In spite of our aversion to these small, wood-munching creatures, termites are really somewhat fascinating. Of the estimated 4,000 species, only about 10 percent of them actually cause serious structural damage to buildings, crops or forests. They live in somewhat decentralized, self-organized systems. They are classified by a caste system with three distinct categories: the reproductive class, workers and soldiers.
At maturity, the primary queen can produce as many as two thousand eggs a day. The soldiers are the primary defensive unit of the society, often sacrificing themselves while defending against natural enemies and predators like ants. The worker caste termites are the ones responsible for most of the damage. Their primary responsibilities are foraging and storing food, as well as brood and nest maintenance. They digest cellulose, a component of wood; they are the termites found in infested wood and lumber.
Termites look similar to ants but they do have some distinct features. Like ants, termites have two sets of wings, but the termite’s wings are all the same size while the ant’s wings differ in size. A termite’s waist is broader, and less segmented than that of an ant. A termite can also be identified by its straight antennae, while ants have curved antennae.