Termites are considered to be the most destructive insect pests in the world. Many buildings and structures are damaged by these pests each year resulting in huge financial losses.
There are 200 different species of termites in Malaysia, but only a handful cause problems to properties:
About 90% of property damages in Malaysia are caused by Coptotermes species making it the “public enemy number 1” in Malaysia.
Flying termites or better known as the swarmers or alates are winged reproductives that fly away from the nest to establish new colonies. Due to their similarities with flying ants, people are often confused between termite and ant swarmers.
The difference between these two pests will greatly impact the type of services needed to control them in your property. Here’s how to establish the general differences in appearance and behavior between ants and termites:
Waist - Termites have a straight waist, while ants have a pinched waist.
Antennae - Termites have straight antennae while ants have bent antennae.
Wing Length - Termites wings are the same length while ants have wings of different length.
Discarded Wings - Flying ants do not shed their wings. If you have seen these flying insects in your property, you can be fairly certain that you have identified termites if you’ve also found discarded wings (usually found by the window sill).
Look for differences in body shape - The image below should help you identify important differences in body shape of termites and winged ants:
Family: Rhinotermitidae (subfamily Coptotermitidae)
Castes: Queen, king, soldier, worker, reproductive.
Nest type & Behaviour: Coptotermes build nest in the soil because they are very dependent on it for moisture. In their search for food, subterranean termites construct mud tubes because they are susceptible to desiccation when exposed to air. They usually work their way above ground to reach wood or any other cellulose source. The cellulose is then broken down into simple starch with the help of the protozoans in the termites gut.
Economic significance: Termites are considered to be amongst the most destructive pest in the world. It is estimated that the annual damages caused to buildings and structures in Malaysia amounted to RM40 million annually.
The basic castes in a colony are queens, kings, workers, soldiers and alates.
The function of the Queen and King in the termite colony is to reproduce. Starting out life as an Alate, they leave their parents' colony, drop to the ground and shed their wings to seek out an environment to nest. They care for their young until they are able to take over the duties of the colony.
The workers make up the largest number within a colony. They do all of the work (except defend and reproduce): feeding, grooming, excavating the nest and making tunnels. In doing their jobs, they cause the destruction that effects so many homes.
Soldiers defend the colony against attack by predatory enemies such as ants, and are equipped with large jaws, sticky fluids or chemical spray to do so.
Alates are the winged reproductives that swarm out from the nest and establish new colonies. Male and females pair off and look for a suitable environment to mate. They are often confused with ant swarmers.
Learn more about Rentokil Termite Home Protection Plan