As the most populous caste of termites, workers are the ones people encounter most often in the home.
They have elongated white bodies, six legs, and short, straight antennae. Most species of worker termites are blind and rely heavily on their antennae to navigate their environment.
Worker termites use their antennae for everything from touching walls to finding food and even detecting pheromones from their queen.
Workers can be distinguished from other castes of termites due to their soft, white bodies and relatively small jaws.
In contrast, soldier castes possess large heads with distinct, powerful jaws that can be used to fight or block off tunnels, while reproductive castes are dark in color and larger than other types of termites.
Role Within the Termite Colony
Within the colony, worker termites are tasked with:
- Creating and maintaining tunnels.
- Caring for eggs.
- Feeding soldiers and reproductives that are unable to feed themselves.
Workers also kill and eat members of their own colony when the population becomes imbalanced.
In some species, workers develop explosive sacs of chemicals in their bodies that grow more potent with age. When they are attacked by an enemy, their bodies burst and drench the foe in paralyzing toxins.
Damage / Problems Caused
The plant matter that makes up wood is the primary component of the termite diet.
Since workers are in charge of foraging for food and constructing new tunnels, they are directly responsible for damaging wooden structures.
They chew through boards, beams, and planks until the wood is little more than a hollow shell, which ultimately undermines the structural integrity of the building.
Damage due to termite infestations is estimated at over $2 billion dollars in the United States each year.
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