What do Termites Look Like?
How To Identify Termites for Effective Eradication

Termite Identification – What do Termites Look Like

– Identify Termites for Effective Eradication

There are 360 termite species in Australia. Termites form a natural part of the ecosystem, and most do more good than harm. They help to break down dead plant matter and they are source of nutrition for many animals. Many termite species don’t cause damage to structures which is why it is so important to identify species to which the termites belong.

Termites are a particular problem in Brisbane because they are attracted to the warm and humid climate. There are huge numbers of underground termite colonies, full of worker termites always on the lookout for some tasty timber to tuck into. Termites are small and often go unnoticed. You are more likely to notice the damage they cause before you see these pests.

Identifying the termite species plays an important role in ensuring effective termite control. If you know what type of termite, you’re up against you can also take effective measures to protect the timber in surrounding structures. Termite treatments may include installingtermite barriers, setting bait traps or using pest sprays.

IdentifYING Termites VS Ants

Termites look a lot like ants, so people often misidentify these very different pests. Similarly, flying alleles may be confused with flying ants. This could be a expensive mistake. If those flying insects are termites looking to set up a new colony, yours could be their home of choice.

Flying ants have defined waists. Termites have a straight waist, straight antennae and wings of equal size. Ants have bent antennae and two sets of wings, one bigger than the other. Termites swarm during the spring, while ants may swarm at any time of year.

When trying to identify termites, it’s crucial to understand what different types of termites look like. So, what does a termite appear as? For starters, most termites have a similar appearance to ants, leading many to confuse ants with termites. Termite soldiers, for instance, possess strong jaws and are more robust in comparison to the termite nymph and termite larvae.

The king and queen are essential members of a colony termite, with the queen being larger due to her egg-laying capacity. Speaking of eggs, they are often found in the heart of their homes or nests. One distinguishing feature is their wings; during certain seasons, you might encounter termites with wings, which they shed when they’re ready to start a new colony.

Termite soldiers have a unique appearance compared to other members, such as the soldiers termite, which has pronounced jaws. When you’re aiming to control termite infestations, it’s pivotal to be adept at identifying termites to differentiate them from other insects. And remember, while ants and termites can appear quite similar, there are distinct differences, especially when it comes to their waist, wings, and antennae.

How to Identify Termites vs Ants: Key Differences

While both ants and termites play significant roles in our ecosystem, it’s essential to differentiate between the two, especially when it comes to home infestations. Here are the primary differences to help you identify whether you’re dealing with ants or termites:

Body Structure of Termites

Termites have a broad waist connecting their thorax and abdomen, giving them a more uniform body shape. In contrast, ants possess a distinctly pinched or constricted waist, which easily sets them apart.

Antenna Shape

Termites have straight, bead-like antennae, whereas ants have antennae that are bent or elbowed, forming a clear right angle.

Wing Length

Both ants and termites can have wings during certain stages of their lives. However, termite wings are of equal length, transparent, and twice as long as their body. Ants, on the other hand, have front wings that are noticeably longer than their back wings.


Generally, termites are lighter in colour, often a pale, milky white to light brown. Ants can vary in colour but are usually darker, ranging from brown to black.


Termites are more elusive, preferring dark, moist environments. If you stumble upon a group of insects consuming wood or finding mud tubes on walls, you’re likely dealing with termites. Ants, however, are often seen out in the open, foraging for food and are more commonly found in areas where food particles are present.

Brisbane Termite Species (What Termites Look Like)

Some termite species found in Brisbane include:

  • Schedorhinotermes spp
  • Cryptotermes or Drywood termites
  • Heterotermes ferox
  • Coptotermes acinaciformis
  • Microcerotermes turneri

Subterranean Termites – Schedorhinotermes spp

If you find termites in your home they are probably subterranean termites. These are the most common and destructive of all the termite species. They live underground in vast colonies of tens of thousands of termites. Outside subterranean termites eat dead wood and trees, but they are equally partial to interior timber. There are several different genera of this species

These termites love damp conditions. They build mud tunnels as protection and burrow deeper underground in dry weather. They vary in colour from white to dark brown or even black.

They are about 7mm long

Subterranean Termite Shelter Tubes

The first clue many Brisbane residents have of termite activity in their homes is the presence of shelter tubes in or around the building. Termites build four types of shelter tubes. The tubes are made from a mix of saliva, faeces, wood and soil. The tunnels can grow to over 50 metres in length.

  • Working tubes protect termites collecting food for the colony
  • Drop tubes offer the termites escape from the wood source back onto the ground
  • Exploratory tubes are used to find new food locations or to move to another colony
  • Swarm tubes send winged termites on their way to build their own nests

Cryptotermes or Drywood Termites

The West Indian Drywood termite is a very destructive termite species. These native South American termites live in much smaller colonies of under 1,000 individuals. They nest in wood and never leave it. They get all the moisture they need from the wood and will continue to live and feed on the wood until it collapses.

They live in high humidity areas and cannot survive in dry and arid conditions. External damage is seldom seen and often the only evidence that there are termites in the timber is the faecal dust found where they are active. They make tiny holes in the wood surface.

A worker termite is 4.2 to 6 mm long. This insect falls under the control of the Australian Biosecurity Act of 2014 so Queensland officials have the right to remove timber from your property if they have evidence of an infestation.

Heterotermes Ferox Termites

These termites have been known to damage decks and outdoor posts. They are not considered a serious threat to property as they are only likely to damage wood that is damp or wet. They generally cause superficial damage. They are 4.75 mm long and have very round heads with noticeably dark mandibles. These termites don’t build mounds and they don’t create vast galleries as other termites do. For this type of pest problem, a termiticide spray will often resolve the problem.

Coptotermes Acinaciformis

This termite has caused thousands in damage to property across the city. They build nests in stumps, trees and buildings. They will attack homes up to 50 metres from their nest, using subterranean tunnels. Effective termite inspections must cover the grounds as well as the building to ensure that your home is termite free.

Microcerotermes Turneri

With a citywide presence, Microcerotermes Turneri build nests in posts, mounds and even underground. They are easily identifiable by their pale colour. They are about 4.5mm in length. Though these pests are destructive, they are relatively easy to control and a spray is usually all that is needed.

Identify Termites from the Damage They Cause

It isn’t always possible to identify termites from the damage they cause but there are some obvious signs of what termites may be responsible for timber damage.

Subterranean termites start to feed off the wood from the ground up. They usually enter buildings through the underfloor structure. If your home has a crawl space it is more vulnerable, and you should keep an eye open for wood damage and mud tubes. Wood that has fallen victim to termites will develop funnels that often run along the wood grain.

Drywood termites usually enter a building through the roof. Inspect the wood in your attic for tiny holes and for frass piling up close by.

Call EPM Pest Control to Identify the Termites and Their Locations

Identification of termites is an important first step to finding the termite colony nest that houses these small insects. Suitable termite control products may differ from one termite species to the next.

Our pest control team has been identifying and treating termites for over 10 years. The team members know how much damage this pest can do to timbers. Proper identification is essential to bring this pest under control and ensure that it does no more damage.

Termites vary in size depending on their role within the colony. The average size of termites typically ranges from 0.7 centimeters (cm) to 1.2 cm. Worker termites, responsible for tasks like foraging for food and building tunnels, are generally smaller, measuring around 3.4 millimeters (mm) in length. Despite their diminutive size, these tiny insects can collectively cause significant damage to wooden structures, making proper identification and termite control crucial to protect homes and property.

The best way to identify termite damage is through a combination of visual inspection and awareness of common signs. Look for wood that appears hollowed out or has a honeycomb-like texture, as termites feed on wood from the inside out. Tapping on suspected damaged areas may produce a hollow, papery sound. Mud tubes, which are narrow tunnels made of soil and termite saliva, on walls or foundation are a clear indication of subterranean termite activity. Discarded termite wings near windowsills or light sources, especially during termite swarming seasons, can also be a telltale sign. Additionally, be vigilant for cracked or bubbling paint, as termites may push mud and waste through tiny openings in the wood. Regular professional inspections are advisable to catch termite damage early, as their presence is often hidden until substantial harm has occurred.

Termite nests can vary in appearance depending on the species and location. Subterranean termites often create mud tubes for protection, while drywood termites nest within the wood they infest, making them hard to see. Dampwood termites dwell in moist wood, and some species build arboreal nests in trees or on structures. In tropical regions, mound-building termites construct large, visible mounds. Nests can be hidden, so consulting a pest control expert is advisable if you suspect termite activity.

Sign Description
Flying Termites Often the first sign of a termite infestation, these winged insects are typically seen swarming near light sources.
Mud Tubes These pencil-sized tubes on foundation walls or timber are protective tunnels created by termites.
Termite Droppings Small, wood-colored droppings, known as frass, are a clear indicator of drywood termite presence.
Deterioration of Timber Wood that sounds hollow when tapped can signify termite damage beneath the surface.
Hard to Open Doors and Windows Swelling of wooden frames caused by termites can make doors and windows difficult to open.
Bubbling Paint Uneven or bubbled paint on wooden surfaces may be a sign of moisture build-up due to termites.
Discarded Wings After swarming, termites shed their wings, often leaving them near windowsills or other entry points.
Identify Termite Swarms Swarms of termites, particularly near light sources, can indicate a nearby colony.
Funny Noises Quiet clicking sounds from walls can be termites communicating through vibrations.
Head Banging Termites often bang their heads against wood or shake their bodies to signal danger to the colony.
Hollow Sounding Walls When termites consume wood, they leave thin veneers, making walls sound hollow when knocked.
Tunnels in Wood Termites carve out intricate tunnels or galleries in wood, which are often visible on broken or damaged timber.