termite


termite

Any of 2,750 species (order Isoptera) of mostly tropical, social, cellulose-eating insects that are usually soft-bodied and wingless. Intestinal microorganisms enable them to digest cellulose. Termite colonies consist of a fertile queen and king (reproductives), workers (the most numerous), and soldiers (see caste). Kings are less than an inch long (1–2 cm), but a queen may grow to more than 4 in. (11 cm). Workers and soldiers are sterile and blind. They survive two to five years; reproductives may live for 60–70 years. Termites live in a sealed, humid nest in wood or underground. Underground nests may be built up into a mound. Periodically, alates (winged, sighted forms) develop and leave the nest to start a new colony. Termites eat chiefly wood. Soil-dwelling termites attack wood that is in contact with the ground; wood-dwelling termites, requiring less humidity than soil-dwellers, attack trees, posts, and wooden buildings.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
For the full entry on termite, visit Britannica.com.

Seen & Heard

What made you look up termite? Please tell us what you were reading, watching or discussing that led you here.

Get Our Free Apps
Voice Search, Favorites,
Word of the Day, and More
Join Us on FB & Twitter
Get the Word of the Day and More