Termites are considered to be the most destructive insect pests in the world. Many buildings and structures are damaged by these pests each year resulting in huge financial losses. About 90% of property damages in Malaysia are caused by Coptotermes species making it the “public enemy number 1” in Malaysia.
Termites were once classified in a separate order from cockroaches, but recent phylogenetic studies indicate that they evolved from close ancestors of cockroaches during the Jurassic or Triassic period. However, the first termites possibly emerged during the Permian or even the Carboniferous. Although these insects are often called white ants, they are not ants.
Termites are a type of subterranean termite that nests within and below the soil. They invade structures from the soil directly through wood to ground contact, or using mud tubes they construct up from the soil. Termites also can construct a carton which helps retain moisture in the nest.
Termites divide labour among castes consisting of sterile male and female “workers” and “soldiers”. All colonies have fertile males called “kings” and one or more fertile females called “queens”. Termites mostly feed on woods, wooden structures, trees, cellulose, generally in the form of wood, soil and even structures build with bricks and cement. They have the ability to forage an entire house or building’s wooden structures until weakens and thus, collapsed.
About 3,106 species are currently described, with a few hundred more left to be described. The 3 main termites in Malaysia will be the:
1) Subterranean Termites – Coptotermes Formosanus
2) Drywood Termites – Cryptotermes or Incisitermes
3) Dampwood Termites – Zootermopsis or Neotermes