Subterranean Workers

subterrean worker

Subterranean workers are wingless, pale, with a round, yellow-brown head and about 1/4 to 3/8 inch long.

Colonies have been estimated to contain from 60,000 to 5 million workers, covering an area of 25,000 ft2, with a foraging distance of 230 feet.

Workers forage for food; tend eggs, young and reproductives; and build tubes.

They are the most numerous and most easily recognized termites. They are creamy white, have neither eyes or wings, and are only 1/4 inch or less long.

Workers need a high humidity to survive and will carry mud up into the wood where feeding to maintain a 97 percent relative humidity. Termites have the ability to move their colony up and down in the soil to find the optimal temperature and moisture conditions.

Workers build mud tubes from the soil to the wood in structures on which they feed. Termites can feed on wood since they have protozoans in their alimentary tract (gut) that digests cellulose, the basic component of wood. Workers prefer to feed on fungus-infested wood, but can feed equally well on undamaged wood. Workers secrete food material from their mouths and anuses to feed the reproductives and soldiers.

Example of Termite Worker Damage

Picture from: University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences

Workers feed along the grain in the soft portion of the wood and form galleries lined with a muddy fecal material. A large colony can consume about one pound of wood per day.
Termites can feed on anything containing cellulose, the main component of wood.



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