Termites are commonly referred to as white ants, however, they are neither white nor ants. Termites are closely related to cockroaches.
Termites are unable to withstand low humidity for very long, so nests and tunnels are kept moist. The relative humidity in most nests is approximately 100% as the nest temperatures are kept between 10̊ - 35̊ C.
Over 350 species of termites are found in Australia but only around 20 species cause damage to buildings and wooden structures. Termites live and work together in a social environment and communicate by smell and touch. Termites need water to achieve and maintain the required high humidity in their nests, as well as a good food source.
Alates: adult termites
They have wings, eyes, darker colouring and are fertile. They shed their wings (which are twice the length of their body) after their first colonising flight. Shed wings are a good indicator to termite presence.
Reproductives: the sexual termites in the colony
Are the future kings and queens of colonies yet to be established. They live in a chamber in the centre of the nest where a female (or queen) will lay eggs. The Queen can lay thousands of eggs each year over her life span of approximately 10 years. To ensure the survival of the colony, more than one reproductive is produced.
Reproductives are usually darker than worker and soldier termites. They have eyes and tougher skin than the other colony members.
Are the defenders of the colony, they are blind, wingless, darker in colouring, have larger heads and undeveloped reproductive organs. They are tougher than the other members and take longer to die from toxins, exposure or starvation. Most have strong well developed jaws to crush attackers. Some soldiers can eject a sticky glue like solution from their snout that can irritate their attackers. Some soldiers use their large heads to block tunnels to attackers
Workers: Gather food, construct and repair the nest and groom other termites. These make up the largest number of members in the colony and can cause the most damage. It is believed that Worker termites work 24 hours per day throughout their 4 year life span. They are blind, wingless, have undeveloped reproductive organs and are usually without colour.
Eggs and Young: live in specially constructed nurseries
They hatch from eggs that have been nurtured and cared for by their nest mates. Once the young termites are old enough, they are put to work within the colony performing jobs according to their age and maturity.
Lifecycle: The termite life cycle contains four stages of development with the young able to develop into four different castes.
Temperature, food quality and colony activity determine the time in which termites develop from egg to adult.
After a period of growth, termites will moult and shed their outer skin. The Queen will add a new set of ovaries after each moult, with her abdomen becoming very large. If one particular caste within the colony suffers from a shortage, the imbalance is corrected with young termites are groomed to fill the gap.
What you can do:
You can limit these pests in your home by taking a few simple precautions, - keep timber structures clear of direct contact with the soil – make sure sub floors are dry and well ventilated – store wood piles on raised platforms not directly onto the soil – ensure your soil has good drainage – fix any leaking plumbing