Is a Termite an Insect?
Adult-stage insects have three pairs of legs and segmented bodies comprising three distinct sections: the head, thorax, and abdomen. Insects also have wings, even though their wings sometimes are not visible and not well developed, even in the adult stage. From beetles and mosquitoes to flies, fleas and aphids, many common pests are classified as insects. More than 90,000 different insect species are estimated to live in the United States alone.
Termites are considered insects because their bodies are divided into distinct sections for the head, thorax, and abdomen. While other insects, like flies, have compound eyes, termites lack the ability to see, with the exception of termite kings and queens. To make up for this, worker termites that find a source of food (cellulose) use chemical pheromones to lay down a scent trail that directs other workers to that food. Termite heads have two antennae that are used to detect heat, vibrations, and pheromone signals.
Many insects, termites included, have a thorax with three segments. Each of these segments has one pair of legs. Termite wings are also located on the thorax. Termite swarmers have wings, while the workers – the stage that consumes wood – are wingless.
The termite abdomen is the largest section of the body, leaving plenty of room for the digestive, respiratory, and reproductive systems. Notably, termites do not have the pinched waist constriction between the abdomen and thorax. This makes it easy to separate them from other wood-boring and swarming insects, such as carpenter ants.
Social vs. Solitary Insects
While solitary insects have no social structure and hunt or forage alone, social insects live in complex colonies. Termites are considered social insects because they establish organized colonies in which reproductive queens produce offspring and other individuals cooperate to care for the young. Termite colonies that reach maturity may house millions of workers and soldiers.
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