Termite Biology

Termites are small, highly social insects that live in highly advanced colonies. The kind of termite we encounter most often in Virginia is the Eastern Subterranean Termite, which lives underground and eats wood. Left untreated, termites can literally eat you out of house and home.

Termite Castes

Subterranean termites live in colonies and are divided into castes, each of which performs very specific duties.


Termite workers in the soil.Most of the termites in any particular colony are worker termites. These termites are responsible for foraging for food, tending to young, building and maintaining mud tubing, and performing the colony's general housekeeping chores.

Workers also are the termites who do all the damage. They're the only caste who forage for food and chew wood. The rest of the colony members are fed by the workers.

Reproductive Termites

Supplemental reproductive termiteA termite colony begins with one pair of reproductive termites: the original king and queen who established the colony after leaving another as alates.

The most important member of any termite colony is the Queen, whose jobs are to lay eggs and to control the rest of the colony's activities by the release of chemical messengers caled pheromones. Mature termite colonies often have additional reproductive members known as supplemental reproductives, who lay eggs, but are not believed to exert very much (if any) control over the rest of the colony.

Soldier Termites

Termite SoldiersSoldier termites are found only in mature termite colonies. Soldiers have armored heads and mouthparts that are adapted for fighting. Their job is to protect the colony from attack by predators (primarily ants and other carnivorous insects). When the colony is attacked (for example, when a mud tube is broken), the soldiers will hurry to the scene and guard the breach while the workers repair the damage.

Winged Reproductive Termites ("Alates" or "Swarmers")

Many dead winged termite swarmers on a concrete floorMature termite colonies also produce winged reproductive termites, also called "alates" or "swarmers." These termites are produced in vast numbers and leave the nest in swarms of mating pairs to establish new colonies. Most of them will die in the attempt, and their dead bodies and shed wings in basements, along sliding door tracks, and in windowsills are often the first visible evidence that a building is infested with termites.

Termite Damage

Unless they are controlled, termites can literally eat you out of house and home, causing damage that undermines the home's structural integrity and can cost many thousands of dollars to repair. Choosing the right termite treatment is one of the most important decisions a homeowner will have to make. Please click here to learn more about our termite control programs, or contact us for more information.