Subterranean termites produce liquid feces, whereas drywood termites produce characteristic pellets. These pellets are eliminated from the galleries through “kick holes”. Pellets tend to accumulate on surfaces located below the kick holes and are usually the first evidence of a drywood termite infestation.
In nature, termites function as decomposers that breakdown dead wood that accumulates in and on the soil. The beneficial products of this breakdown process are returned to the soil as humus. Drywood and subterranean termites are the most destructive insect pests of wood, causing more than $1.7 billion in damages and cost of control each year in the U.S. alone. Their presence in structures is seldom noticed until damage is discovered or the termites swarm within the building.
Soldiers resemble immatures in color and general appearance. However, they have large, brownish to yellowish-brown heads with enlarged, heavily sclerotized mandibles (jaws). Soldiers defend the colony against invaders, primarily ants. Soldiers are about 5/16 inch long.
In most drywood species there is no true worker caste (subterranean termites do have a true worker cast); this function is taken over by immatures. These immatures are wingless, white to beige in color, 1/4 to 3/8 inch long and make up the largest number of individuals within a colony. They gather food, enlarge the nest and feed and care for the queen, younger immature forms and others in the colony.
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The reproductives are winged (alates or swarmers) or wingless males and females that produce offspring. The primary reproductives, also called swarmers or alates, vary in body color from dark brown to light yellowish tan. Their wings may be almost clear to smoke gray, and have few distinct veins in them. Swarmer drywood termites are about 7/16 inch long, including the wings. If the primary reproductives die, they are replaced by immatures that can become capable of reproductive activity. They are known as replacement or secondary reproductives.