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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             
Phone: 662-325-2960
Email: blake.layton@msstate.edu

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Publication Number: P2568

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Termites swarming on this decaying tree stump are a healthy part of nature, but homeowners must take steps to make sure they do not infest houses. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Linda Breazeale)
Filed Under: Household Insects, Termites, Insects-Pests June 7, 2017

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.

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