What does a termite look like? [Termite Identification Guide] (2023)

If you're like most homeowners, just hearing the word termites makes you shudder. There are over 40 species of termites in the world and it is very common to have up to 5 of these species in your body at the same time without even knowing it.

We'll show you what termites look like and help you distinguish termites from other insects like carpenter ants, fire ants, and others. Start with the termite life cycle, then learn how to identify them.

Table of Contents

termite life cycle

What does a termite look like? [Termite Identification Guide] (1)

phases of the life cycle

Termites develop from eggs in the nest, usually a reproduction of the king and queen. They develop into nymphs and then into larvae. During this moulting process, they assume a role in the colony. Some join the worker caste, some join the soldier caste, and the rest become enthusiasts.


There are only three castes of termites. Notice that nottypes of termitesbut box. They are the workers, the foreman/soldiers and the alat/termite worm caste.

Each caste has a role in the colony and that role usually determines their body structure and some other characteristics. There wasn't

Also, termites in a particular caste can evolve into another caste if the colony lacks the caste. This simply means that workers can become soldiers and soldiers can become alates, aka reproductivetermites/hawk moths.

lifespan of termites

Termites have a long lifespan compared to other bugs. Workers and soldiers can live up to a year or more, while queens can stay up to ten years in good climatic conditions.

(Video) How to Inspect and Identify Termite Species

What does a termite look like? [Termite Identification Guide] (2)

Physical Properties of Termites

Termites can be easily identified based on a few physical characteristics. However, as mentioned earlier, there are over 40 species of termites, and each looks slightly different from the next.

1. Size

Termite identification is easy. If you just get a bird's eye view of them, you'll know. They have thick waists compared to other ants and look a bit fuller.

2nd size

Termites are usually a different size. The worker termites will definitely look smaller than the soldier, queen termite, and secondary queen termite. In general, termites can range from ⅛ inch to an inch.

3. Antennas

Termites have straight antennae that make them easily distinguishable from other ants. Not only are the antennae straight, but they look like a bunch of tiny spheres stacked on top of each other in a straight line. Termites are the only bugs that look like this.

4. body

The termite body is where most people cannot tell the difference between a termite and ants. They have the same body segments. Just like all other insects and ants, termites have antennae attached to a head, a head attached to the thorax, a thorax attached to the abdomen, and legs underneath.

Some differences can be seen in the appearance of some classes of termites. For example, the queen usually has a larger abdomen than any other termite. Just as the soldier termites have longer and larger mandibles (to attack predators and prey).

5. Wing

Winged termites usually have short legs. That's one way to spot a termite infestation in your home. Unlike other pests, both pairs of wings on a termite are the same length. When termites are not in flight mode, the wings enclose the entire body.

6. Color

As well as size, termites vary in color. In general, almost all termite species are yellowish-brown in color. However, the worker termites are usually lighter in color than both the soldier and winged termites.

Keep in mind that the structure of termite boxes usually depends on their position in the colony.

Common termite species

As previously mentioned, there are over 40 species of termites and most of them will share your home with you. Although common in some parts of the United States and not others, these pests are destructive and not likely to be seen in your home.

(Video) What Are Visible Signs of Termites | Pest Support

You should call a pest control and management company quickly to save your home and property from termite damage. Before you do that, let's take a look at some of the most common types of termites you can find in your home.

1. Drywood termites

Popularly known as wood termites, drywood termites damage every type of wood in your home and that includes the wood in your foundation. Not to be confused with carpenter ants, there are three types of drywood termites, including:

  1. West Indian drywood termite
  2. Southeastern drywood termites
  3. Western drywood termite/desert drywood termite

The wood and wooden structures in your home are in great danger when you have these termites with you. The destructive effects of these pests may not be visible to the naked eye, but will be evident in the long run.

2. Underground termites

Underground termites are found throughout the United States except Alaska. They thrive better in hot weather, making them the most popular in the southern part of the US. Below are the 7 types of underground termites you will find in the United States:

  1. Bright southeastern subterranean termite
  2. Dark southeastern subsoil
  3. Dry land underground
  4. Subterranean Desert
  5. West underground
  6. Eastern underground
  7. Formosa subterranean termite
  8. Super Termites in South Florida

Subterranean termites are usually dark brown and form very large colonies. All they need is ground contact and they can reproduce. There is no information on whether these termites are harmful or damage property.

Subterranean termites usually have their termite nests underground in mud tubes where they have their termite larvae. Tiny burrowed holes and raised lines in the sand are signs you have termites in your household.

3. Formosan termites

Formosa termites are the most destructive. If you find these in your home, visit your local pest control or management company to get rid of them before they do more harm to your household.

Their colony is one of the largest compared to other termite species. A Formosan termite colony can contain over 10 million individual termites. They will poke holes through your walls and wood. Hire a pest control expert today to eradicate all termites in your home.

Note that each termite species has workers, soldiers, queens, and kings. Each species can have the same body and size regardless of whether they are workers, queen/king, or soldiers.

What does a termite look like? [Termite Identification Guide] (3)

Do all termites have wings?

The question of whether every termite has wings is asked very often and the simple answer is no. Flying termites are usually the king, queen, alate, or swarmer. They are the only reproductive species of termites in the colony.

(Video) How to Identify Termite Species. What Kind of Termites do You Have?

In fact, flying termites are the reason you have those termite colonies in your home.

Differences between ants and termites in your home

The difference between ants and termites is very evident in their physical characteristics. You can identify termites based on the six physical structures listed above, including color, body, size, wings, waist, and antennae. Ants, especially carpenter ants, look different, and below are somethings you couldNote.

  • Waist: termites have thick waists, ants have much slimmer waists.
  • Wings: Both flying ants and winged termites have two pairs. However, identification with the wings is very easy. Flying ants have one pair of wings in front and another pair in back, but the rear wings are shorter than the front ones. todetect termites, you see that both pairs of wings are equal in length.
  • Antennae: While termites have straight antennae, ants have curved ones.
  • Color: Termites can have colors ranging from yellowish brown to dark brown. Note that this will vary by colony. However, termites in this colony, including workers and soldiers, share the same color scheme.

What other pests/bugs look like termites?

Identifying termites can be difficult if you have other ants in your household. Below are some pests that you can easily mistake for termites.

1.Powder jaws

2.carpenter bees

3.carpenter ants

4.Acrobatic Ants

These ants wreak the same havoc in your home as termites.

Signs that you have termites in your home

There are certain signs that this pest is currently living in your home. Below are the most common:

1. Drywood Termitenkot

If drywood termite workers infest your wood, you'll notice some small balls of yellowish-brown droppings if you shake the wood a little.

2. Hollowed out wood or wall

Termites damage wood. The deeper they eat into your wood, the hollower it becomes. The hollower the wood gets, the weaker it becomes.

(Video) Termite Identification

3. Mud Pipes

Mud tubes are the first sign you will notice of underground termites. You will most likely find these mud hoses on the walls of your home and on the windowsills.

4. Obvious swarms

This eliminates any kind of confusion as to whether or not you have termites in your household. Not only are they destructive, but also irritating to watch when they swarm.

bottom line

Termites are destructive and should not be allowed into your home. Call an experienced pest control and management company to get rid of them before more damage is done to your property.

You can reach us by phone or find your local office for a free quote. We do the job once and thoroughly. The results after our services will give you peace of mind, a healthy home, and a termite-free environment.

frequently asked Questions

What do termite eggs look like?

Termite eggs come in clusters. You will hardly see one standing alone. However, a single termite egg looks like a tiny, translucent and shiny gummy bean. In contrast to other beetles, the egg shells do not have any pronounced indentations or dents.

How can you tell if there are termites in your walls?

If you're worried about having termites in your walls, you probably already are. You should look out for signs like:

  • Peeling or cracked paint
  • Crumbling baseboards
  • Small pinholes on the wall
  • Hollow sound when you hit the wall\

If you find termites in your walls, you should call a pest control expert who will help you get rid of the termite colony and all of its eggs.

Will termites go away on their own?

Termites can go away on their own. The problem is that you will never know when and as long as your home is still comfortable for them, they will stay as long as they can.

Do termites run around the house?

You will hardly ever see a termite randomly walking around the house because they live in walls and wooden structures. Every now and then, however, one sees the winged termite swarm.

How do I get rid of termites permanently?

You can permanently eliminate all termites in your home by calling a professional pest control company in your area. Termites can be difficult to eradicate completely, especially if you choose to go the DIY route. This is because regular pesticides can kill adult termites, but not eggs. A pest control expert will help you get rid of any adult termites and infiltrate their habitat to get rid of the eggs and prevent them from forming in your home.


What do termites look for look like? ›

They typically measure between 1/4 and 1/2 of an inch long and have soft bodies with straight antennae. The queens and kings are larger, capable of reaching over one inch long. Colors range from white to light brown where worker termites often appear lighter, while swarming termites darker.

What do termites look like termites? ›

Workers: Like subterranean termites, drywood worker termites are cream to white in color. Soldiers: These have darker, orangish-brown heads and opaque bodies, and are much larger than subterranean soldiers. Reproductives: Drywood swarmers have amber-colored heads and dark brown abdomens with smoky gray wings.

How do you identify termites? ›

Waist - Termites have a straight waist, while ants have a pinched waist. Antennae - Termites have straight antennae while ants have bent antennae. Wing Length - Termites wings are the same length while ants have wings of different length. Discarded wings - Flying ants do not shed their wings, but termite swarmers do.

What are telltale signs of termites? ›

Termite droppings or frass are a tell-tale sign of a termite infestation. Drywood termites nest inside of wood. As they create tunnels and eat the wood they are infesting, termites discard the droppings, creating mounds of pellets.

Is it obvious if you have termites? ›

An unusual appearance on painted or wallpapered surfaces can also be an early sign of termites. If you look carefully, you can see signs of termite damage underneath, such as: Small pinholes where termites have eaten through. Bubbling paint.

What kills termites instantly? ›

What chemical kills termites? There are two main chemicals used to kill termites—fipronil and hexaflumuron. Fipronil is the specially designed chemical used as an active ingredient in many different liquid termiticides. In high enough concentrations, it can kill termites on contact.

What looks like a termite but isn t? ›

The insects most commonly confused for termites are flying ants. The most common species of ants to take flight around your house are carpenter ants, but they're by no means the only ones. Other would-be imposters include moisture ants, black garden ants and pavement ants.

What does drywood termites look like? ›

What Do Drywood Termites Look Like? The size of drywood termites range, depending on their age, from 1/4 inch to 1 inch long. Adult drywood termites have a thicker, oval-shaped waist, short legs and straight antennae with equal length wings. They are usually cream-white to light brown in color and have six legs.

What do termites look like white? ›

Worker termites are wingless and white or creamy white. Soldier termites are creamy white except for a darker, enlarged head that usually contains a large pair of mandibles. Soldiers do not have wings. King and queen termites may measure as much as an inch long, while the other roles range from ¼ to ½ inch in size.

What is the best way to identify termite damage? ›

Tunnels in the wood - Also known as 'galleries' which are quite difficult to see from the outside. Termite droppings - After consuming wood, dry wood termites often leave behind brown-coloured and grainy faecal mounds. These faecal pellets are usually found beneath the infested wood.

Can you see termites with your eyes? ›

Termites can be seen by the naked eye, particularly the larger alate swarmers that are most often seen outside the colony. In fact, one identifying factor in a termite infestation is finding discarded wings from an alate termite near openings like doors and windows.

How do you find hidden termites? ›

Evidence of Termites
  1. Discolored or drooping drywall.
  2. Peeling paint that resembles water damage.
  3. Wood that sounds hollow when tapped.
  4. Small, pinpoint holes in drywall.
  5. Buckling wooden or laminate floor boards.
  6. Tiles loosening from the added moisture termites can introduce to your floor.
  7. Excessively squeaky floorboards.

What does mild termite damage look like? ›

Termite damage sometimes appears similar to water damage. Outward signs of termite damage include buckling wood, swollen floors and ceilings, areas that appear to be suffering from slight water damage and visible mazes within walls or furniture. Termite infestations also can exude a scent similar to mildew or mold.

Why am I seeing termites all of a sudden? ›

Termites swarm after their original colony has reached a certain capacity level and is ready to expand. For most colonies, this happens once a year. Hundreds or even thousands of swarmers, called alates, are produced with the sole purpose of reproduction and expansion.

What kills termites naturally? ›

Boric acid is often recommended for the elimination of termites. Boric acid is a natural pesticide and usually comes in the powder form. You can sprinkle it in the area of infestation or mix it with water to spray in the area. It might be best to use goggles, masks and gloves while spraying the acid.

Should I worry if I see one termite? ›

Finding one, two, or even a dozen termite swarmers in your house does not mean you have a termite infestation. These insects probably blew in through an open door. Termite swarmers are adapted to mate and begin new colonies in exterior wood, particularly wood that is weathered, cracked, or unfinished.

How many years does it take for termites to cause noticeable damage? ›

Termite colonies can take 3 to 5 years to fully mature. While there is no accurate way of calculating the exact age of an infestation, there are ways to make accurate predictions of their age. It can take anywhere from 3 to 8 years for termite damage to show up depending on the size of the colony.

What smell kills termites? ›

“We tested several insecticidal essential oils on individual western drywood termites and found that methyl salicylate, or wintergreen oil, killed them the fastest,” said Choe. Wintergreen oil kills termites, but it doesn't hurt people or their pets.

What smells keep termites away? ›

Clemson University scientists reported that 'Termites hate smells of cedarwood, geranium, and tea tree oil. It has also been found that clove bud, cinnamon, and garlic oils can also repel termites.

Does vinegar get rid of termites? ›

Vinegar's acetic acid is corrosive to termite exoskeletons. This acid spray kills termites. This treatment must be sprayed on termite bodies. If you can't access most of the termites, immerse their colony in vinegar.

What pests look like termites? ›

Mayflies on the move look similar to termites. Like termites, Mayflies are highly active when the weather is warm and after a heavy downpour. They also live with groups and are drawn by bright lights, so they would usually congregate in decks, window screens and doors.

Are there harmless termites? ›

So, are termites harmless to people? While the bite of a soldier termite is mostly harmless and termites are not known to spread diseases or inject venom, they are not entirely harmless. They can indirectly impact your health. Subterranean termites cause damage that can promote mold issues in your home.

Is it an ant or a termite ants look like termites? ›

Termites have straight, wide bodies, and ants have narrow, pinched bodies. Once you're close enough to compare the bodies of termites to ants, you'll likely see that the abdomen on a termite has no defined waist. Unlike ants, which have a well-defined, pinched body, termites are rectangular.

How do you tell if you have drywood or subterranean termites? ›

Drywood swarmers have red heads and black bodies where subterranean termite swarmers are solid black. One distinct way to tell what type of termites you have on your property is “Mud Tubes,” also known as tunnels. These are literally mud formed into the shapes of tubes created by the workers.

Which is worse drywood or subterranean termites? ›

Subterranean termites are much more dangerous because they cause more significant damage than drywood termites. Their colonies can develop up to 1 million strong. Subterranean termites have a soft white body with no eyes. They are typically no longer than a centimeter.

How can you tell the difference between drywood and subterranean termites? ›

Subterranean alates have one single thick, dark vein that runs parallel to the top of the wing. Drywood termites have a complex system of veins, usually at least three or four in each wing. Most termites shed their wings within minutes of landing. This is often the only evidence they leave behind.

What color are small termites? ›

Found in every U.S. state except Alaska, subterranean termites are creamy white to dark brown or black and 1/8 inch long. They live in underground colonies or in moist secluded areas aboveground that can contain up to two million members.

What baby termites look like? ›

Baby termites look similar to adult termites. The only significant difference is that they are paler in colour and smaller in size, resembling tiny ants. They feature straight antennae, a thick waist and have a tell-tale whitish pigment. As termite babies develop, they get darker and larger.

What does a sugar ant look like? ›

Sugar Ants (Camponotus Consobrinus)

They are between 7 and 12 millimeters, which is larger than many other ants, and have brown-orange bodies with large black heads. They nest outdoors in hollow wood, branches of trees or shrubs and beneath rocks or soil.

How long does it take for termites to destroy a house? ›

How Long Do Termites Ruin Your Foundations? Destructive termites take about 3 to 8 years to inflict noticeable damage to your property--this will still depend on the species of termite and the mature size of their nest. A colony consisting of 60,000 termites can eat 2x4 wood within 5 months.

What kind of termite is most destructive to houses? ›

Subterranean termites

They build distinctive "mud tubes" to gain access to food sources and to protect themselves from open air. Subterranean termites are by far the most destructive species in the U.S.

How much does it cost to get termite treatment? ›

The average termite treatment cost in the U.S. is around $575, with prices ranging from $230 to $930 for most services. But factors like the size of your home, the extent of your termite problem and where the infestation is located can all make a difference when it comes to determining the final price.

What time of day are termites most active? ›

The arid-land subterranean termite usually swarms during daylight hours in the fall, late winter and early spring. The desert subterranean termite swarms during the summer, from July to September. This termite swarms at dusk, after a rain.

What signs do termites leave? ›

Mud tubes are the most common sign of subterranean termite activity. Mud tubes are used to travel between the soil and a food source. They are attached to structures, typically near the foundation. Mud tubes act as protection for termites and are commonly found near the foundations of your home.

Can termites appear overnight? ›

Certain types of termites are more prone to swarming during the day while others will swarm at night. With indoor termite swarms, worker termites will create small, exit holes in door or window frames, baseboards, walls or any wooden structure.

How do you find queen termites in your house? ›

The easiest way to find her is look for her reproductives: these are the male termites that fertilize her eggs. Reproductives are a little smaller than worker termite and are much lighter: workers are generally a light yellow while reproductives are closer to pure white.

Do termites just disappear? ›

Yes, they can go away on their own. Why is it a scary answer? Because you never know when they are going to come back! Without a termite treatment, there is no way of knowing when a healthy termite colony will return to re-infest a structure.

How fast do termites spread? ›

Termites take a very short time to spread. Within a few days, they can multiply to what's considered an infestation. Homeowners need to take every percaussion possible, and be sure to act quickly in order to protect their homes.

How worried should I be about termites? ›

While these pests may look harmless, they can cause significant amounts of destruction when they're in groups (or “colonies”). In fact, termites cause around $5 billion in property damage every year and can ruin nearly any piece of architecture if given the time, so you definately should be worried about termites.

How long can termites go untreated? ›

A large Formosan termite colony can cause significant damage to a house in approximately two years, if it is not controlled. Other termite species would take several more years to cause the same level of damage as Formosan termites since other species have much smaller colony sizes.

What does termite infested wood look like? ›

When termites feed on the cellulose inside of wood, the wood source will eventually become brittle and hollow. Piles of wood or timber infested by termites will look like they've been completely carved and tunneled-through. In some cases, you may notice wood shavings or wood that looks rather splintered.

Do termites come out of the walls? ›

Winged swarming termites emerge from cracks in your walls and foundation in large numbers. They can also come out though holes in the soil in your yard. They emerge through swarm tubes made by worker termites. Unfortunately for them, not every termite survives to form a new colony.

What attracts termites? ›

Leaky pipes, improper drainage, and poor airflow all create moisture issues that attract termites. Dampwood and subterranean termites in particular thrive in humid environments. While dampwood termites prefer water-damaged wood, subterranean termites are unable to live unless surrounded by enough moisture.

Do termites go in and out of the house? ›

Termites can easily be transferred from one property to another if they are transported with the wood in which they live. Any wood carried from a house that's infested with termites, may contain a queen termite that is capable enough to grow a new colony in a different place.

Does baking soda get rid of termites? ›

Baking soda has absolutely no effect whatsoever on termites, and it certainly won't kill them. The other popular termite treatment myth is using vinegar, which much like Baking soda is a waste of time.

What can I spray in my house to keep termites away? ›

Termite Treatments

One popular method on how to get rid of termites involves treating the soil around your house with a termite insecticide, such as imidacloprid or fipronil. Wood can also be treated directly if termites are inside. Termite baits are strategically placed around your yard to lure termites in.

Are termites visible to the human eye? ›

Are Termites Visible to the Human Eye? Termites can be seen by the naked eye, particularly the larger alate swarmers that are most often seen outside the colony. In fact, one identifying factor in a termite infestation is finding discarded wings from an alate termite near openings like doors and windows.

How do you tell a termite from an ant? ›

Termites have front wings and hind wings that are the same length, and are twice as long as their body. Ants have shorter wings overall, and their front wings are longer than their hind wings. Antennae: Termites have straight antennae, while ants have bent antennae.

What looks like termites but isn t? ›

The insects most commonly confused for termites are flying ants. The most common species of ants to take flight around your house are carpenter ants, but they're by no means the only ones. Other would-be imposters include moisture ants, black garden ants and pavement ants.

How do termites suddenly appear? ›

Termites swarm after their original colony has reached a certain capacity level and is ready to expand. For most colonies, this happens once a year. Hundreds or even thousands of swarmers, called alates, are produced with the sole purpose of reproduction and expansion.

Are there bugs that look like termites? ›

Powderpost beetles. Just like termites, powderpost beetles feed on wood and can do significant structural damage if left untreated. Even if you identify the pests in your home as powderpost beetles rather than termites, you should still call an exterminator ASAP to minimize damage to your home.

Can ants be confused with termites? ›

Termites can be mistaken for ants (and vice versa), especially when they're flying during a swarm. We've outlined some key differences in their appearances above, such as body shape, antennae, and wings. But it can certainly be difficult spotting these differences.

Do termites look like very tiny ants? ›

Termites and ants both have two sets of wings, but termite wings are equal in size. Ants have the recognizable body shape of an ant, with three distinguishable body segments. Termites have three segments as well, but they do not have the thin waist of the ant. Termites have straight, beaded antennae.

Is there a wood that termites don't like? ›

To deter the pests, homeowners can obtain heartwood-grade lumber for construction projects. Termites also tend to avoid specific species of trees such as redwoods, yellow cedar, Laotian teak, and cypress. However, these types of wood are not as long-lasting as treated lumber.

What is the natural enemy of termites? ›

Ants are the greatest predators of termites, and may have a considerable local impact on termite populations in some areas of the world. A few parasitoids of termites are known, but their potential for regulating termite populations seems negligible.

What keeps termites away? ›

Exposure to sunlight - Termites are very sensitive to sunlight; exposing infested furniture to daylight can kill off any hiding termites. Diatomaceous earth - Used to control many types of garden pests, this can be mixed with soil, water, or paint to help keep termites away.


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