The White ant (Termes favipes koll.)


Material Information

The White ant (Termes favipes koll.)
Series Title:
Circular / United States. Dept. of Agriculture. Bureau of Entomology;
Physical Description:
8 p. : 4 figs. ; 23 cm.
Marlatt, C. L
United States Dept. of Agriculture, Bureau of Entomology
Place of Publication:
Washington, D.C
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Termitidae   ( lcsh )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


General Note:
"Issued January 27, 1908."
Statement of Responsibility:
by C.L. Marlatt.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 029676392
oclc - 28352901
System ID:

Full Text
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['tlitt'l Sttilt's D)piir-nnmilt of A.\riciu ire,
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the it, m t -i, h ri tit, ,ii. lt- Ilti rf ,- r dt, ii il, i, ,-, 1 !I"

daimatgi is I,'yonil re.paiir. .,nil t :IT, i- the iiit. ,i lty of the i ii' l-
itself -is well a; is t'iilt' tir ii'iiJr' ilir e of the insfe t t eco cn r'.
evident. Fiirtlun:Itt'lyi it 1. H iioot ,fti.i |'i, --'It in the North i I 'it, -.



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2 W rllp" ,- 1w
Fl 1. I Tfrwfi la'.j-f ii I i In i .l *i rpi i I 1 1 i.*n ii- l jut of -Ia1'm3 1rTmmn b.i..w.
&. !ami ni !,.na. i if rr '. *. I. ~ '1. l i trvmtiiir t ith iirn uti ia;< >
c .Ilt f it iltli. ' .. f f. -I a , | f ., r. il: I c Lr r, tly
r l Orf',t,' l ,irtil'h 1.1

but a-; tl rihr pit- t' .tv priw, wlit. 1 1 i ri,1i- Ir r. it in dw, iii,- or
other .'trtirltirt.s ,f \ i ri .,r, It i iii,, ii experit'.1 anid ,1 ii of the
Imost serium iuitlr,.. I 1i-1li, ii, -',l',i i uiin ,, ,ril and
w hlirvts :iti -, -l inC ii l t t -. ,r .r il li ,'-
The it' riln "' 'l .11 m i.' Iby % thi I i i- itsecet i utiniverai yv known, is
entirely ii;pl]>'>r'o; ri'Lt" in -,, Itmr .! 11 imIt ites it r, 1.iti. .. i,- .i tI w it thte
true' .int.-. Sitrily p- kikii_.. tl. h it, 'lt is not in aM hut a 1 ..'i
ttr''il ir. i ,i't Ili..i .,-1 t, il- ,r Lir -p. r. ra and i allied to the hookk
lir aini -,i ,. tli,-. T[ t,. ,* lv .i11 iThI wi' IIh ants is in -Ilp." 'L.,I resem -
hl:mn ce .i,[ i l lt -, ,'ri il h 0 lit- ,,f tih, t%, ..'r. -. iII wtich ,r,. ,l im i-
Irily t-,. Tli,' p.'pul:ir .1 ,1 iil i iiiT ,, wit the termite or white ant
i" nitn inlyv ,i'rixvtl frrnim 1ttn -.ii its i plit i l -I "*i1, 'l '!it when the
smniill I-rown. ant-like creaturs with i, -,iii., white "1i,- i,' r
frolln crac-Lks in tiht lriun,' or iri, crevice in liildlmiI '2- ".ri,.i," out
soumetimiesi in enorimnous nun nil',r-. so that OiL i iI ,t't'. b e 1. *i1i up



by the quart. These winged individuals are not the ones which do the
daniage. but are the colonizing form. The real depredators are soft-
bodied, large-headed, milky white insects. less than ia quarter of an inch
in length, which may often be found in numbers under rotting boards
or in dlet saying stumps. These last are thle Nworkers and soldiers (fig. 4,
c and d), and constitute the bulk of the colony for most of the year, the
winged migrating forms, consisting of the sexed individuals, appearing
normally only once a year, usually in April or early in May.
The white ants present, in an entirely distinct order uf insects,
another of those most curious problems of communal societies which
fiidl so many examples among the ants, bees. anti wasps. A colony of
white ants includes workers, soldiers, the young of thle various forms.
and, at the proper season of the year, the winged males and females;
also a single parent pair, the specially developed king and queen. In
the case of the common white ant of this country ( Termes flavipes), the
fully developed queen or mother of the colony, swollen to great size by
her enormous ovary development, and her consort, the fully developed
but much smaller king or mile, have never been found in the white ant
communities, and this in spite of the great numbers of thle flying stage of
both sexes that appear every spring. The soldiers or workers are degraded
or undeveloped individuals of both sex,-!, differing in this respect from
ants and bees, in which the workers are all undeveloped females.
The economy of the termites is almost exactly analogous to that of
the ants and bees. The workers attend to, all tlhe duties of the colony,
make the ,xcav'tion build the nests, care lor the young, and protect
and minister to the wants of the queen or mother ant. In this they are
assisted somewhat by the soldiers, whose duty, however, is also pro-
tective, their enormous development of head and j;aws indicating their
role as the fighters or defenders of the colony. iotli tlie workers and
soldiers are blind. The colonizing individual- differ from the others in
being fully developed sexually and in the po-se,.i-ii of very lung wings,
which normally lie flat over each other, thle upper wings concealing the
lower and both pr,,jecting 1,eyondl the :alomien. The.e wings have a
very peculiar suture near the ,base. where ti-y c;iln lie readily broken
off, leaving mere stumps. At the time of the -pring Hlight the winged
individuals etjerge from the colony vry r.piidly. fre-queiitly swarming
in clouds out of doors, and after a short Ili-,it fall to tile ground a;nd
very soon succeed in breaking off their hlng clun,,-y \ ing.. at the suture
referred to. In this s arming or nuptial ligltt tt-ev t oin, out in puirs.
and under favorable conditions each pair might Ie eon especially
'l.velpeeid, as described alve, and establi-li a new cont,.. but inll point
of fact this probably rarely Ilappi ci.m-. TIht3 arre cak itl .rs. 'lunmsv, and
not capable of extensive locomotion on font, andI :r1 pr rniptly preyed
upon and destroyed by many insectivorous animals, so that rarely indeed
do .nyv of the individuals escape.
A f)--I2

Ti,.-iri,'-.illyy, if one *.f these pairs succ ededi in i ,I I 1,. 1' ii. l,
Stunup) or other suitable location at handl mi,, woulI nter it, and the
king and ,ii',' ,. I',-i I both active, w would attend to the wNants ,t the
Iew c,,1,,leny tnd suptrrilttenl I tib r,. i,,i, if the 1 first brood of workers
find sllir-.- which w l would then assume h tthe laborioup duties of the
',,tIIg colonyI I, .ir.iLfi" I the iii ii, 1, i. ; I,, constantly and liberally
fel and k, Ii absolutely inacti w would increase imintensrly, her albdh,-
iIeln becoming many hundrI d times its -.ri i/t,. II- w( would prac-
Ii (lly lose tIhe I '" 'i of IoconlotionI and become a n, L re ,' .la, i'11
in,:whine ,f enormous .I,:,i ly. Allied :-'i' i"- whose hal)its have been
tu, licd in this particular indicate an ,*.:,-l.yiviii rate of t r) per iil iIi .
Ilr i oen tliiii likm e ..i ,, I 1 1 per I.,.
[n ti t- absence of a i (ii,'I,, however, white afnt are able to develop
romt a very yuii larva or nymph of what would otherwise become
:i %iing.,l female what is known ias a supplementary iliI" 11, which is
never wingcl and never leaves the colony. This supplementary ",i' It

Kw 2 t s flavieps a. HtewId of w"Inod filih -iewed from abit : b. aimw frh'm h'low. with
nmtdut |>irt.^ itix'
(tiH. 4, a), fr the discovery of which we are ,i,.diir, to the late I. Q.
ul ,.mird, is smaller than thle perfect sexed ,i'1u,. hut subserves .LIll the
needs of the colony in the matter of ',* layi,:,. and is the only parent
inBect so f.,r fid iI in the nests of the common white ant in this coun-
t \Vlie'tlII, r a true I ii', II exists or not i- l,,r r f. ir o.|'e to () -tii;
if not. all the individuals which escape in the mrii, and summer ,i.'rr.,-
tions must ipri-h, and this -" ir,,ig ,,ig sl therefore, have to be eon-
- i ler,. I a mere survival of a once useful feature in the ,.I'.,n.'iv of this
inri l, now no 1. 1igr, or rarely, of service.
T"h normal method of the formation 1,1 new colonies is prb, .l ly
by the mere division or -plitli,., up of old ones-their Wl, ries and
branch colonies 'xt' ,iii -r,:it distances from the home colony-or
throute the rr i i, of inf,-u''. In',- ortimbers from one point to another.
- Tir,, Ccurious insects have a very Siiinpl. development. Ft, r,. is
scarcely any metamorphosis, thie ,ih.mi, fr'nim the yeiii, larva to the
adult being very ir and without any marked ,ili[Trn, *. in struc-
ture. They fed1 on feic.iying wood or t,.',-t .'!, matter of :ny sort,
and are able to carry their excavations into any timbers which are

moistened, or into furniture, books, or papers stored in rooms which
are at all moist. Their food is the finely divided material into which
lt''. bore, and from which they seen aLlI:- to extract a certain amount
of nourishment, probably from the mnolds and ferments generated in tilhe
moistened vegetable sulbstan.e, since they redevour the same material
several times. Be:ring out this theory, tropical species are known to
grow mushroom beds artiicially on the product of which they largely
subsist. The white ants are also- smtwbat cannibalistic, and will
devour the superfluous members 1f the cdlony without compunction,
and they normally consume all deal individual.-, cast skins, and other
refuse material. They are capable also of exuding a sort of nectar,
which is used to feed the young ;inl the royal pair, and( which they
also generously give to one another.
All ex< e'pt the migrating i inge, I f'rnis are incapable of enduring full
sunlight, and the soft, delicate b,,dies of the worker.., soldiers, and
young rapidly shrivel when exposed IIn all their operations, therefore.
they carefully conceal themselves, and in their mining of timbers or
books and p iapers the surface is always left intact ; whenever it is neces-
sary for them to extend their coloniCs it is d,,ne only under the protection
of covered runways, which they (fnstruct of particles of Lomminuted
wood or little pellets of excrement. In this way the damage which they
are doing is often entirely hidden, and niut until furniture breaks down
or the underpinning and timbers of houses (or tlooirs yield is the injury
re-cognized. The swarming of winged inldivid'uals in the early summer,
if in or about houses, is an indication of their injurious presence and war-
rants an immediate investigation to prevent serious damage later on.
The common termite of America is very widespread, occurring from
the Atlantic to the Pacific and frini (Canada southward to the Gulf.
It has been found on the mountains iif (C'lorado and Washington
at a height of over 7,000 feet. In prairie regions it may often be seen
during the :waniiing season is.-uing trim the ground at frequent
intervals over large pasture tracts, lhere it must feed oin tile roots of
gras and other herb:age. It has also beet-n c.irridl to otilher countries and
is a common and often very injuri,,Lus enemy of buildings and libraries
in Europe. A closely allied and equally injurious European species
(Termes lucifugus) has also been I'ruglht toi this country in exchange
for ours, but compared with our o' n species it is sinewhat rare though
already widely distributed. In this country serious damage to build-
ings from the white ant has not br,.n of coinn'1 occurrence, especially
in the North, except in some notable, instances. In Eur,-pe our species
has caused .re,:tter l.Hluiage, and some years iag, gaincid access to one of
the Imperial hothouses at Vienna, :lid in sp)ite of all efforts to save the
building it was necessary ultim:itly to tvar it down :ind replace it with
an iron structure. In this country instances are on record of very
serious lanmaige to books and papr.-. An a i umiul.ition of books and


p.ip,.r- I,.1IlI,, il,_, to thilbe 't.t-' of Il1 ,Ni ii- was t '1-i-,,u llvI I ruined I y their
ittark-. .A school library in .-,li (.tin,'li w` ih'li tI ha; lif in 4 ,11 :ls,'_ l
fu r tl, Iuntilier, w\s found on t ii..' IopM- ned in t(he auitunn to i1l t'o i"t-
1iYt'lc ,atenr out and rendered valueless. In the I I' irt nint of \ ri-
.ull iir ;ni accumluhlti(mn .I records and documents st redl in a vault not
[e, t Il dry, and allowed to remain undisturbed I for several ye; rs, on
ef .llliii.ition |Ii, \, .d to he l,,.,'i ,e],'_li m ined an l ruind I.. whbite aits.
Iliiiiiulll, on the authority of 11II i.. i,. accounts for the refit of oh d bo ks
in Ni-. Sli:i 1i, the frequency of the destructive work of thee insect s.
Nuniir'u,,, instances of .it .1.11 :. to iiilrl i iiiii'in of 1lil ilii*' and to
tilllier, are also on record. TI' itii.. r, of one r,' thie 1I, -t sctiois
Of tlie I 'litidl t .0 1, National MMuseum w as fair some years ann Ill .

,iiniIriiined and we akened 1, a very
ould I i, >t be 1,' .1t. 1. and finally the
.iullinriltir- solved the problem tI, re-
il'- ing thile wood ti r i' withI one of
rveii it-. A fl. years .1I1 it wasfound
nic..-.:i ry to tear down and rebuild
thl tre fr.ane bI ]i llii v- in W .i-liiii,,ln
ill rim-ri,'ln' of the work of this
I l4tli,,i' f,, and renewal of f,,lund;i -
ltit iilim ers or r'-ii., iig with arti-
ihiail .-tone is ,,fti called for.
I .iii.i. e aif the sort mentioned has
O'curr,.I as far north as Boston, but,
a'% sl.lei. grially increases as one
ippr,,.lclia. the Tr,,i,'-. where the
w:irinl h and moisture are especially

I ,r, ,,,i ,,y of these l.-t i which

""--<. 3 *" "^

a - , .

Xlar a I') el' ow li ;. A1

Fxo. 3.-r mi< flavi~pe<: a, Newly hatchedl
larva; (, b.stunt froin below;i c, CI'B. All
eutlared torithnal).
y" suited to the ,l..v,.,lpi, nt and

nultii,!ii .i1i1 n- of this insect. There houses and furniture are never safe
fl'rii .,ttack. The sudden criii~li,2 into masses of (lust af chairs,
,hI-k-. ar other firimiti r, and the iiiii 'o and destruction of collections
of Iiik. and 1p.,1" i, are matters .f common i .ii l,\p' I, *.. very little hIint
,f the 1 .,- i.' 1_ iil- ivi, liv a -iirt.i. v inspe, tii',, even w len tlhe
inilrir ,f timbers or boards has been IinrmIl'ly eaten out, 1.. in.' a

\\Wliil, a ,,ii' ,i], their work alm ost solely to hni, l:-t,.i,'. or d, .,i ,_'
tim.irr: or \...t,.ill',. material of .in.y sort, and books and papers thllat
;ir, :,sirwhat uiii-l. termites are known to work also in i ii,-, trees,
,..i-i,._' their mines IIir,,i_,hi the moist and nearly dead lheartwood. In
Sii- \:i some valuable trees in Boston were so i ijiired as to mIIake rir oval necessary. In Florida these insects have been thle cause of
ckn:.ile'r.ble d,1.,1 IL;' to i, lv planted 'r,,1.' if ,,r.,i.', trees, ,,kin,-
arlinld ;he crowns and in the roots. TI,.' l.un.i.i,, has been ',.i 1.
ilotI' Iin recent ,l..iriiig where a good deal of rotten "i'l 1 still remained
in tlhe siii. thrs a:ca-"unting far their presence. T1et insects are some-


times also the occasion of considerable injury to other trees; and quite
recently the writer received information of injurious attacks on pecan,
chestnut, and walnut trees at Augusta. (Ga. They also cause loss in
conservatories, attwl.king cuttings and the roots of plants. Such injuries
have been !riugit to our notice several times by florists, and Mr.
Chittenden, of this office, inforlis me that white ants are apt to attack
the l:1g' stems of herbaceous plarits like geraniums. In greenhouses
the termites usually ,, in the more or less delayed woodwork of
the bIuilding itself or the plant benches, 1and they have even been found


I '/

Fio. 4.--Trmes flavipes: a, Queen; b, nymph ,_f r ,,,d fPm ale :c. o nrk*r. d. soldier. AI l
enlarged Ii, al
.4 - I ^ L-

FIG. 4.-Termes fleeipes: a, Queen; 6, nymph i-il' riL'i.-l lpmale: c. vonrlkr. di. soldier. All
enlarged ir'.rLiniali
working in label sticks, the removal ,f which gave relief from the dam-
:ige done to plants. In one instance, also, the termites, coming from
the wooden N<.-r.his, entered potted plants through the drain hole of
the pots. In prairie regions their work is necessarily on the roots and
tubers of plants or the stems of grasses or other low-growing plants.
A very common form of injury to potatoes growing in rich soil or
where there is a considerable qu:intity of decaying vegetable matter has
often been ii',-1, and the cause for it has been obscure or assigned to
insects innocent of the damage. That the white ant is the culprit in
this case was discovered by Mr. F. A. Marlatt, who describes the injury

to the tlliers as lI:1\ fiil. the I'ri -i 1 Bears or pits 1"'' ii,' ti --111 2 0 1
the pits v.itr ii.. 11 :ln.ip frot n it r,.'til.i; holes to lWi i. 11, ..' ill ir ca :
tiolls -,ul, 'tlnin ,i \| liIll fill illtO tIhe, "'*t itl, but co tlm tlonly to ;I
,irlt, ,f" fr,,n, :,tn,.h.,t to a I',,ir rli of an imi l. In all ca es th1 r' pits
are v n,,rt ,r I 1 ,-'. ,rl iLM and covered| i'. the dW "ai antd iin'. skinl, .iiIl
art, also liiiil "itl i tl '. lular tiss e ,r pota-to,1 i _, ii. that the ilse.t
virtr inn.,-t f,,r lii' -=.ii li anld wiatr of tlti tuber. 1Such 1i [ 1 iiay
ir'cur lint nmly il -il Ii' h inl (ve-,.il'li matter but al-o in newly r '1id
soil pr ..,-il ciI, .ii. i'i.. lie loose aind l' it L ''.I portions oft an in
the instltl(K v itIm .ill,,m, 1as in sioil fron whicli an old p1' otmrlv ird
h i t,.I ntl- v Ivrrn I, nr.iil.
Whitl ailt ifti.inti aiit .if lhiou's il proalTyA alwa" from an outside
soutrce. Tla. |i illnm usually i.s rinimlm fr)oi the 'ii1liii',,, bitt the I w rk' r, construct
IIiilIute g:nillri s 4 nr tI 'IT11 I throtugi the ..'i ,iii antd I", lii ,,.' di-tanices in
seilrchi lt f iTi.t t .is I li,', .i ini; .I II. T h ir -'Ilitranl t'; I to ill.Iii '- is
gained thirugh s nnr ,,f tliWee soil channels '.' I of xoeIn beaims or
joists stunk in om rint, in the foundations of the 1Iilli'-, or the sup-
ports of plinih s ,r iti l, .Ir ,.t of the ,i t m, wI \l ici 1coi e ill coItitact w itl
thie soil. Tii. f.I1 t thie ht anis or joists 1 I tht i is1 ieine1t are 'it ii' !I.
inuloisedi or iuibed-bl,.i in ,'oncrete is only a partial pi protection. II the
to'tling EIf tilt, i u .,i'nrete is alih4t s ure to cr:ik, ,1..'. ii_' 1aveliut
of ingress, and tle' lim.ili-, and ji'- put dow ml inll th nioit iiaterial
-oAin partially vi .iy aiI beco ie exceptioii ,1i,. -, ... Itl .ir, places.
fromni suu'h 1I..ii- tit' "liite aInts carry their burrows up lt,.i_'i]d tihe
tiimbeirs t he' fir-I a.ii 'vet second il...r- o lie on tihe safe .ide,
tllere'fore. tile fntl, .u iii- of 1i, iiL should ht ritir 1: of !i ~l.. .
or moncr'te, inulimiii, thl, basnieit ii.., and I -i illv should this
niethliid of ciu">n lrui t tiii Iw, followed n ii tW &i. amii -W.'i. |i, i rh -iII-.
In the ci:-e of Iid utiilliii- nolt construlctied in this way: considerable
prmtetin i m .i iit lli I im i, !'. iir,, iii- !iid i' tIii witli Iliar s")aetst atItI
gr:LivVle ,I ir a,-plh,ili,-,l .ilk-. an; d I kii .it, r the i, .. rt iiovil of
anIy lm:i viili. .-y ig I I ...- Ir l.irtially rotted I.... thltt imay he in 'Ii i, Ii
Iro'011tl s. I '. i ll(,-I Ii '\i m I- is an iiI, p i tItitt ml olt: retI II I in IL III L I -
inigs .,t' frmii .im., k. Im.' k and valuable toct'uients should imt Ibe
lpi'kedI .it.iy iii iimVm'ilili.itei d chaniers where 1 i btch omi' l oit
aMii moildy,. :anmi .1rm tin II particularly suh. to atta k ly wliite atits,
w hi, li .i Im v rIry lik,.,l t. e ) 1n, -* I' in old Iliii'! 1'Vt 1 11 ti,,_lJ i tlieir
work ha-s lii 1,,'vi, .1 uilii i,.ib i to IWrin;- theml intu sl -ial iutie.
In i ,re't .iiii wilh i n osote reldtlers wood ilr' .t I ely imlitiitiie
fromii tlh. ittaick. idf whit' tilt and in rm .:,,- where itnjr is to be
antitcip:tU'i it \\.mldl Im' \ \II to use wood so treated wherever it coies
in contact with thilt grimiund. A li,,iv. '.iltlit of foundation titihers
with tar is mfteni resin rtlI tm. and this protects the wood is 1 '1,- as thI
,ih,, -,.

I IIII l I H IIl 11it 1111 111111II111111 III
8 3 1262 09216 4804

coating is intact. Certain woods, also, are fairly immune, and of these
the redwood of California is most accessible and Feems to have a good
record. Capt. Geo. P. Ahearn, U. S. Army, reports that California
redwood has been used for more than twenty-five years in the Philip-
pines, and has never been known to be injured by white ants. Its use
in Manilai is very general, especially for the construction of cabinets,
filing cases, etc., where it is desirable to protect valuable papers from
these insects.
In the Tropics household furniture, such as stands and bureaus, not in
daily use can be protected by placing the legs in small vessels contain-
ing oil. Furniture. furthermore, should not lean against or touch walls,
especially in houses of wood, and frequent examinations should be
made of libraries and of stored papers.
The presence of flying termites in a building at any time in the spring
or summer should be followed immediately by a prompt investigation
to determine the extent of the infestation and the possibilities of fur-
ther dinjiagc. The point of emergence of winged individuals may
approximately, though not always, indicate the location of the infested
timbers, and if these can be replaced injury may be checked, or, under
favorable circumstances, Atopppd. In some cases thI orough and repeated
,lin-liiiwg of infested timbers, where accessible, with kerosene or some
other petroleum oil will afford relief, but probably will not stop entirely
the work of the triniites, which, as indicated under the heading of
"Pret-,ntiv,- are constantly recruited from some central colony
probably distant from the building. The destruction of winged indi-
viduals as thfy emerge is of no value whatever. \'here the injury is
confined to books and papers or exposed woodwork and furniture,
hydrocyanic-acid gas fumnigation is to be recommended, exposing if
possible also, by opening up floors, the infested joists beneath, and
slirt.,linii out the books and opening cases and wardrobes. For descrip-
tion of the use of hydrocyanic-acid gas see Circular No. 46 of this series.
It is i, y rarely possible to find and destroy the external colony, and if
the remedies noted are not feasible or prove ineffective there is no other
course but to replace the foundation of the buildings with walls and
ii ,rin-i.i of stone, concrete, or other form of rock composition. In the
case of the National Musetum building in Washiington and several pri-
vate cilil'v1e this course was finally adopted, with the result that white
ants were completely excluded and their work terminated.
Approv,-d :
Secretary of Agriculture.
W'ASHINt;'rTON, D. C., December 30, 1907. A2--