A Subterranean Termite
That swarmed in the Fern Bluff M.U.D. on April 3, 2001

Winged Reproductive (Below) ... Soldier

The image above shows the ventral (underneath) aspect of the head and thorax of a winged alate (king or queen caste) from the termite colony that swarmed on April 3rd. Note the antennae, which are not elbowed and look like strings of pearls. This is characteristic of termite antennae. Ants have elbowed antennae, with the first segment (also known as the scape) much longer than the rest; termite antennae segments are fairly uniform throughout their length. This fellow is extremely dark, and appears black even under magnification, which is unusual. Most of the time, when I put an alate under the microscope the body has a noticeably brownish coloration, with lighter portions at the conjunction of various segments of the body's exoskeleton. This specimen appears uniformly dark brown or black throughout, except for its legs. Notice that the distal segments (those near the tips) of each leg are lighter in color than the rest of the body.

The image above includes part of the head, all of the thorax, and part of the abdomen of the winged alate. The head connects to the thorax just above the first set of legs in the upper portion of the photo. The thorax connects to the abdomen just below the lower set of legs (note this is an insect, a hexapod, and has six legs, three on each side of the body). If this had been an ant, the thorax would be connected to the abdomen via a slender stalk, or petiole. The ant's petiole gives it a markedly narrower waist than that of the termite. Note that this termite has no discernible waist at all, which is one way to tell termites and ants apart. 

Subterranean termites began their annual swarming ritual in Fern Bluff M.U.D. on April 3, 2001. At least that was when the first report came into my office (we won't mention the precise location of this particular swarm, out of respect for the privacy of the homeowner involved). The report came as no surprise, as I had already found winged reproductives in swarming tubes at other locations here within the previous three weeks.

A key to identifying subterranean termites from other kinds of termites is the venation pattern on the forewings. In the photo above, you can see that only two veins (at the far right edge of the wing) are pigmented. These two veins appear to be one single vein, until you look at the photo below and notice them separating as they approach the wing tip. Note also that there are three veined regions in this wing; (1) the pigmented veins at the right edge, (2) a middle vein (not pigmented, but visible due to the reflected light from the microscope light source) that has few or no branches over much of its length, and (3) a third region marked by a long vein, to the left of the middle vein, that has numerous side veins branching off to the left. The presence of the non-pigmented median vein, in a wing with only two pigmented veins, is another distinguishing feature of subterranean termites.

This wing has no hairs anywhere on its surface. That pretty much establishes it as a member of the genus Reticulitermes. As many as four species of Reticulitermes are found in Central Texas, all of them famous for the damage they cause to the wooden structures of homes and businesses. To determine the species exactly, it is necessary to examine the head capsule more carefully. Photos of the dorsal and lateral surfaces of the head capsule will be posted here soon.

The image at left is the ventral (underneath) surface of the abdomen of the winged alate. The anatomical features of this portion of the body enable a determination of the specimen's sex. It can be ascertained by the number of visible sternites (exoskeletal plates, in this specimen a total of 9, with 5 in the abdomen), and the presence of a pair of styles that emanate from the last sternite (barely visible in this photo), that this is a male.

TERMITE ENCOUNTERS SNAKE ENCOUNTERS SNAKE BITE FIRST AID * SNAKE EXCLUSION * SPIDER ENCOUNTERS * SPIDER BITE FIRST AID * SPIDER EXTERMINATION * PUSS CATERPILLAR ENCOUNTERS * PUSS CATERPILLAR FIRST AID * PUSS CATERPILLAR EXTERMINATIONAssembled & Edited by Jerry Cates. Questions? Corrections? Comments? BUG ME RIGHT NOW! ---- Ph: 512-331-1111 ---- E-Mail ---- Privacy ---- BugsInTheNew