What Do Termites Look Like?

worker termites in a hawaii homeTermites are a serious threat here in Hawaii. It isn't a matter of "if" termites will attack, but "when" they will attack. That is why it is important to know as much as you can about these wood-destroying pests.

While you're not likely to see most termites, it is important to recognize a termite if you do see one. Since subterranean termites are the most destructive and abundant termites in Hawaii, we will focus on them. But, drywood termites have a similar appearance and can be identified in the same ways. Here are the different castes of termites that can be found in a termite colony, and where you're likely to find them if they are subterranean termites.


For most subterranean termite species, the queen termite is not likely to ever be seen once she has established a new colony. She will usually be in the heart of that colony, deep in the ground. There are only two ways you'll see a queen termite. If your home has Formosan termites and you're working on a home renovation, you may be lucky, or "unlucky" enough to see a queen termite. Formosan termites are subterranean termites, but they are able to build their nests inside man-made structures. If you rip out a wall and expose the interior of a Formosan termite nest, the queen may be visible. She will be unlike all of the other termites in the nest. In fact, she may not look like a termite at all. You are more likely to mistake her for a slug with dark brown scorching on her back. But that isn't her back. It is her abdomen.

The abdomen of a termite queen grows as she produces babies. This shiny bloated abdomen will be the part of her you'll notice first. But, if you look closely at both ends, you will see what looks like a termite trying to escape. These are her thorax and head, which have legs and antennae on them.

Another way you may see a queen is "before" she starts her nest. When a termite nest nears its population limit, it will begin to produce male and female alates. These are the kings and queens of a new nest.


Of all the termites in a colony, swarmers are the termites you're most likely to see. As mentioned above, mature termite colonies produce male and female alates to go forth and create new colonies. These alates are winged termites and are called swarmers because of the way they swarm together when they first emerge.

There are several ways you may see swarmers. You might see them swarming around a lamp on a telephone pole or exterior light on your property. You might find them crawling on window sills, exterior walls, decks, and other surfaces. If you have an existing termite infestation, you may find them under mulch or crawling around on interior walls, window panes, and window sills.

Swarmers are black insects with white, equally-sized wings. Most subterranean swarmers will be one-fourth of an inch to half an inch in length. Three-fourths of that length will be its wings.

Swarmers are often mistaken for ant swarmers, but it is easy to tell these two insects apart. Termites do not have a pinched waist, like an ant. Their thorax and abdomen appear as though they are one segment.


While workers are the most abundant type of termite in a termite colony, you're not likely to see these termites unless you are removing a wall in your home, pulling up some flooring, or yanking a dead stump out of the ground. Worker termites spend their lives inside wood or soil. For this reason, most worker termites are not born with eyes.

If you open up an area where termites are actively feeding, you're going to see a ton of these insects crawling around. Workers are pale in color and have two antennae and six legs, like other insects. But you'll have to look closely to see these. Worker termites are smaller than alates.


This type of termite begins as a worker. But, when the need arises, a worker may develop into a soldier to protect the colony. This developmental process will give the soldier termite a larger, dark orange head, with black pincers they can use as weapons.

For safe, convenient, and effective control of termites in Hawaii, reach out to us for immediate assistance.