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Termites are a group of detritophagous eusocial insects which consume a wide variety of decaying plant material, generally in the form of wood, leaf litter, and soil humus. They are distinguished by their moniliform antennae and the soft-bodied and typically unpigmented worker caste for which they have been colloquially termed “white ants”; however, they are not ants to which they are distantly related. About 2,972 extant species are currently described, 2,105 of which are members of the family Termitidae.
Termites comprise the infraorder Isoptera, or alternatively the epifamily Termitoidae, within the order Blattodea (along with cockroaches). Termites were once classified in a separate order from cockroaches, but recent phylogenetic studies indicate that they evolved from cockroaches, as they are deeply nested within the group, and the sister group to wood eating cockroaches of the genus Cryptocercus. Previous estimates suggested the divergence took place during the Jurassic or Triassic. More recent estimates suggest that they have an origin during the Late Jurassic, with the first fossil records in the Early Cretaceous.
Termites are insects which are in ways similar to bees and ants where they divide labor amongst the colony by making a caste of workers. Termites mostly feed on decaying or dead plant materials but more commonly wood. They are responsible for a large amount of structural damage to buildings, destruction of crops, and forests. Termites live in colonies that over time can range in the millions of individual termites.
Although they are important to the planet’s ecosystem, they can cause serious damage to homes and other wooden structures.
Termites have existed on planet Earth for over millions of years. Although they are helpful in nature, they can be destructive to households and businesses. An estimated 600,000 homes are damaged by termites annually. Termites have caused more damage than natural disasters such as tornados, hurricanes, and earthquakes.
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