HOW WORKER TERMITES WORK

03/03/2015

What are worker termites?

Worker termites search out and collect food for the termite colony. Termite workers are also responsible for building and maintaining termite mud tubes and nests. They feed on cellulose, which is an essential component found in wood and grass. In nature, they’re helpful in the breakdown of dead and decaying materials. However, when worker termites seek to eat the wood in your home, they create devastating problems.

How can I tell a worker termite from other kinds of termites?

You can distinguish worker termites from other termites by their color and size. Worker termites are pale or white, have rounded heads and bodies and straight antennae. They are smaller than the colony king and queen. Soldier termites, which defend the nest from ant attacks, also have pale or white bodies but possess dark heads and larger jaws. If you notice winged termites around your home, these are "swarming" termites. Like the king and queen, winged termites are “reproductives,” but they only lay eggs after they have flown away from the nest during swarming. Light brown to black in color (depending on the species), winged termites are most likely to be visible in the spring.

How can worker termites damage my home?

Termite workers forage for food outside the nest. Remember, they are searching primarily for wood and the cellulose it provides. They feed upon the wooden structures of your home—the siding, beams, joists, flooring, etc. However, termites will feed on any substance containing cellulose. Drywall, wallpaper, clothing and even carpet can be susceptible to damage in case of a termite infestation.

What does termite worker damage look like?

Most of the termite damage done to homes is due to subterranean termite infestations. You are unlikely to see actual subterranean worker termites at work on structural elements of your home. Instead, you may notice the following "symptoms" of a subterranean termite infestation:

  • Buckled floorboards or sagging of your wood floors.

  • Bubbling paint and discoloration similar to water damage on your walls and/or ceilings.

  • Small holes in your drywall with tiny specks of dirt or even termite mud tubes visible upon close examination.

  • Any pattern of wood damage that follows the woodgrain, creating a "ribbed" effect in the wood around your home. (Worker termites prefer the soft, lighter-colored spring wood over the darker, harder summer wood.)

  • Termite tunnels or "mud tubes" running up vertical structures, outside or underneath your home and particularly around your foundation.

Additionally, termites are attracted to moist areas. Be wary of moldy or mildewy odors, which could indicate a favorable environment for termites.

 

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