Termites



ü  Did you know?

ü  Termite have been around since the time of the dinosaurs!

ü  All termite are social insects and raise their young as a group.

ü  The total weight of all of the termite in the world is more than the weight of all the humans in the world.

ü  Termite colonies eat non-stop, 24 hours a day, Thirty days  in a  month and longer

ü  Termite have wings that they shed once they have found a good place to build a nest.

ü  Termite are known as "silent destroyer" because of their ability to chew through wood, flooring and even wallpaper undetected.

ü  There are about 300 termite species in the Pakistan.

ü  Each year, termite cause more than billion Rupees in property damage in Pakistan

ü  The most damaging and silent destroyer insects that attack structural wood are termite.

 

Termite known as Demak in Punjab Pakistan, Termites are closely related to cockroaches, but they are different from almost all other insects because they can convert the cellulose of wood into starches and sugar and use it for nutrition. They can do this because of a mutually beneficial association with microorganisms in their digestive tracts that convert cellulose into simple substances that termites can digest. In nature, termites help convert dead wood and other materials containing cellulose into humus. Entomologists have described about 300 species of termites for the entire Pakistan however There are 3 species of termites in the Pakistan that require man’s attention to a greater or lesser extent.

 

Subterranean Termites

Subterranean termites are native, soil-inhabiting insects that feed on wood, paper and similar cellulose containing materials. The economic importance of subterranean termite attacks on buildings is related to the fact that wood members of a building closest to the soil, such as sills, joists, studs, girders and other important load bearing elements of construction are most likely to be severely damaged by termites. Failure to stop termite attacks can cause loss of support. Other forms of building deterioration, such as sagging walls, leaking surfaces and wood decay can follow. Heated buildings where wood is in direct contact with or in close proximity to the soil offer termites the ideal environment, a favorable year round climate and an abundant sheltered food source. Subterranean termites are social insects that live in colonies. Three castes can be found there reproductive’s, workers and soldiers. The winged primary reproductive adult Swarmer Termite. (Flying termite) is the form most often seen. These swarmer termites are dark colored with bodies about 3/8 of an inch long. They have two pairs of semitransparent wings of identical size and shape that extend beyond the body to twice its length. The antennae or feelers, like those of all termites, resemble a string of little globular beads. Large numbers of winged individuals emerge on warm sunny days after a rain as early as March or April but usually in late April.

Queen and King to early May After Reproductive Termites taking flight and finding a mate, the termites lose their wings, search out a place to start a nest, mate and begin rearing the first group of workers. The mated female becomes the queen and the male the king. In very large colonies, a secondary reproductive caste may also be seen.

 These supplemental or secondary reproductive’s mate and reproduce within the existing colony. These termites are light colored and usually. Secondary have two pairs of short wing Reproductive. Usually, they exist in addition to the regular mature queen but may become the most important source of eggs in the colony. They are formed as needed and can also take the place of the queen if she is injured or dies. Thus strong colonies have multiple queens. These additional reproductive’s also give the colony a chance to spread through the process of “budding,” where a number of workers or secondary reproductive’s can be cut off from the main colony and form a new, self-sufficient colony.

The worker caste makes up the bulk of the colony and is directly responsible for damage to wood. Workers are about 1/4-inch long, whitish colored and soft-bodied. Termite workers are sterile and dedicate their lives to the upkeep, feeding and sanitation work of the colony. Their need for moist, humid environments requires workers to live within the ground or in mud tubes that are constructed up into the wood they are attacking. Workers are rarely seen unless infested wood is examined or the mud tubes are broken open. Because of their thin skin, workers will dry up and die within three to six hours if exposed to the drying conditions outside the nests. The nymphs and adult workers both have thin, bead like antennae and differ only in size.

The soldier caste is another form found in colonies. Their primary function is defense of the colony soldiers are easily recognized by their large, brownish, well-developed heads and jaws/mandibles. Their responsibility is defending the colony from attack by ants or other termites. The sterile soldiers are far less numerous than the workers. They hide within the mud tubes and in the nest, and will not be seen unless the wood or mud tubes are disturbed. Many people confuse the winged primary reproductive termite with flying ants, which can also be found swarming near structures.

A colony, usually between two and six years old, becomes large enough to produce swarmer termites.  

At this time, the colony consists of thousands of individuals, both growing and mature. When swarming termite occurs, both winged males and females emerge from the colony, pair off and fly away to begin new colonies. They lose their wings and construct a small cell in or near wood where they mate, reproduce and rear the first group of workers.

The mated female becomes the queen and the male the king Usually the large numbers of swarmer termite never survive to establish colonies but are preyed upon by birds, toads and other animals, or they die from adverse environmental conditions. Indoors, their usual fate is to die harmlessly within a few days.

Swarming activity occurs during daylight hours over several days or weeks and usually follows a rain. Environmental conditions such as heat, light and moisture trigger emergence of swarmer termites

A well-established colony of termites may develop hundreds to thousands of winged kings and queens depending on the species. This usually occurs during the time of year best suited to the needs of the termite. Subterranean termites prefer warmth and there must be enough moisture present so that they will not desiccate. Therefore, on the first warm day following the first spring rains, subterranean termites frequently emerge from their swarm tubes in great numbers. However, in Pakistan it is not uncommon to see subterranean termites swarm in other seasons of the year. Our records show swarming has occurred in every month of the year. The act of swarming is dangerous for termites.

Winged termites tend to be weak fliers and are easy food for hungry birds and predacious insects.

Generally, less than three percent of the swarming termites survive. The wind has a strong influence upon the direction and distance traveled by the new kings and queens. Once they have emerged from the nest, the primary reproductive’s eventually strike the ground out of exhaustion or by accident. Random pairing commences at once. The queen seeks a suitable location to start another colony. While she is doing this, a king or several kings line up and follow behind her.

Before mating takes place termites break off their wings along a basal suture. Subterranean termite queens usually locate their original nests in the soil, frequently near buried wood.

Once mating has occurred, the queen produces eggs of the desired caste. Subterranean termites develop through three growth stages egg, nymph and adult.

A fertilized female or queen produces eggs. The young termites hatching from the eggs are called nymphs and are white or pale cream colored, soft bodied and blind. They have three pairs of legs and, though capable of moving about, must first be cared for by other termites. Later, the nymphs can feed on wood and take care of themselves. In a colony, some nymphs develop large heads with a hard, brown skin and large jaws or mandibles. These individuals are soldier termites. Other nymphs develop two pairs of wing pads on their backs, and at the final molt to the adult, emerge as dark colored, winged, reproductive with fully developed eyes. In very large colonies, some of the developing potential reproductive’s become re productively mature males and females but with arrested wing development. These supplemental reproductive’s may mate within the colony and never leave it.

Colony history during the spring or summer months, a mated pair of winged termites establishes a new colony beginning with the young hatching from the small number of eggs first produced by the female. These nymphs become workers, more young are produced and the colony grows.

A second critical need of subterranean termites is a constant source of wood or cellulose-containing material from which they derive their nutrition. Paper, cotton, burlap or other plant products are often actively attacked and consumed by subterranean termites. Unlike the carpenter ant, termites cannot hibernate and – must continue to feed and be active throughout the winter. Severe winter cold prevents termites in the woodland from feeding in stumps above ground during much of the winter. However, wood in close contact with floor common in house design beginning provides a favorable habitat during winter.

Worker termites and older nymphs consume wood and share their nourishment with the developing young, other workers, soldiers and reproductive’s.

Certain types of fungi play an important role in a termite’s life. Termites are highly attracted to odors produced by wood decaying fungi that, through the decaying process, make the wood easier to penetrate. In some instances, the fungus provides a source of nitrogen in the termite diet. Termite colonies are remarkably non-combative. It is entirely possible for ants and termites to infest the same building, each producing its winged adults at the appropriate time. There is interaction only if the ant colony finds it expedient to feed upon individuals of the termite colony.

Termites can detect vibrations through their legs. They are unable to hear noises near their nests, but are immediately alerted when their nest is tapped. When alarmed, the soldier termites butt their heads against the gallery walls to initiate the vibrations that will warn the colony. Under certain circumstances it is possible to hear this “ticking” sound.

Termite shelter tubes that the termites build over the surface of the foundation to reach the wood these tubes are usually 1/4-1/2-inch wide. Termites perish rapidly under dry conditions, so they Termite shelter tube build these mud tubes to maintain correct humidity throughout the colony.

 

Dry wood Termites

 This termite is not commonly found in Pakistan however, a brief discussion is provided for reference. Dry wood termites live and feed in dry, sound wood and can cause structural damage. Usually significant damage requires a longer period (as compared to subterranean termites) to occur since dry wood termite colonies develop at a slower rate. Also, since these termites live and feed inside sound wood, external damage signs may go undetected for years. Infestations may be found in structural timber and wood work in buildings, furniture, telephone poles, lumber stacked in lumberyards, paper, cloth, fiber insulation boards and in other products containing cellulose. Identification Dry wood and subterranean termites are similar in general shape and conformation but differ slightly in size and coloration. They are found in colonies consisting of three castes

 Reproductive’s, workers and soldiers. Dry wood winged reproductive’s (primary reproductive’s, swarmers or alates) generally are larger than subterranean termites with dark brown, smoky gray or almost clear wings. The body color may vary from dark brown to light yellowish-tan.

The dry wood termite worker and soldier castes closely resemble those of subterranean termites. In most dry wood termite species, there is no true worker caste as this function is taken over by nymphs. Biology and Habits Nymphs hatch from the eggs within several weeks and are cared for by the new king and queen. After two molts nymphs assume the role of workers and begin to feed and care for the original pair. Eggs are not deposited continuously; in fact, very few are deposited during the first year. In subsequent years, the young queen matures and begins to lay more eggs. Eventually, the colony stabilizes when the queen reaches maximum egg production. At that point the colony contains eggs, nymphs, workers, soldiers and reproductive’s. If the queen dies, secondary reproductive’s take over the queen’s duties. Maximum size of a colony depends on several factors such as location, food availability and environmental conditions. Some colonies remain small, but adjacent, multiple colonies may contain up to ten thousand individuals. The colony grows through the queen’s increased egg production and the accumulation of long-lived individuals.

After a dry wood termite colony has matured, usually requiring several years, swarmers are produced. The swarming activity occurs at dusk or in the evening, and the swarmers fly towards areas of greatest light intensity, gathering around lights or illuminated windows. Emergence is not often associated with a definite season of the year; most dry wood termites emerge during the summer. Certain environmental conditions, such as heat, light and moisture trigger the emergence of swarmers, and each species has a definite set of conditions under which swarming occurs. The number of swarmers is in proportion to the age and size of the colony while environmental conditions regulate the numbers coming forth from the colony. Critical Needs Dry wood termites derive their nutrition from wood and other material containing cellulose. In fact, the greater the cellulose content of a plant or plant product, the more attractive it is to dry wood termites. Dry wood termites often actively consume paper, cotton, burlap or other plant products. These termites are dependent on large numbers of one-celled microorganisms that exist in the termite gut for cellulose digestion. The microorganisms serve to break down wood particles to simpler compounds that termites can absorb as food.

Functional older nymphs consume wood and share their nourishment with the developing young, Moisture is not as important to drywood termites as it is to the existence of subterranean termites. They require no contact with the soil or with any source of moisture. Dry wood termites extract water from the wood on which they feed and from water formed internally by digestive processes. They require as little as 2 1/2 to 3 percent moisture, but prefer wood with 10 percent moisture content.

Damp wood Termites

Damp wood termites are not native to Pakistan and are of minor importance from a world stand point, but they make up a distinct habitat group.

Damp wood termites locate their colonies in damp, often decaying wood; but once established, they can extend their activities into sound and even relatively dry wood. They enter wood directly at the time of swarming and always confine their work to wood. They are occasionally responsible for serious damage to wooden structures, usually in conjunction with fungus attack, since the moisture requirements of both are similar. Flights (swarming) of the damp wood termites usually occur at dusk. Some flights occur throughout the entire year; however, peak annual swarming takes place in late summer and fall. The winged reproductive of damp wood termites may be an inch or more long, including the wings; the wings are from 7/8 to an inch long. The body is light cinnamon-brown; the wings are light to dark brown, heavily veined, and leathery in appearance. The soldiers are 3/8- to 3/4-inch long, depending upon the in star in which they assumed their typical soldier characteristics. This varies with the age of the colony, which is somewhat true of many species of termites. As with other members of this family, there is no worker class. The nymphs are about 1/2-inch long.

Termite control represents a major portion of pest control work. No other type of pest control involves as many variables that affect the work to be done or the results obtained. Technicians involved in termite control must understanding of the biology and unique habits of the termites, including their food, moisture and temperature requirements. Technicians must also have knowledge of building construction as well as the equipment, chemicals and safety precautions involved in termite control.