 BILLION in damage each year.
Termites have been around for almost 120 million years. They are social insects and live in colonies which are usually located in the ground or wood. Most termites feed on cellulose from wood and wood by-products (such as paper, cardboard, etc). There are about 50 species here in the United States. The Subterranean Termite is the most prevalent in Maryland.
Subterranean termites live underground and build tunnels, referred to as mud tubes, to reach food sources and to protect themselves from open air. Like other termite species, they feed on products containing cellulose. Subterranean termites swarm in the spring – groups of reproductive termites go off to start new colonies. Subterranean termites need contact with the soil to survive and live underground. They can build tunnels through cracks in concrete.
Termite colonies are organized into castes depending on tasks – workers, soldiers, primary reproductives. The characteristics of a subterranean termite are dependent on the termite’s role in the colony:
- Workers: Creamy white with head slightly darker; wings are absent.
- Soldiers: They are sterile and only have one function, to protect the colony. The enlargement of the head and mandibles is such that they must be fed by the workers and they are present in far fewer numbers than the workers.
- Reproductives: The primary reproductives are the king and queen which are the swarmers that started the colony. The king and queen mate periodically, and the queen may live up to 30 years or longer.