Termites are often mistaken for ants because they’re approximately the same size and shape. Worker termites are usually off-white, whereas swarming termites are darker brown. They can reach ¼” to ½” long. King and queen termites (yes, termite colonies have kings as well as queens) are approximately 1” long. Some termites also have wings.
On Long Island, we deal with Eastern subterranean termites and, occasionally, formosan termites. Subterranean termites are the most common and destructive termite nationwide.
Signs of a termite infestation include termite mud tubes, termite excretions (frass), wings that have been shed, and damage to wood surfaces like tiny holes. Keep in mind, however, it can be difficult to find wood damage in the early stages of an infestation.
Termites begin as an egg laid by the queen, hatch into larvae, and grow into nymphs. They molt several times before they’re eventually assigned to a caste (or job) within the colony. The majority become workers or soldiers, with some becoming reproductives aka swarmers.
Termites are one of the most common pests you can find. They live in every state but Alaska. They prefer warm, humid climates like we experience on Long Island during the spring.
There are two main ways termites spread. Reproductives will fly to a new area, shed their wings and mate, creating a new colony. Or workers can discover a new source of food (usually wood) and summon additional termites to construct mud tunnels.