Termites often called “white ants”, are members of the same order as the cockroach. They mostly feed off of decaying or dead plant materials and cellulose, which is wood. There are 3 main types of termites: subterranean, dry wood, and damp wood. Subterranean termites being the most prevalent in Arizona.
Termites are part of the Blattodea order in the animal kingdom and can be found across all continents on earth, except for Antarctica. They are detritivore insects, meaning they consume dead plant material, specifically cellulose. Termites have Protozoa and other microbes in their gut in order to create the necessary enzymes that digest the cellulose. The species of termite determines the location they infest as well as what part of the wood they feed on and digest. While certain termite species have distinctive behaviors/ roles within the colony, the majority have a 3 member caste system including reproductives, workers, and soldiers.
The 3 Main Castes:
About 1/4″-1/2” in size and dark brown in color the alates have 2 pairs of wings that are equal in length. The alates are often called swarmers. They usually leave a live established colony when ideal weather conditions (warm weather usually following rain) are present in search of a new location to set up a colony. Once the alates have found their new home, they shed their wings and become the reproductive caste (the king and queen of the colony). The queen can live anywhere from 30-50 years and can lay up to 1 million eggs in her lifetime.
The workers are wingless, cream colored, and about 1/4” in size. They feed, groom, and perform the general construction for the colony. The workers caste makes up the majority of the wood destruction to a home.
The soldiers resemble a worker in size and color, however their heads are a yellowish brown with large protruding black mandibles. Their primary role in a colony is defense against foreign invaders.