Termites are small, ant-like insects. However, they differ from ants in that they feed off the cellulose in wood. Working largely unseen under the surface, they can tunnel through the wooden structural members in buildings and completely destroy them. Wood that comes in contact with the soil, such as the exterior trim or cladding on your home, provides a perfect point of entry for a termite colony.
Type of termites found in Singapore
- Subterranean Termites
- Drywood termites
- Dampwood termite
Subterranean termite is the most common type of termite found in Singapore. Unfortunately, they also the most destructive compare to drywood termite and dampwood termite.
Subterranean termite colony
There are three main group in a subterranean termite caste and all the three group differ in colour. Workers are of cream or milky colour. Soldiers are of the same body colour but with a brown head. The reproductive, the king and queen, are usually darker in colour than the rest of the colony.
Just like any well-run colony, every group has its own task and responsibility.
The workers main job is to feed the colony. The soldiers, king and queen is unable to feed themselves. They rely solely on the workers who feed on cellulose found in wood, trees and paper products. They do not have eyes and move around using scents and moisture trails.
The soldiers are tasked at protecting the colony from any pest intrusion which will mainly be ants or any other termites from another colony. They are equipped with large mandible to ensure that they are able to defend and fight off anything that might harm the colony. The soldiers also are able to discharge white toxic fluid while defending its colony.
There is usually only one pair of primary reproductive which are the king and the queen. Their job is to grow the size of the colony. Another pair of reproductive termites, swarmers, will developed and leave the colony after about 3-5 years to start one on their own.
Subterranean termites like to live in moist, dark and cool places. As mentioned above, apart from the king and queen, they are blind and move in mud shelter tubes. They are often subtle and can go undetected during the initial infestation.
The queen termite produce an egg EVERY 3 SECONDS FOR 15 YEARS.
Drywood termite from its name require less moisture to survive. They can be found in furniture, door, door frame or even kitchen cabinet. During their swarming season, they will fly in to their preferred wooden area to start a nest. The king and queen will shed their wings and will work their way in the wooden area.
The drywood termite wings are of the same size for all four while the ants is two on the same size.
Drywood Termite Colony
The queen will lays the first eggs. These nymphs include soldier and reproductive termites. They do not have a distinct worker caste. The termite start feeding across the grain of the wood and form tunnel and chambers. The tunnel are used to push the fecal pellets out of their colony. Due to their nature of keeping the tunnel and chamber clean, you can always find their fecal pellets outside their colony.
It will take about 3-5 years before the colony is mature. Hence, the reproductive termite will leave the colony to start their own.
Dampwood termite only live in wood. They do not need soil and from their name itself, you can understand that they need moisture in the wood to live in. They will find wood or areas that might have any water intrusion to start a colony. Some of the areas that they might be conducive for them are leaking roofs and woods that is touching the ground. Dampwood termite get inside these holes or cracks and start the infestation.
Dampwood termite uses their fecal pellets to protect their colony from air. A wet wood gives them more protection as the fecal pellets will tend to stick together to the side of their gallery. A dry wood will not allow this to happen as the fecal pellets will fall off.
Dampwood termite colony
In a Dampwood termite colony, there are the reproductive (a king and a queen), soldier and alate (swarmers). They do not have any workers although immature termite will assume the roles of a worker.
The reproductive (king and queen) copulation only in the nest and it will take up to a year before the queen lay its first egg. The number is normally small compare to the other type of termite.
The soldiers, with large head and mandibles, protect the colony from any predators such as ants.
The alate (swarmer) has reproductive function and are the only one with a pair of wings. During the mating season, the alate will fly out of their nest to form their own colony. Their mating season is usually during the wet season as this allow them to create a good living condition.
The alate will shed their wings after they land on a suitable location and will start looking for a partner. It will take a few years for the colony to grow before new alate (swarmers) start looking for their new nest.
Signs of a termite infestation
With these signs, you will know what type of termite is infesting your property. Don’t take them lightly as the damages can cost you a bomb and might even compromise safety.
The mud tubes from the above pictures are example of a subterranean termite infestation.
The pictures show the fecal pellets ( droppings ), swarmers and shedded wings. These are clear indication of a drywood termite infestation.
The pictures show a dampwood termite infestation. It is similar to that of a subterranean termite. However, identify the live presence is key in knowing the different.