Termites have a very thin cuticle (skin) and are subject to rapid desiccation (drying out) if exposed to the environment outside their enclosed habitat. In order to maintain a highly controlled environment, termites must live in a closed system. Colonies in wood are always contained within an outside shell of cellulose material. In this way, they are protected from exposure to the outside.
Soldier termites are similar in size and colour to workers, but have an enlarged brownish coloured head with large modified mandibles (large biting jaws), used for defense.
Often shelter tubesconstructed of soil particles cemented together by excrement or secretions from the mouth are used to connect the outside soil to a building and for crossing a concrete or metallic portion in a structure. The presence of a shelter tube is generally the first physical evidence of a termite infestation.
A typical termite family will include soldiers. These have long heads and powerful jaws. Soldier termites defend the family unit. If you can find some soldier termites, this makes it easier to know whether you have a termite problem. Solders only make up part of the termite population so you will have to look carefully for them. Most termites are workers. These are about 2/5 inch long and are recognizable by their soft, light-colored bodies. They look a bit like moving grains of rice.
Avoid storing fire wood directly on the ground. Care should be taken when obtaining infesting material (such a soil and discarded lumber) from known termite areas.
If you own a property made of wood then getting rid of termites is one of the top most priority. It is an important that most of the people faces, whether they own a house or not. Pest control takes advantages of this and thus at times charge unreasonable prices at times.
Powder post beetle larvae cause millions of dollars worth of damage in the US and Canada annually, and are almost as destructive as termites. Adult beetles lay their eggs in the surface pores of wood. The larvae bore into the wood as soon as they hatch. Living in the wood, they create tunnels called galleries as they eat their way through the timbers. When the larvae are nearly full grown, they bore near to the surface of the wood and pupate. The adults bore out through the surface soon after pupation, pushing a fine powdery wood dust, usually a copper to yellow-gold in color, out of the wood as they emerge.
Several species of powder post beetles are to be found in the U.S. and Canada. They vary in length from 1/16" to 3/8", but generally have flattened bodies, a prominent head and segmented antennae. True powder post beetles attack only hardwoods (particularly oak, hickory, ash, walnut and cherry) but other species of wood boring beetles attack both hardwoods and softwoods.
Carpenter ants, found in the Pacific Northwest, the northern Midwest, New England and southern Canada, are distinguishable from termites by their dark colour, narrow waists, elbowed antennae and when present, the large front and small rear wings. Carpenter ants rarely attack sound dry wood, preferring damp wood, foam or cellulose insulation, and do not use wood for food. They are more easily spotted than termites as they expel wood fragments from their excavations, and forage for food in the open. The presence of carpenter ants may indicate moisture problems in the building as they generally prefer already rotting wood.
It is difficult to identify termites unless there is a reproductive swarm. Swarming termites do however resemble swarming ants. Some people call termites "white ants" but this is an incorrect term. Termites are often white but some are so clear you can see food in their gut. Their bodies are very soft.