Termites and Queen The eastern subterranean termite is the most common termite found in North America. These termites are the most economically important wood destroying insects in the United States and are classified as pests. They feed on cellulose material such as the structural wood in buildings, wooden fixtures, paper, books and cotton. A mature colony can range from 20,000 workers to as high as 5 million workers and the primary queen of the colony lays 5,000 to 10,000 eggs per year to add to this total. They live in loosely associated societies called colonies which are composed of both males and females. The termites in the colony are generally organized into the worker caste, the soldier caste, and the reproductive caste. Workers are about 3 mm long and are blind, wingless, soft-bodied, creamy white to grayish-white with a round head. They make up the majority of the termites that actually eat the wood. They are sterile and forage for food and water, construct and repair shelter tubes, feed and groom other termites, care for eggs and young, and participate in colony defense. Soldier termites are also wingless and resemble workers except that they have a large, rectangular, yellowish-brown head with long black mandibles. The soldiers’ primary function is colony defense and the mandibles are mainly used for crushing enemy ants which may invade the colony. Additionally, R. flavipes has a fontanelle (frontal gland pore) on the forehead which releases a sticky latex to ensnare enemy ants. The soldier caste only makes up 1 to 2% of the entire colony. The soldiers are not capable of feeding themselves and rely on the worker termites to provide them with regurgitated food. Reproductive caste These are the adult winged termites who have two pairs of long narrow wingsof equal size, dark skin, and beaded antennae. A nuptial flight takes place, mating occurs and they shed their wings. They are black and about one centimeter long, with grayish transparent wings. Neotenic reproductives are potential kings and queens of the colony, available as replacements if needed. They are generally yellow or mottled black and the abdomen of the female may be distended with developing eggs. The Formosan termite is easily transported from one infested area to another in landscape timbers, railroad cross-timbers, mulch and wooden pallets. Isolated infestations of Formosan termites have been reported in many areas of the state,( “Formosan Subterranean Termites”). When natural vegetation is cleared and houses are built, termites often switch to feeding on wooden structures. Termites enter buildings through wood that is in direct contact with the soil and by building shelter tubes over or through cracks in foundations. Any cellulose material in direct contact with the soil, such as trees, vines or plumbing fixtures, can serve as an avenue of infestation. Mud tubes: Mud shelter tubes on crawl space piers, utility penetrations or on foundation walls and slabs are a sign of termite infestation. Termite shelter tubes can blend in well with the soil or concrete, making them difficult to see. To make inspecting the home for termites easier, prune vegetation away from house walls. The soil line should be several inches below the top of slabs or foundation walls. An inspector should look for mud tubes carefully along foundation walls and slabs, especially along cracks, in corners or where the top of the foundation is close to the ground. A screwdriver is useful to break open suspected termite tubes and detect live termites.