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Drywood termites in the house: general notion

Termites belong to the species that cause great damage to the wood and wooden constructions. Termites are the most dangerous insects for people because they can be invisible for a long time until the housekeeper pays attention to serious problems with his house or furniture. And also they can be very resistant to some treatment. Usual habitat of drywood termites is dead clear wood. They are widespread in the coastal tropical and subtropical regions, where there are enough warmth and moisture. The drywood termite lives in colonies. Its appearance can differ depending on the caste that the termite of the colony belongs to.

First of all, you should identify the type of insect you have got in your house to find an effective drywood termite treatment. Though termites and ants have many common features in appearance or behavior, they are very distant relatives. Termites are closer to the wood cockroaches.

Termites eat the wood in half the time if hard rock music is going on.

A drywood termite and an ant

  1. Constitution. Ants have a very distinctive waist. Termites’ body is straight without any divisions between the parts. Ants’ wings are of different size – little rear and long front. A termite has four equally long wings that cover the whole body.
  2. Antennae. Ants have bent antennae while termites’ horns are straight.
  3. Color. Termites are white or transparent (immature nymphs), light-brown (soldiers) or dark-brown (alates). Ants can be red, black, yellow, etc.
  4. Food. Termites feed only on plant food, first of all, wood and cellulose. They also eat other weak termites as well as the injured and dead. Ants can feed on other insects, spineless animals and sometimes flower dust, nectar, tree, vegetable and fruit saps.

What are drywood termites’ castes?

The drywood termites’ nest has:

  • King and Queen. After mating, the female produces first offspring, which the couple feeds with its own forces. Drywood termites have very slow development. First nymphs appear from the eggs only in 30-60 days after lying. A nymph becomes an adult termite in a year. The first soldier develops through a year after starting the colony, the second – within two years. When the population in the colony increases to 30-50 immature species, King and Queen stop feeding on their own and are taken care by senior immature termites. A few years pass when it will be possible to grow winged species.
  • Immature termites. They substitute a real working caste. These functions are held by senior immature species after some molts. Unlike subterranean type, drywood “workers” have a perfect perspective to become a soldier, a reproductive winged termite (alate) or even King and Queen in case one of them dies. But until that time, they should care for the rest termites of the mound by feeding them and making the common house comfortable and safe. They are the smallest in the colony – about 3/8 inch long and have soft white or beige colored body with a dark head.
  • Soldier termites. Are very similar to immature termites except for a big dark head armed with massive mandibles. The total length of their body is 5/16 inch. They defend other species from enemies, mostly ants.
  • Swarmer termites. After some molts immature termites become reproductive (or swarmers). They may have wings or remain wingless, have darker body – 7/16 inch long with the wings. Winged alates are waiting for their significant flight while wingless termites can substitute the King of the Queen in the case of their death. The nuptial flight is one of the most significant events in the termites’ life as well as in the housekeepers’ lives too. A vast majority of winged alates near your house often, though not always indicate that you have faced termites problem. It usually starts at dusk or at night when swarms fly towards intense light. Though they are not very experienced flyers, some of them can be blown on a rather big distance from their parental nest. Most of the alates die. But the luckiest ones drop the wings, find a couple and try to find some appropriate drywood. They can enter the timber through cracks and holes and start a new colony.

If we compare subterranean and drywood termites, the second ones are not very large, having only up to some thousand species, while subterranean colony may consist of millions of termites. Drywood nest grows relatively slowly. This point must be taken into consideration when choosing an appropriate termite treatment option. It may take for about 2 or 3 years after the termite pair had started to live in wood construction when the housekeeper see first swarmers and possible damage.

Drywood termites’ eating habits. Fine symbiosis

The main sources of food for all termites are plant substances containing cellulose. Most of the termites feed on dead wood. Only few animals are capable of digesting wood because cellulose is very chemically resistant matter. But these insects succeed in it.

They can assimilate this kind of food thanks to single-celled microorganisms that live in their guts in their widest part. The number of this symbiosis is so big that from 16 to 50% of termites’ weight may belong to them. The microorganisms work out special enzymes breaking down the drywood substances to the particles which termites can assimilate. This symbiotic life is mutually beneficial, for both termites and the bacteria can’t live separately from each other.

At the same time, only workers or termites that perform their functions have the biggest number of the bacteria. No wonder that they feed the rest members of the colony, provide and digest the wood. Soldiers and senior nymphs don’t have much symbiosis as they get ready nourishments from workers. Junior nymphs, king, and queen don’t have them at all. That is why; workers share them only nutritious substances from their feeding glands.

Wasteless life

What is more, drywood termite loses its symbioses with every molt and has to populate its gut with a new colony of bacteria. As a result of this symbiotic life, the termites assimilate about 93% of eaten wood and 99% of cellulose. This is an extremely high rate of absorption for other plant-eating animals can utilize only 20-30% of the eaten food. The second component of wood is lignin. This substance passes through termites’ gut as diet residues in their fecal pellets and is widely used by them in building and repairing the nest.

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