Termites are social insects. They live in big colonies and can cause a lot of harm to buildings and wooden furniture. There are 2000 different types of termites in the world. Each has four stages of life: egg, larvae, pupae, and adult.
In this article, we’ll learn about termites and what their larvae look like.
Types of Termites
Termites come in over 2,000 species. Of these, around 50 are serious pests. Groups of these pests include subterranean, drywood, and dampwood termites. Each group is divided into various varieties, based on distinguishing characteristics.
- Subterranean termites love moist soil, with little oxygen. Examples are dampwood/drywood reproduce swarmers, eastern subterranean termite, and western drywood termite. They create honeycomb galleries in wood and eat wood, paper, and insulation.
- Drywood termites prefer dry places like decks and attics. They don’t need contact with soil for moisture. Types include desert drywood and western drywood. They damage furniture and then invade walls or ceilings to feed on timbers.
- Dampwood or wetwood termites live indoors or outdoors in damp woods like logs or stumps. Nests look like decaying tree stumps. Examples are Florida dampwood or Florida black widow termites. They infest wooden material with high moisture levels or condensation problems.
Termite larvae have three segments: head, thorax (stylet), and abdomen (anus). Depending on species, larvae can have extra setae (bristles) or hair-like tubercles. These may be longer than normal garden grub types.
Termites Life Cycle
Termites go through complete metamorphosis, which consists of four distinct stages: egg, larva, nymph, and adult.
- Eggs may take a few days to weeks to hatch. They are initially white and translucent, and later turn yellowish-white.
- Larvae look like small grubs, with six legs and blue-white bodies. As they age, they turn brownish.
The larvae enter the nymphal stage after molting a few times. In their final instar phase, their wings become visible, and they are covered in brown wing covers. Nymphs are white in color, but gain pigment when workers and soldiers molt into reproductive adults.
Adults have enlarged heads that they use to push their way into wood and create cells during nesting activities. Their color depends on their role within the colony and can be yellowish-brown to dark red-brown. Diet can also affect their size. If they eat cellulose-rich sources, such as carpets, walls, insulation, and paper products, they will be larger. They can also feed on plant material, such as leaves, grass, stems, buds, flowers, fruits, vegetables, crops, seeds, nuts, herbs, and spices.
What Do Termites Larvae Look Like?
Termite larvae are usually pale yellow or white and about a quarter of an inch long. Their bodies are smooth and segmented, plus they have six legs. The heads are usually pointed and they have mandibles for eating and antennae for sensing.
Now, let’s get a closer view of these termite larvae!
Appearance of Termites Larvae
Termite larvae look like small white worms, usually measuring 4-25mm long. They have an elongated body with three parts: head, thorax and abdomen. The head is helmet-shaped, with short antennae and barely visible eyespots. The thorax has two pairs of legs per segment, while the abdomen has ridges that get bigger with age. They are typically translucent or white due to a waxy coating called chitin, which protects them from dehydration.
They go through four molts before becoming adults:
- Nymphal instar (1-3 stages)
- Pre-pupa (stage 4)
- Pupa (stage 5)
During these stages, the larvae will physically change, increasing in size and developing dark pigmentation on certain body segments. After 8-12 weeks, young adults emerge from their cocoons, fully developed.
Characteristics of Termites Larvae
Termite larvae, aka white grubs or nymphs, are the smallest form of termites. They lack wings and are about 1/32 inch long when full-grown. Depending on the species, they have a creamy head, large eyes, small thorax, and segmented abdomen.
The larvae have 3 categories based on age:
- New larvae are milky white and translucent.
- Pre-pupae are bigger and more opaque, with six lanceolate mandibles.
- After the pupal stage, they become reproductives or “adults” with wings.
To differentiate female (“queen”) from male (“king”) reproductive termites, you must separate them as they look similar externally. Internally, they differ and have different roles in reproduction.
Habitat of Termites Larvae
Termite larvae are found in colonies. Their home needs to be humid. They feed on wood and other organic matter from their parents. They’re small, white and soft-bodied insects. Near the food source, that’s where you’ll find them.
Let’s look at the habitat of termite larvae and why it’s so essential for them:
Different Types of Habitat
Termites larvae can be found in different habitats. Knowing these habitats is important for proper control methods.
- Subterranean Termites live underground and build nests near timber sources. They can also attack other materials, like plaster, mortar, and concrete. These nests have moisture-filled soils with chambers for food, eggs, and larvae.
- Drywood Termites live in dry areas, such as attics and high-rise buildings. They use wood dust to create shelter around eggs and larvae.
- Conehead Termites prefer warm climates and are often found outside under large logs or decaying vegetation. Their egg cases are round and made of soil particles.
- Mound Building Termites live beneath ground level but build huge mounds of dirt on top of the ground. These mounds can reach heights up to 6 feet, depending on the species.
Factors That Influence Habitat Selection
Termite larvae’s nesting habits are hugely impacted by environmental elements like food availability, climate, and disturbances. These critters live in a variety of habitats – from temperate to tropical.
Generally, larvae need moist and sheltered places that are not exposed to extreme temperatures or direct sunlight. Outdoors, they nest under logs or debris on the ground in forests or grasslands. Indoors, they hide in dark areas close to sources of moisture like leaky pipes and standing water.
Larvae must have an ample food source to survive and reproduce. Their diet is mostly wood and other plant cellulose. Therefore, these larvae have a preference for places with plenty of rotting wood like forests and compost piles. They can also adapt, consuming other organic materials like paper, leaves, cardboard boxes, and synthetic fabrics.
Reproduction of Termites Larvae
Termites are social insects. That means they live in big colonies, and need to reproduce to keep the population steady. To do this, termites go through metamorphosis, which leads to larvae.
Let’s check out the process of termite larvae reproduction and what they look like!
Termites are among the most successful insects around. They reproduce in a similar cycle. A colony has a queen, a consort, workers, soldiers and various generations of breeding pairs.
In mid-spring, young adults swarm and mate with new partners. This is when the “primary reproductive” state starts, lasting up to 5 years.
The eggs created by the primary reproductives become larvae or nymphs. These look like small white grubs – 3mm long, black eyes and long mandibles. They feed on digested cellulose secreted by workers in galleries. This gives them nourishment until they mature into either reproductive or non-reproductive adults.
Termites have a special caste system related to their mating behavior and reproduction. There are different kinds of termites that do different jobs, such as kings and queens who make larvae and worker termites who build the nest and look for food.
The queen is the only one that lays eggs and she does it all year round. She chooses a chamber in the wall or floor of the nest to lay her eggs after mourning her mate. The queen can mate with 12-16 males and produce up to 4,000 eggs per day! That’s up to 2 million larvae in a year!
Termite larvae look like adults but they’re much smaller and weaker. Their color ranges from light grey to yellowish-brown, creamy white or orange. Most larvae are less than 1 millimeter long. They stay close to their mother until they pupate, then they become adult termites that can colonize, mate, and start a new infestation.
Control of Termites Larvae
Termites have multiple phases of development. Larvae are one of these stages. If precautions aren’t taken, these larvae can cause huge damage to your house. Therefore, it’s helpful to know what they look like.
Let’s discuss controlling termite larvae in detail!
Chemical control of termite larvae is a process to reduce and eliminate infestations. It involves insecticides specifically designed to target and kill the insects. A full barrier treatment with a soil-applied insecticide is the most effective method.
To be effective, all areas where adult termites may enter must be identified and treated. This includes the foundation walls, baseboards and any other areas. All crevices should be sealed. Move furnishing, carpets and items away during treatment. Seal holes around windows, frames and door frames. Then move back the furniture and furnishings without pesticide residue. An experienced professional pest management company can help protect with chemical control of larvae.
Physical control is a way to manage termite larvae. It uses physical techniques like barriers, traps and baits. These methods can protect against infestations.
- Barriers: These can block larvae movement between soil, wood and other material. Types include chemical treatments, caulkings, foams, metal and small stones or gravel. Correctly installed, they stop termite larvae from entering.
- Traps: Capture termites with sticky gels or boxes containing insecticide. Place strategically near entrances or other places termites congregate.
- Baits: Used in places humans don’t often go, like backyards or under decks. Wood pieces contain insecticide that kill larvae feeding over time. The process takes several months. Check regularly to make sure the bait is still attractive, as weather or other creatures can ruin it.
Biological control agents are living organisms used to fight pest insects, including termites. Natural predators, parasites, nematodes and fungi are chosen and released into the environment to reduce the population of termites. This type of control is used to add on to existing chemical or physical control techniques. It is gaining importance because it specifically targets pests without affecting beneficial species.
Examples of biological control agents for termites are parasitic nematodes, predatory ants, mites, fungi that attack larvae and viruses that target specific hosts. Benefits of using biological control agents instead of chemicals include reduced risks for humans and the environment and lower costs. This has been widely proven to work in many places worldwide.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Do Termites Larvae Look Like?
Termite larvae are white and translucent, measuring about 3 to 5 millimeters in length. They have small heads, six legs, a hard exoskeleton, and three body segments. The larvae are wingless and look like small worms.