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The Eastern Subterranean Termite is responsible for up to 80% of the 2.2 billion spent every year in the U.S. on controlling termites. They feed on the structural wood in buildings, wooden fixtures, paper, books and cotton. A mature colony can range from 20,000 workers to as high as 5 million workers and the primary queen of the colony lays 5,000 to 10,000 eggs per year.
Eastern subterranean termites are social insects that share resources and divide labor based on a caste system. They live in loosely associated societies called colonies which have both males and females.
The termites in the colony are tasked into the worker caste, the soldier caste, and the reproductive caste.
Workers are about 3 mm long and are blind, wingless, soft-bodied, creamy white to grayish-white with a round head. They make up the majority of the termites that actually eat the wood and overall population within the colony. They are sterile and forage for food and water, construct and repair shelter tubes, feed and groom other termites, care for eggs and young, and participate in defending the colony.
Soldier termites are also wingless and resemble workers except that they have a large, rectangular, yellowish-brown head with long black mandibles. The soldiers’ primary job is colony defense, and the mandibles are mainly used for crushing enemy ants which may invade the colony. Additionally, the Eastern Subterranean Termite has a frontal gland pore on the forehead which releases a sticky latex, to ensnare enemy ants. The soldier caste only makes up 1 to 2% of the entire colony. The soldiers are not capable of feeding themselves and rely on the worker termites to feed them regurgitated food.
These are the adult winged termites who have two pairs of long narrow wings of equal size, dark skin, and beaded antennae. From early Spring to late Fall, the mature reproductives swarm from their Mother Colony and leave to start their own colonies. Ants also do this at the same time and it’s difficult sometimes to tell termites and ants apart. A nuptial flight takes place, mating occurs and they shed their wings. They are black and about one centimeter long, with grayish transparent wings. Neotenic reproductives are potential kings and queens of the colony, available as replacements if needed. They are generally yellow or mottled black and the abdomen of the female may be distended with developing eggs.