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Termites: information and resources

Knowing what termites look like and understanding their colony, diet, and lifecycle can aid in the early detection of termites in your home, and early detection is key to avoiding an infestation. Termites are silent destroyers and having a termite infestation in your home can cause major damage to your property and your wallet.

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What do termites look like?


  • Size: ⅛” to 1” in length

  • Color: Varies - shades of white, black, or brown

  • Body: Three body segments including the head, thorax, and abdomen, with no distinct break between the thorax and abdomen

Termite species you should know

There are approximately 2,000 known termite species in the world all varying in shape, color, and size. Below are three of the most commonly found termite species on the east coast.

Subterranean termites

Found throughout North America, subterranean termites are the most common and most destructive termites a homeowner may encounter.

Drywood termites

In the United States, drywood termites are common in southern coastal states and are most active when temperatures heat up.

Formosan termites

Common in South Florida and gulf coast states, Formosan termites live in larger underground colonies and are the most aggressive termite species.

Check out more resources on different termites and how to tell the difference between them.

What you need to know about termites

  • Colony

    Every termite colony has three termite castes: workers, soldiers, and reproductives. Each of these individual castes has different roles. Workers are the termites who gather the wood, soldiers build the shelter, and reproductives are the kings and queens who reproduce. Depending on the type of termite, colonies may be built in the soil below ground (subterranean and Formosan) or inside the wood (drywood).

  • Lifecycle

    Termites go through a metamorphosis including egg, nymph, and adult. Depending on the species, some queens can lay up to 30,000 eggs per day. After an egg hatches, it turns into a nymph, and then into an adult. Once it becomes an adult it is classified into one of three termite castes: worker, soldier, or reproductive.

  • Diet

    The primary food source for termites is cellulose. Cellulose is an organic fiber found in wood and other grass plants. Many termites feed on wood that is partly decayed. These tiny pests can break down the wood into smaller substances making it easier for them to chew and digest. Cellulose has all the nutrients needed for a termite to survive.

Termites vs. ants

Since both pests are incredibly tiny, termites are often confused with ants. Let’s look at two of the most common ant species that are confused with termites: flying ants and carpenter ants.

Flying ants vs. flying termites

Flying ants and flying termites are two very different pests. Flying ants fly away from their ant colonies in hopes to grow their colony. They are looking to mate with ants from other areas. Flying termites, on the other hand, are one of the first indicators of a serious termite infestation.

So, how do you tell the difference between flying ants and termites? For one, termites are smaller than ants and have straight antennae, as opposed to flying ants which have bent antennae. Termites also have fewer segments in their body and straighter abdomens, whereas flying ants have thin abdomens that are broken into segments.

A flying atn on a blue blanket.

Carpenter ants

Termites and carpenter ants are often confused because the season for both species’ swarmers happens at the same time each year. The major difference between termites and carpenter ants is the damage they cause. Contrary to popular belief, carpenter ants just chew wood, they don’t eat it. Carpenter ants excavate galleries out of their chewed wood making the wood look like it was sanded. Termites, on the other hand, eat the wood, causing the damaged wood to have a layered look.

No matter if you have carpenter ants or termites, both can cause property damage. It is best to work with a professional, like Ehrlich, to eliminate the pest completely and protect your property from these wood-destroying insects.

termite damage vs. carpenter ant damage

Frequently asked termite questions

  • What are the first signs of termites?

    Swarmers are usually the first sign of termites. These are winged termites that swarm in large groups. Mud tubes are another common sign of subterranean termites, and can be found near the foundation of your home. These tubes are made of soil and termite droppings and are used to provide moisture and protection.

  • How do you kill termites?

    The best way to get rid of termites is with the help of a professional pest control provider like Ehrlich. Our licensed Technicians are certified in termite removal and are very knowledgeable about all types of termites and what treatment method is best for each type. DIY termite removal is not recommended as it can cause the termites to reroute and attack another area of your home.

  • What attracts termites in the house?

    In your home, termites are attracted to moisture and wood. Pipes that are leaking, humid areas, and poor drainage are just a few things that can cause high moisture areas in your home resulting in the perfect condition for a termite infestation. Mulch is also a major termite attractant, which means that even if you have a brick house, you could still be at risk.

  • Are termites harmful to humans?

    Termites are not directly harmful to people, but the repercussions of their actions can cause extreme stress to humans and damage to properties.

Termite resources



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