Termites can identify sources of food, shelter and danger with ease. Not to mention, subterranean termites can also build extensive mud tubes, structures and , thanks to their strong sensory systems. That said, their senses aren’t as developed as you may think – especially when it comes to their vision. So, do termites have eyes? Here’s everything you need to know about termite vision.
Can Termites See?
The majority of termites have extremely poor vision. But can termites see at all, or are they completely blind? The strength of their vision varies depending on their role in the colony. The king and queen termites (also known as royal termites) are some of the only members of the colony with completely functional eyesight. These termites depend on their vision to break away from their colonies and start new ones. Swarmer termites (also known as reproductives) also have eyesight. That said, they only develop it after complete maturation. During this process, reproductive nymphs double in size, turn black in color and develop internal organs, wings and vision. Swarmers may also become king or queen termites if they mate and start a new colony. Thus, they, too, require vision.
On the other hand, worker termites never develop eyesight or wings. Worker termites can distinguish light from dark but cannot see shapes or color in their surroundings. As the primary providers for the colony, they detect food through their antennae and olfactory senses instead.
Related: What is a termite?
How Do Termites Sense Their Environment?
If not all termites have eyes, then how do termites see and perceive the world around them? Even royal and swarming termites that can see rely heavily on their other senses. Researchers from the University of California at Davis found that all insects sense their surroundings through small molecules that provide information on nest-mates, food sources and predators. These molecules, also known as odorant-binding proteins, help transport smells from the environment to the insect’s sensory nerves. With termites, these molecules may pass through their olfactory system or through the two antennas on their head.
Termite antennae are impressive enough on their own. They contain moisture-sensing receptors that help them locate moisture and decaying wood nearby. Even a termite’s legs can act as both a sensory and communication tool. They have setea, which are tiny hairs, attached to their legs that are highly sensitive to vibrations. Through these vibrations, termites can determine the size and usefulness of a food source. For example, dampwood termites can detect moisture-filled wood. Meanwhile, drywood termites can identify wood from furniture, floors and framing. They also use vibrations to communicate to other termites in their colony. For example, soldier termites can alarm other termites of an intrusion by forcefully knocking their head against the walls of the mud tube or nest. All these vibratory senses live within their tibia portion of their legs.
How Can You Remove Termites?
Termites are well aware of their surroundings. As so, eliminating them from your home can pose quite the challenge. Luckily, scheduling an appointment with a Terminix® technician can help make it easier. Our specialists are proficient in termite anatomy and can use their knowledge to help protect your home.