Texas Cooperative Extension, Texas A&M University System
Department of Entomology, Texas A&M University

Order Isoptera


Isoptera are small, soft-bodied, yellowish, whitish, tan or black insects that live in colonies in wood. Colonies consist of three castes: workers, soldiers and swarmers. Workers and soldiers are wingless and never leave the colony. Swarmers, or the reproductive forms, have dark bodies and four long, veined wings. The front and hind wings of termites are nearly identical in size and venation. Termites also have beadlike antennae and thick waists which distinguish them from ants. Termites have chewing mouthparts.

Swarmers leave the colonies on sunny days to mate and search for new homes. Termites are important to man. They do millions of dollars in damage to houses each year. Termites eat wood but cannot digest the cellulose. They rely on one-celled animals (protozoans) in their intestine to digest the cellulose.

Termites undergo simple metamorphosis (egg, nymph, adult).  Most termites are under 1/4 inch long.

Insects in this order: Drywood termites and subterranean termites, desert termite.

Drywood termites and subterranean termites. Photo by Drees.
Click on image to enlarge
Drywood termites (left)
and subterranean termites (right),
 (Isoptera: Kalotermitidae).
 Photo by Drees.

From the book:
Field Guide to Texas Insects,
Drees, B.M. and John Jackman,
Copyright 1999, Gulf Publishing Company,
Houston, Texas

A Field Guide to Common Texas Insects, Bastiaan M. Drees and John A. Jackman.
Texas A&M University
Texas A&M University •  Department of Entomology  •  412 Heep Center, TAMU 2475
College Station, TX 77843-2475 • 979.845.2516
Department of Entomology at Texas A&M University