Types Of Termites In India

Which are the different types of termites that spread rapidly and cause the greatest damage to property? Read on to know more.

By Parama Gupta

Types Of Termites In India

Termites, also called ‘white ants’, are much-dreaded pests that infest households. Termites are particularly known to cause great damage to anything made of wood. However, they can also spoil food crops, walls, carpets and books.

There are around 2,000 different species of termites found in the world. They are usually one-fourth of an inch or half an inch long. Like bees and ants, termites are also categorised as ‘social insects’, as they live in large colonies with a king and queen at the helm of affairs. A colony usually comprises around 60,000 to 10 lakh termites. Large-scale termite infestation can cause severe damage.

Here’s a fact file of the most common types of termites that infest homes.

1. Drywood termites

  • These are wood termites and usually attack anything made of wood such as furniture, cupboards and parts of walls made of wood.
  • They don’t depend on high moisture content or contact with soil for survival. Although termites infest wood that is long-lasting, they can also be found in wood that decays quickly.
  • They dig through the wood to make nests and eat the wood, causing long-term damage.
  • Drywood termites are smaller than rice grains in size. They are cream or brown-coloured, depending on the function they perform within the colony. However, a swarm of flying drywood termites appears white in colour.
  • The damage caused by these pests to wooden surfaces can be identified by scraping the surface.

2. Dampwood termites

  • Dampwood termites need moisture for their survival. So, they infest wood with high moisture content. They feed on decaying wood.
  • The members of this species measure between 20 and 25 mm in length and are larger than termites of other species. However, by the time they are detected, they usually cause irreparable damage.
  • Dampwood termites hide their presence by closing their entry points with their faeces. Also, they do not build a mud wall or tube. This makes it very hard to detect them.
  • Their presence can however be ascertained by faecal pellets and shed wings near wooden furniture.
  • Pieces of wood that have direct contact with water on a daily basis run a high risk of being infested by dampwood termites.

3. Formosan termites

  • Formosan termites cause the greatest damage to house structure and furniture compared to other types of termites. They live in large underground colonies and can build mud nests on walls.
  • They are considered highly aggressive and are sometimes called ‘super termites’. The Formosan termites cause damage to wooden structures, floor and other parts of the house by chewing through them.
  • Pale or brownish yellow in colour, they measure between 14 and 15 mm in length.
  • Formosan termites can be detected through the presence of termite swarms or flying termites near sources of light such as tube lights and bulbs. These winged termites usually leave behind piles of shed wings.
  • Wood infested with this species produces a hollow sound when tapped.

4. Subterranean termites

  • As the name suggests, subterranean termites live under the ground in large colonies populated by close to 2 million members.
  • They are usually a quarter to half an inch long and are brown or black in colour. They have two pairs of wings that are equal in size. The workers and soldiers are usually cream-coloured with no wings.
  • At times, they may even eat books, items containing cellulose and cotton clothes apart from wood.
  • They protect themselves by building mud tubes, so they don’t come in contact with open air. This is necessary for their survival. Their presence can thus be detected through trails of mud tubes.

Termite prevention strategies

Here are a few general guidelines for prevention of a termite attack:

  • Coat wooden surfaces with paint that doesn’t peel off.
  • Fill holes, crevices and cracks to stop termites from entering the interiors of a wooden surface.
  • Ensure there isn’t any tree wood in the form of lumber or stumps dumped close to your house.
  • Throw away items that are already contaminated by termites.
  • Fix leakage and drainage issues in every part of the house.
  • Use wood that is pressure-treated to ensure resistance to damage from fungi or water.
  • Remove stagnant water in and around the house.
  • Ensure your house is properly ventilated.
  • Prevent dampening of wood present in the house.

Careful termite prevention strategies, timely detection and taking the necessary steps to tackle infestation can protect your house from the heavy damage caused by these pests. In case of serious infestation, call pest control services to tackle the menace. Also, go for regular termite treatment to keep these pests at bay.

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Written by Parama Gupta on 23 August 2019

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