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There are more than 2,000 species of termites in the U.S. Though they have many characteristics in common, subtle differences help identify each type, and you can learn more about the details of these pests in the termite photos below.
Dampwood termites are among the largest species. However, their bodies vary in size and color, depending on their age. Adults have antennae, dark heads, and tan abdomens, while larvae have white bodies. The pests use their prominent mandibles to eat and tunnel through wood.
Eastern subterranean termites are common across the Mid-Atlantic. This species has slightly different coloring and features than dampwood termites. Their heads are pale yellow, and their mandibles are much smaller and lighter in color than those of other species.
This termite image shows a soldier, which is the caste that defends the colony from predators and rivals. Soldiers are capable of biting humans. However, their attacks are essentially harmless, and bites rarely leave a mark.
Eastern subterranean termite workers have white or translucent bodies, large heads, and dark jaws. Since these pests hollow out lumber from the inside, homeowners are unlikely to see termite workers on wood until they probe into infested timber.
Eastern subterranean termites nest in the soil to get the moisture they need to survive. When the colony needs to expand their tunnels and access more food sources, these termites create mud tubes that allow them to travel over dense materials like stone or concrete. The tubes offer protection from the elements and predators while providing them with a moist habitat.
Rotted wood, like the lumber shown in this termite photo, is a common entryway for the Eastern subterranean species. Timber weakened by moisture and age is easier for them to tunnel through. Many termite infestations in the Mid-Atlantic region occur in basements or cellars where damp or decaying wood is likely to go unnoticed, especially in older buildings.
Wood that makes contact with soil is susceptible to Eastern subterranean termite infestations. Doorframes, stairs, and posts set in the ground often serve as entry points for the pests. To survive the cold Mid-Atlantic winters, termites will also seek out lumber near heat sources such as furnaces, chimneys, or hot water pipes.
Though their presence is a problem for property owners, termites play an important ecological role for the environment. The insects break down dead trees and stumps in forests, and their nests provide aeration and nutrients in the soil, which promotes plant growth and helps prevent erosion.
In the U.S., Eastern subterranean termites do more damage to residential and commercial spaces than any other insect. When left untreated, colonies can spread throughout a building. As seen in this termite image, the pests may infest wall studs as well as drywall and flooring. An extensive infestation can cause serious harm to the structural integrity of a home or business.
Soldier termites protect the others from threats. They are about the same size as a worker with specific characteristics. Their heads are larger, and they may have a dark brown or yellowish color depending on the species. As shown in the termite photo above, they also have powerful pincers to fend off predators.
If you find termites in wood supports of your home or business, you may see a few soldiers mixed in with pale, translucent workers. Soldiers rely on workers for food, and in turn, they use their mandibles to defend the colony from invaders.
A mass of discarded wings is a serious sign of termite infestation. In the Mid-Atlantic region, swarming termites usually emerge between February and June, but they may appear earlier in heated buildings. They shed their wings soon after mating. Finding cast-off wings indoors often indicates a long-term problem with an established colony.
Swarmers have a distinct appearance when compared to soldiers and workers. Flying reproductives are dark