07 - Termite Facts (for eastern subterranean termites or Formosan termites)
- Termites are one of the few animals able to utilize wood/cellulose as a food source.
- Termites have symbiotic protozoa and other microbes in their gut that digest cellulose.
- Eastern subterranean termites are native termites that occur throughout the eastern United States.
- Eastern subterranean termites occur in all 82 counties of Mississippi.
- Mature eastern subterranean termite colonies contain around 50,000 to 200,000+ termites.
- Formosan termites are non-native termites, first detected in Mississippi in 1984.
- Formosan termites are currently known to occur in 25 counties in Mississippi.
- Formosan termite colonies can contain more than one million termites, but are usually smaller.
- Unlike ants and bees, termite workers may be either male or female.
- Male reproductive termites are known as kings.
- Unlike ants and bees, king termites live inside the colony with the queen.
- Primary termite queens and kings may live 10 to 15 years or longer.
- An established termite queen may lay more than 1000 eggs per day.
- Older termite colonies may also contain secondary and tertiary reproductive termites.
- Total egg production of secondary and tertiary reproductives may exceed that of the queen.
- Eastern subterranean termites are beneficial to southern forests, helping decompose dead trees.
- Termite workers do not have eyes; they are sightless.
- Termites reproduce by producing winged reproductive termites, known as swarmers.
- Swarmers leave the parent colony, find a mate, and attempt to start a new colony elsewhere.
- Swarmers shed their wings shortly after swarming.
- It takes a termite colony around five years or more to grow large enough to produce swarmers.
- Fire ants readily prey on termite swarmers attempting to found new colonies.
- Termites forage primarily in the top six to twelve inches of soil.
- Termites forage randomly by tunneling through soil and over stone until they encounter wood.
- Once they encounter a food source, workers recruit others to the source and begin feeding.
- Older termite colonies do not have a single, central nest.
- A mature termite colony will have many different “nest sites” (places where eggs are laid).
- An average suburban landscape will contain several different termite colonies (up to 25/acre).
- Finding eastern subterranean termite swarmers indoors is a sure sign the building is infested.
- Buildings that are not properly protected from termites will become infested by termites.
Dr. Blake Layton, Extension Entomology Specialist
Department of Entomology, Mississippi State University
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- The Mississippi State University Extension Service judged that the most economically important insects in the state should have their own website.
The site, https://extension.msstate.edu/termites, is the go-to place for information on termite biology, identification and control. The site describes the different species of termites found in the state and provides answers to common questions about the pests.