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Termites, sometimes known as white ants, are a group of social insects. Termites usually prefer to feed on dead plant material, generally in the form of wood, leaf litter, or soil and can cause serious structural damage to buildings, crops or plantation forests.
Because of their wood-eating habits, termites sometimes do great damage to buildings and other wooden structures. Their habit of remaining concealed often results in their presence being undetected until the timbers are severely damaged and exhibit surface changes. Once termites have entered a building they do not limit themselves just to wood, also damaging paper, cloth, carpets, and other cellulosic materials.
As social insects, termites live in colonies that, at maturity, number from several hundred to several million individuals. A typical colony contains nymphs (semi-mature young), workers, soldiers, and reproductive individuals of both genders, sometimes containing several egg-laying queens.
A female that has flown, mated and is producing eggs, is called a "Queen". At maturity, a primary queen can lay several thousand eggs a day. A male that has flown, mated and remains in proximity to a queen, is termed a "King". The king remains only slightly bigger than an average termite and continues to mate with the queen for life.
Worker termites undertake the labours of foraging, food storage, brood, nest maintenance and some of the defense effort in certain species. Workers are the main caste in the colony. They are generally blind due to undeveloped eyes. Despite this limitation they are able to create elaborate nests and tunnel systems using a combination of soil, chewed wood /cellulose, saliva and faeces. Some species have been known to create such durable walls that industrial machinery has been damaged in an attempt to break their tall mounds.
The soldier caste has anatomical and behavioural specializations, primarily useful against ant attack. The proportion of soldiers within a colony varies both within and between species. Many soldiers have jaws so enlarged that they cannot feed themselves, but instead, like juveniles, are fed by workers.
|Avoide contact of susceptible timber with ground by using termite-resistant concrete, steel or masonry foundation with appropriate barriers.|
|New buildings should be constructed with embedded physical termite barriers so that there are no easy means for termites to gain concealed entry.|
|Use of timber that is naturally resistant to termites such as Canarium australianum (Turpentine Tree), Callitris glaucophylla (White Cypress), or one of the Sequoias. Note that there is no tree species whose every individual tree yields only timbers that are immune to termite damage, so that even with well known termite-resistant timber types, there will occasionally be pieces that are attacked.|
When termites have already penetrated a building, the first action is usually to destroy the colony with insecticides before removing the termites' means of access and fixing the problems that encouraged them in the first place. Baits (feeder stations) with small quantities of disruptive insect hormones or other very slow acting toxins have become the preferred least-toxic management tool in most western countries.
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