Eastern Subterranean Termite
Reticulitermes flavipes, or eastern subterranean termites, are social insects that organize into very functional colony structures. Each colony member or caste performs very specific and specialized functions for the overall success of the colony. Eastern subterranean termite (EST) colonies are made up of three castes – workers, soldiers and reproductives. Workers are 3 mm long and king and queen termites are 3/8 to 1/2 inch long.
The reproductive caste is made up of the primary queens and males (kings) that stay within the colony for life. The secondary reproductives are important during times of colony stress or conditions unfavorable to the success of the colony.
Alate queens and kings are black or dark brown, about 3/8 to a half inch long and have two pairs of wings that are lost after a termite swarm. Generally, the appearance of swarmers or their shed wings is the first sign of a problem with eastern subterranean termites.
Behavior, Diet, Habits
Termites are the most destructive insect pests in the U.S., causing damage well into the billions of dollars annually. ESTs consume wood, but also will feed on and damage almost anything that contains cellulose such as pages of books and other papers. EST workers are not able to digest cellulose on their own and depend on microorganisms that reside in the worker termite’s gut to breakdown the cellulose into nutrients that workers feed to the other castes within the colony. ESTs establish their colonies underground, and the workers then use networks of tunnels located both above and below ground to search for cellulose.
Termite workers are constantly foraging for food and when a food source is located the workers communicate the food source location by depositing complex odors called pheromones along trails.
Above ground foraging also takes place, and the typical termite mud tube must be constructed when workers forage above ground. The mud tube’s purpose is to protect the workers as they explore for new sources of food or travel back and forth with the food (cellulose) they bring back to nourish the colony members.
There are numerous termite species native to the United States. Eastern subterranean termites (Reticulitermes flavipes) are a subterranean species found in the Wichita are as well as into the South and on the East Coast. These insects can have a large economic impact on homeowners, due to their dense distribution.
Eastern subterranean termites are social insects, using their collective might to accomplish large-scale tasks. Established infestations can range from 5,000 to millions of insects and are divided into three castes in any given colony. Workers are responsible for food and maintenance, while soldiers use their oversized mandibles to protect their colonies. Reproductive termites, known as kings and queens, ensure that colonies grow in population.
Signs of Infestation
Before purchasing a home a termite inspection is often required by lenders. After home purchase, it’s a good idea to continue annual inspections and precautionary measures for termite control. Signs of an infestation include:
Finding shed swarmer wings or winged swarmers around windows, patio doors or other sources of light.
The presence of mud tubes.
Wood material in the home that appears to be soft, easily penetrated, rippled, peeling or bubbled.
If you see any of these signs, you should contact Betts Pest Control right away.