Termites are social insects living in a colony located up to fifteen feet underground with a distinct division of labor between three caste called reproductives, workers, and soldiers. A colony begins when winged reproductives (swarmers) fly away from an overpopulated colony in the early spring, pair up and then dig under ground and mate.
Termite colonies are usually located in the ground, but secondary colonies have been observed in the wood of structures with moisture problems. Small pencil sized mud tubes can be seen emerging from the ground and making contact with the structure. Termite damage can be differentiated from rotting wood and carpenter ants damage by the large amount of mud that is packed into the wood. Often small mud mounds can be observed on interior painted surfaces with a small pin hole underneath the mud spot.
Termite swarmers are about 3/8th of an inch in length including their wings. They are hard bodied and dark brown to almost black in color. Their wings are translucent (almost clear) and are all the same length. Soldiers have dark colored, large square heads usually with large visible pinchers (mandibles). Workers and immature reproductives are white like many fly and beetle larvae (babies) with the exception that they have functioning legs and antennae. All castes have non-elbowed antennae and have a two part body segmented at the head.
The following list indicates common signs of a termite infestation:
Ant or Termite
Winged Carpenter Ant
Normally workers are black or red and black in color and range in size from 3/8 to 1/2 inch. Winged queen ants may be as large as one inch. However, size is not a reliable characteristic to identify carpenter ants. Carpenter ants differ from termites by having dark-colored bodies, narrow waists, elbowed (bent) antennae, and if present, hind wings shorter than front wings.