What Do Termites Look Like?

Group of Termites.

Identifying a Termite Colony: What Do They Look Like?

There are enough things that can go wrong with your home; you don’t need termites. These tiny insects can attack from the ground and feed on your home for years without detection, leading to unexpected costs and difficult repairs. That is why it’s important to know what a termite looks like when you see one—and who to call to remove them before things get out of control.

Common Termite Characteristics

Because termites are insects, they have all the usual attributes. They will have six legs, two antennae, and three body parts (the head, thorax, and abdomen), but sometimes the definition between sections is hard to see. The legs are thin and spindly, slightly transparent—possibly even shiny. Termites’ antennae are usually straight or have a gentle curve. Although you cannot tell without getting extremely close, the antennae sometimes appear as if they are several tiny balls stacked on top of each other. Termites are all about a quarter-inch in size, with notable differences between each caste.

Swarmers and Kings

When a termite nest matures, it begins to produce male and female winged reproductives, also referred to as swarmers due to their swarming behavior. The first thing you will notice about a swarmer is that it has wings—white wings that are layered on top of each other—and that there are hundreds of them. In many cases, swarmers may be the most visible sign of a termite issue.

In relationship to its black body, the wings of a termite swarmer appear to make up three-quarters of their length. This is only because the wings cover the abdomen of the swarmer. But, you’ll have to look closely to see this because termite swarmers can be as small as a quarter-inch in length.

A swarmer that has lost its wings is a termite king. You will likely never see it, as it spends time with the queen helping to create hundreds of new termites.

Workers and Soldiers

Even though workers have the largest population of any kind of termites in a colony, you’re not likely to ever see them. They resemble yellowish grains of rice with legs but are generally only seen if you break off a piece of wood in which they are tunneling. You may also see them in an old tree stump.

Termite soldiers are mature workers whose heads have grown larger, turned orange, and developed a set of black pincers. They protect the colony.


The termite queen is the most distinctive in appearance but is also rarely seen. As a female swarmer loses her wings and begins a colony, her abdomen will grow. As the queen produces more offspring, the abdomen will continue to get larger. Young queens resemble swarmers without wings. Over time, the termite’s color shifts to black, and the abdomen will appear to be a tan growth with dark-brown lines.

See Termites? Call McCall Service

No matter which type of termite—Subterranean, Formosan, or Drywood—you see around your home, all of them are signs of concern. Contact McCall Service today to schedule your free inspection and learn how we can help keep your structure from suffering any more damage.

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