Group of termites

A termite colony needs workers, soldiers, and reproductives to survive.
Photo credit: USDAgov via Visualhunt / CC BY

If you close your eyes and image a termite in your mind, chances are you are thinking of one specific caste of termite – the worker termite. That’s because worker termites make up the vast majority of any termite colony. They are in charge of building and repairing the tunnels of the colony, so if you ever pull away a piece of termite-infested wood, all the little critters scurrying beneath are the workers. However, there is more to a termite colony than just the workers. If you want to know what could be really going on behind the walls of your house, then you’ll need to learn more about a termite colony structure.

The Termite Caste System

As we just mentioned, termites live in vast colonies. In order for the colony to function, each termite needs to have a specific and important job. (You won’t find any art history majors in a termite colony). Most termite colonies are built upon a system of three distinct castes: the worker, the soldier, and the reproductive. Every termite is born into a specific cast, which means that its job is set for life!

Workers, Soldiers, and Reproductive

The lowly worker termites get the worst jobs in the colony. They have to feed themselves, the soldiers, the immature termites, and sometimes even the reproductive class. They also have to build new tunnels, repair old tunnels, and continually search for new food sources. As if that weren’t enough, they also have to work as glorified babysitters, caring for the eggs and immature termites.

It’s not like soldiers have a much better life, though. These huge-headed termites with their menacing mandibles must fight and die for the colony. Their greatest foe is usually ants. Despite their mean-looking mandibles, the soldier termites are kind of a comical bunch. One of their favorite fighting moves is to simply block the entrance to their tunnels with their giant heads. Those wicked mandibles also make it impossible for them to feed themselves, so the workers have to feed them.

The upper class of the termite caste system are the reproductive. This may just include a single male termite and the colony’s queen who produces all of the eggs in the colony. However, in a larger colony, a queen may not be able to lay enough eggs to keep up with the amount of termites that die. In this case, she will call upon the help of secondary queens to help her lay eggs. These secondary queens may also swarm during swarming season to go out and establish colonies of their own.

So Who Is Eating Your House?

If you have a termite colony somewhere in your home, then you really don’t need to worry about the termite soldiers. It’s all those thousands of workers who are doing the real damage. They are the ones who chew up cellulose to feed themselves and the rest of the colony. These are also the guys who can chew through other materials in order to keep building tunnels to new food supplies.

Of course, even though the queen gets the workers to do her dirty work, she is the real culprit. As long as the queen is alive, she can just keep laying more eggs to create more workers. That is why it is so important to destroy a whole colony if you discover an infestation in your home. Killing a small group of workers with a termite trap will only slow the damage; it won’t stop it.

Once the colony is taken care of, it’s time to assess the damage. If a colony was big enough or was inside your house long enough, it could have done a lot of damage. That might mean that you need to repair or replace wooden support structures. That’s why it is a good idea to call on a wood repair team like Best-Rate Repair to review the damage. We will give you an honest assessment of the damage and a recommendation to repair or replace it. If you suspect termite damage in our San Diego home, give us a call today!

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