Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What Are "White Ants"?

termite worker ("white ant")
White Ants = Termites
The term "white ants" generally refers to a group of insects that are more commonly called termites (Isoptera), more specifically subterranean termite workers. Worker termites are very pale and delicate, and superficially resemble delicate, white "ants" (see photo). However, termites and ants (order Hymenoptera) are not closely related at all and have very little in common. See the following pages about Termite Biology and Control for more information about these potentially destructive insects.

Termites are fairly primitive insects that live in colonies. Unlike almost every other insects, termites feed on cellulose (wood fiber) with the help of special microbes in their gut. This ability to utilize wood as food makes termites a serious potential structural pest in our homes. While true ants also live in colonies, they are far more advanced than termites in terms of their developmental biology and behavior. Ants are mostly scavengers/predators (the large carpenter ants, which can also damage structural wood, do not feed on wood but only use it as building material).

Because of the potential for costly damage, structures are often treated for termites during construction ("pre-construction treatment") or after construction when damage is detected ("post-construction treatment"). For more information about termites, termite control and termite baitings see our 'Bugs site.

1 comment:

Kat said...

I am plagued by colonies of these white ants (termites) in the courtyard garden plots of our building in NYC. The building is not wood, the plot is surrounded by stone and cement - what are they feeding on? How do I get rid of them? All the information I see is about getting them out of your house, not your dirt pile...