They are also called "white ants"; however, termites only superficially resemble ants; their "white ant" name arises from their similar size and social habits.
Compared with ants, they are softer, whiter, shorter-legged, fatter, and generally much slower in their movements. Most importantly, they are not at all related to ants, being instead in a group of insects, the Dictyoptera, which also include mantises and cockroaches.
Termites are serious destroyers of wooden buildings but assets in nature
Termites feed on dead plant material, generally in the form of wood, leaf litter or soil, and about 10 percent of the 4,000 odd species (about 2,600 taxonomically known) are economically important as pests that can cause serious structural damage to buildings, crops, or plantation forests.
Termites are significant detrivores of the subtropical and tropical regions, where their recycling of wood and other plant matter is of considerable ecological importance.
Termites are generally grouped according to their feeding behavior; therefore, the commonly used general groupings are: subterranean, soil-feeding, drywood, dampwood, and grass eating. Of these, subterraneans and drywoods are primarily responsible for damage to structures.
From Modern Latin termites; plural of termes (genitive, termitis), a special use of Late Latin termes, "woodworm, white ant", altered (by influence of Latin terere, "to rub, wear, erode") from earlier Latin tarmes.
- All of the termites on earth outweigh humans on earth.
- Termites have been around for 250 million years.
- There are about 50 different species in North America.
- Termites probably originated from cockroaches, their closest insect relative.
- Termite kings and queens can live for 15 years, and the queen is capable of laying one egg every 15 seconds.
- Termites work 24/7; they do not sleep.
- Termites are found in every state except Alaska.
- Termites grow up to one-half inch long.
- Colony size: 300 to 2,700 termites.
- Nationwide, termites cause more than $1 billion annually in property damage; more than all tornadoes, hurricanes, and windstorms combined.
- In nature, termites are actually beneficial because they recycle nutrients from decayed wood back into the soil.