Termite

Termites date back more than 120 million years to the time of the dinosaurs. They are known as "silent destroyers" because of their ability to chew through wood, flooring and even wallpaper undetected. Each year, termites cause millions of dollars in property damage regionally - costs that aren't generally covered by homeowners' insurance policies. This is why being vigilant about termite control and termite extermination is so important.

In Barbados, there are 300 different species of termites in Barbados, but only a handful cause problems to properties and of those, the Coptotermes species are the main problem.

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COPTOTERMES ACINACIFORMIS TERMITE

Appearance

  • This destructive species resembles a white ant, but is slightly larger in size – approximately 5-7mm in length.

  • Like ants, subterranean termites colonies consist of several different castes.

  • Workers are entirely white in colour and have no eyes.

  • Soldiers are also eyeless but have brown heads and large jaws.

  • Soldiers are aggressive in nature and they may make a loud ticking sound when disturbed.

  • In summertime, there is also a winged form of Coptotermes acinaciformis known as alates. Alates are larger at around 12mm long. They are brown, with compound eyes and have four wings of equal size.

Lifecycle

  • The lifecycle of Coptotermes acinaciformis begins when male and female members of the winged reproductive caste (or alates) are released from an established nest. Pairs will mate and start seeking a location to start a new colony.

  • The release of winged reproductives occurs annually and they leave the nest in great numbers, but lots will not survive long enough to be successful.

  • Once a suitable location has been found, the female or ‘queen’ lays eggs, which then hatch into nymphs. The nymph will then moult approximately 4 – 7 times over a period of 2-3 months before maturing into a worker, soldier or winged reproductive. The lifespan of a soldier or worker is typically 2 – 3 years.

Habits

  • Coptotermes acinaciformis will typically build their nest underground, under patios, below concrete slabs & flooring or in the base of a tree trunk. They especially favor certain trees. Subterranean termites require close contact with soil or moisture and a tree-dwelling colony will construct a mud pack above the nest.

  • Like all termites, Coptotermes acinaciformis feeds on cellulose, which can be found in timber framing in homes and buildings including plants, trees and logs. They forage for food constantly and will travel as far as 50 metres from the nest. They tend to stay out of the light and will pack mud around the feeding area to maintain a dark and moist environment. Wood used as a food source for Coptotermes acinaciformis will have a honeycomb texture and contain dirt and faeces.

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COPTOTERMES FRENCHI TERMITE

Coptotermes frenchi is similar to Coptotermes acinaciformis, however is smaller and has smaller mandibles.  It is a shy but highly destructive pest that is commonly found in the trunks and roots of trees.

Appearance

  • Soldier

  • Length is 4mm

  • Pear-shaped head rounded laterally

  • Mandibles are present

  • The fontanelle on its head creates a milky latex material called “exudate”

  • Can be confused with Coptotermes acinaciformis but has a smaller body and smaller mandibles

  • Tarsi has 4 segments

  • Abdominal cerci is 2 segments

  • Pronotum is flat, no anterior lobes

Lifecycle

  • The life cycle of the Coptotermes Frenchi is similar to that of other termites in that it begins as an egg, and metamorphizes through several stages of nymph and adult termite.  During the nymph stage, the termite will develop into one of many different ‘castes’:

  1. Queen

  2. King

  3. Workers

  4. Soldiers

  5. Reproductives

  • These ‘castes’ will all perform differing functions within the colony, all ensuring its continued safety and long term existence.

  • The Worker termite is the one you will most commonly come across if you find live termites – the Workers, which can live for several years, are blind, sterile, wingless, and can work 24 hours per day with their primary function being to provide food for the colony.

Habits

  • The life cycle of the Coptotermes Frenchi is similar to that of other termites in that it begins as an egg, and metamorphizes through several stages of nymph and adult termite.  During the nymph stage, the termite will develop into one of many different ‘castes’:

  • Queen

  • King

  • Workers

  • Soldiers

  • Reproductives

  • These ‘castes’ will all perform differing functions within the colony, all ensuring its continued safety and long term existence.

  • The Worker termite is the one you will most commonly come across if you find live termites – the Workers, which can live for several years, are blind, sterile, wingless, and can work 24 hours per day with their primary function being to provide food for the colony.

  • The Coptotermes Frenchi is among the most destructive species of termites in the Caribbean. They can cause major damage to wooden structures and buildings, window frames, skirting boards, etc. They are more easily disturbed than other species and will retreat if they are startled by anything.

  • This means that any type of nearby development can disturb them, as well as general activities such as gardening or chopping down trees on your property.  They may even disappear entirely from one area if disturbed, only to reappear later.

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Dry Wood Termite

Appearance

  • Soldier

  • 2 – 6 mm in length.

  • Has large mandibles, with teeth.

  • Labrum is not grooved.

  • Head is rugose (wrinkled).

  • Tarsi – 4 Segments.

  • Abdominal cerci – 2 segments at the apex of the abdomen.

  • Pronotum twice as long as wide.

  • Body cigar-shaped, light brown.

  • Colour is pale brown, it can vary from dark brown to yellowish-tan.

Lifecycle

  • The drywood termite is a social insect that live within nests that are often referred to more commonly as colonies.  Their hierarchy is broken down into a caste structure made up of the queen and king that are responsible for the continued reproduction of the colony, the workers which are responsible for the building out of the nest and providing food, soldiers which are solely responsible for the protection of the colony from predators and the reproductives which are made up of future queens and kings of new colonies.

  • A termite lifecycle has three stages: egg, nymph and adult.  Once a nymph hatches from an egg it goes through four to seven moulting phases prior to achieving full adulthood and becoming a mature solider, worker or a reproductive.  The nymph stage can last for two or three months depending on the temperature of the nest and the availability and quality of food.

  • The four adult castes of a termite are:

  1. Queen & King

  2. Soldier

  3. Worker

  4. Reproductive (winged variety)

Habits

  • As their name implies, Drywood termites tend to focus their feeding on dry woods that are not yet decayed.  The most common targets on properties are things like fallen tree limbs, fence posts, timber used in building structures and wooden furniture.

  • Small infestations of just a few hundred individual termites are usually found below the floor level of your property, but above the ground and soil level.  The extremely destructive West Indian Drywood termite can cause significant economic damage.

  • The Drywood Termite is an above ground species, can sustain themselves for long periods of relatively dryness and have low moisture requirements. This termite tends to cut across the natural grain of wood, carving out large chamber like areas that they connect with a series of tunnels.

  • The tunnels and chambers within the colony are kept clear, with excrement and debris moved to unused areas or removed entirely through openings created within the wood. Piles of frass (their distinctive faecal pellets), are the best indicator of their existence on your property. The sand grain like pellets are elongated with six concave surfaces. Careful examination of timber near the frass pile may indicate a small-bore hole around 1 mm in diameter. This can be hard to locate as it may be plugged.