Isoptera

(Termites)

Vernard R. Lewis

University of California,

The ordinal name Isoptera refers to the two pairs of straight and very similar wings that termites have as reproductive adults. The common name, of Latin origin, translates as "woodworm." Termites are small and white to tan or sometimes black. They are sometimes called "white ants" and can be confused with true ants (Hymenoptera). However, a closer look reveals two easily observed, distinguishing features: termites have straight antennae and a broad waist between the thorax and the abdomen, whereas ants have elbowed antennae and a narrow waist. For reproductive forms, termites have four equally sized wings, whereas ants have two pairs of dissimilarly sized wings.

FIGURE 1 Castes for Isoptera. A lower termite group, Reticultermes, is represented. A large queen is depicted in the center. A king is to the left of the queen. A worker and soldier are below. (Adapted, with permission from Aventis Environmental Science, from The Mallis Handbook of Pest Control, 1997.)

FIGURE 1 Castes for Isoptera. A lower termite group, Reticultermes, is represented. A large queen is depicted in the center. A king is to the left of the queen. A worker and soldier are below. (Adapted, with permission from Aventis Environmental Science, from The Mallis Handbook of Pest Control, 1997.)

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