Epifamily Termitoidae – Termites – BugGuide.Net

Posted: February 4, 2021 at 10:51 am

Other Common Names

Synonyms and other taxonomic changes


used to be treated as a separate order Isoptera

Explanation of Names


Overview of our fauna

Taxa not yet in the guide are marked (*)




Termite alates (swarmers) are often confused with ants, webspinners, certain rove beetles and occasionally earwigs.

Alates possess a well developed distinct pronotum, two pairs of (more or less) equal sized wings, which detach along a suture. This leaves behind two pairs of wing scales. The wings are an elongated and extend significantly in length, oten times being equal to twice as long as the termite.

See also:



Our area; diversity increases towards the southern latitudes, with Termitidae predominantly making up the diversity in the Southwest while Kalotermitidae and Rhinotermitidae in the Southeast.

In Canada termites are found in British Columbia, Southern Alberta, Winnipeg Manitoba and Southern Ontario.


All termites live in colonies. Colony size and nest size may vary. Termites can be classified into three different nesting types: single-piece nesting (Group I), intermediate nesters (Group II) and separate piece nesters (Group III)

Single piece nesting involves individuals who nest within their food (wood) and otherwise do not leave said wood.

Intermediate nesters nest within their food (wood) but also forage to seek more food to nest in.

Separate piece nesters do not nest within their food and must leave their nest and forage to find it.

Archotermopsidae Group I nesting. These termites are behaviorally primitive, and strictly dampwood termites. Unlike most termites their diversity increases away from the equator. They often occupy mountainous habitats with cooler temperatures and damp climates (i.e the mountains of northern India, Japan and western North America).

Kalotermitidae Primarily Group I nesting. The majority of species in this family are dampwoods, drywoods or infest live wood. Members are the most specialized at single piece nesting, leaving very little evidence of their existence. Accumulated frass/fecal pellets are packed into unused chambers and/or is expelled via kickout holes, which is typically how infestations are identified.

Rhinotermitidae Primarily Group II and Group III nesting. Species typically construct diffuse soil networks in which they forage in and use to access food sources. Additional constructions may include crude mounds and mud tube like structures in which are used to forage above ground while protecting against predators and unfavourable conditions.

Termitidae Primarily Group III nesting. Their diversity drastically increases towards warmer regions. Unparalleled in diversity, these species have just as varied diets and behaviour. They are responsible for the amazing termite mounds and other structures seen in other parts of the world.

In North America, the native species (primarily the Termitinae, distributed mostly to the deserts and grasslands of the Southwest and Texas) are best known for encrusting vegetation to feed on (Gnathamitermes). They are subterranean in nature and rarely encountered by humans nor do they pose much economic concern. Little is known of their biology.


In North America, termites are most active in times corresponding to rain and warmth. Triggering of swarming and swarming behaviour is quite variable, even down to the population level. Typically however they correspond with rising temperatures, rain, a combination or non.


Termites feed off of organic material, primarily containing cellulose. Termites are split between the so called lower termites and higher termites aka Termitidae.

Lower termites include the remaining subfamilies, all of these possess symbiotic flagella, which in turn possess symbiotic bacteria. With the exception of the harvester termites (Hodotermitidae) all other families within predominantly feed on wood and woody materials (i.e tree roots).

Life Cycle


Neotenics and their subtypes are extremely diverse in termites, but they can be grouped into three groups:

apterous neotenics/ergatoids - descended from the worker or pseudergate caste

brachypterous/nymphoid neotenic - descended from the nymphal line (would be queens and kings)

adultoid neotenic - equal in development to the alates (swarmers), sometimes identical sometimes lacking any pigment.

Lower termites typically produce the first two, higher termites typically produce none or one of the latter two.


Most termites possess a something akin to a worker caste. While it would imply they do all the work, a more applicable saying would be they comprise the majority of the colony. There are two main worker types: pseudergates (or false workers) and true workers. Pseudergates are essentially juveniles and retain developmental plasticity, and may or may not do work to varying degrees. True workers are a sterile caste specialized in carrying out colony labour. Genera typically possess one or the other.


Soldiers are perhaps the most ubiquitous and distinct termite caste, being found in every species. Only to be lost recently in certain higher termites (Mainly the Apicotermitinae although three Australian Termitinae genera have also lost them). Soldiers possess highly modified anatomy and morphology (particularly to the head) adapted for colony defense. Typically characterized by their well developed mandibles and a pigmented head. Many termites (particularly the Neoisoptera) have also evolved a variety of chemical defenses employing a number of glands. Soldiers cannot feed themselves and must rely on the workers and are therefore considered a burden on colony maintenance.

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Epifamily Termitoidae - Termites - BugGuide.Net

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