The lifespan of termites varies widely depending on their species and caste or place in the social order of their colony.

In general:

  • Worker and soldier termites live for up to one or two years
  • Reproductive termites, also called alates or swarmers, live for about 4 years
  • Queen termites live for about two or more decades under optimal nesting and climate conditions.

Termites are great survivors, and their castes have kept their colonies functioning efficiently for several decades.

However, humans consider these insects to be pests because they destroy hundreds of homes every year. Depending on the colony size, the damage can be visible within a few weeks or months.

Where Do Termites Live

There are over 2,000 termite species in the world. Each species has unique physical and social features that allow them to survive. There are 45 known species in the United States which fall into three main types:

  • Subterranean termites
  • Dampwood termites
  • Drywood termites

These termites can survive through harsh conditions, and their colonies can contain about 100,000 to 500,000 termites. These insects can cause serious structural damage, which is why they should be eliminated as soon as they are spotted. When added to all ant populations worldwide, ant numbers are almost uncountable.

Type of Termites and Their Lifespan

Termites have several social classes, just like bees. The queen is usually at the top of the colony. Then there are alates, workers, and soldiers that make up the rest of the termite population. As mentioned above, termites’ lifespan depends on their species and caste.

  • The Eastern subterranean termite queens can live up to 30 years.
  • The dry-wood termite queens live for about 10-15 years.
  • The African mound-building queen, which is the longest living insect, can live as long as 60 years.

The Life Cycle of a Termite

The life cycle of termites begins when alates or swarming termites (males and females) leave established colonies to start their own. Once the alates find a suitable spot, they settle, shed their wings, and form new colonies. They then become the king or queens of their new colonies.

In the life cycle of termites, the kings and queens are usually responsible for reproduction or procreation. Here are the main life stages of a termite.


The fertilized queen lays eggs to build her colony. The eggs hatch after around 25 to 30 days and develop into soldiers, workers, and alates.


The newborn termite emerges from the shell and is taken care of by worker termites which help them to grow into healthy nymphs.


The nymph goes through molts and develops to be workers, soldiers, or reproductive termites, depending on the colony’s needs.


After several molting phases, the nymph transforms into a termite.


The termite matures into the various castes of the colony. Each caste is different in physical appearance and has different roles in the colony.


The life cycle of termites also includes the swarming stage. Once the reproductive termites develop fully and can reproduce, they develop functioning wings and eyes. Their bodies also darken and harden to help them withstand harsh conditions and light when they leave to form new colonies.

How Are Termites Designated Into Their Various Castes?

Research suggests that termites become designated into castes depending on the colony’s needs at a particular time. Also, research shows that the castes in the colony are not set rigidly because the termites can develop into entirely new castes depending on the colony’s needs.

Where Do Termites Live?

Termites are attracted to their food source, so they will live in any favorable environment. That being said, you will find termites in most types of wood, including logs, firewood, garden mulch, fallen timber, homes, and structures or products made of wood.

Termites can also live in trees, but they tend to destroy and kill the trees. Mulch also attracts termites; if it is not resistant to insects, it can easily access your home.

What Are the Signs of Termites in Your Home?

Termites are one of the most destructive insects, and as a homeowner, it is essential to understand the early warning signs and take action before the infestation gets out of hand. Below are early signs that you have a termite infestation.

Damaged Paint and Wallpaper

Termites feed on wood paneling and cardboard underneath your walls’ surface and create unnoticeable tunnels and exits. Most homeowners discover termite damage during home repair and remodeling projects. Some common signs of paint and wallpaper damage include:

  • Bubbling paint
  • Buckling wood
  • Peeling wallpaper
  • Dented/sunken areas
  • Narrow lines and pinholes

Mud Tubes

Termite mud tubes look like small veins running across walls or any wooden structure that attracts the insects. Termites need a humid environment, so they use these mud workings to protect themselves from the dryness in the air as they travel looking for food.

Once you find these mud tubes, it is likely that you have a termite infestation. You can break the tunnel to check for live termites, and there are none, come back after a while to check whether the insects have repaired it.

What To Do if You Spot Termites in Your Home

Termite Droppings

Another sign of termite activity in your house is termite droppings, also called frass. Termites tend to push their droppings out of their habitat to avoid buildup.

However, the only termite droppings visible to humans are dry-wood termites. The frass is usually pellet-shaped and appears like fine wood dust.

The subterranean termites use their frass to build their mud tubes. So, you might not find any dry-wood termite droppings if you live in New York.

Termite Swarmers

If you spot termite swarms inside your home or building, it is a telltale sign that your home is a nesting place for termites. Termites swarmers, also called alates, usually reproduce in large wood piles or rotten tree stumps. So you should clear anything that might attract these insects from around your home to prevent them from infesting your home.

What Attracts Termites?

Like all living things, termites need food, water, shelter, and warmth to survive. Termites’ primary food source is wood, so any wooden structure around your home is a risk. These insects get cellulose nourishment from wood.

Termites can find shelter in anything that provides them with basic needs. And if your home offers these insects a favorable environment, these insects will establish their colonies within no time.

What Is The Lifespan Of Termites

How Quickly Do Termites Spread?

Termites spread within a few days or weeks. After mating, the queen or swarmers lay 6 to 12 eggs after a week or so. The eggs hatch within one to two weeks, or even up to 30 days, depending on the climate and termite species. So, you may have a termite infestation in your home within a few weeks.

How Long Can Termites Live in Your Home?

Termites are very sneaky creatures as they do not leave visible signs of their infestation in your home. So, these insects can live in your home for many years and even decades undetected. But if you notice any telltale signs of the presence of these insects, you should call a pest control service immediately.

What To Do if You Spot Termites in Your Home

Once homeowners spot any signs of termites like termite tubes in their home or compound, their first instinct is to destroy them. However, you should not disturb the termites or spray them with regular household insecticides. This is because the termites can sense even the slightest form of disruption and relocate to another spot and keep eating away on the wood unnoticed.

The best thing to do is call pest control services immediately if you spot termites in your house. We can help you locate reliable and affordable pest exterminators in your area.

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It may take 3-5 years for termite damage to be noticeable, depending on the size of the house or building and the size of the colony or colonies present. Some research suggests that it may take up to 15 or more years for termites to wreck your home.

Yes, termites can go away on their own if the environment is no longer favorable to them. If the insects can no longer find enough food and water, they can leave to look for a better habitat.

No, termites do not bite. However, when their nest is disturbed, the soldier termites, which are responsible for protecting their colony, may lightly pinch your skin but not on purpose. These insects have poor vision and cannot grab onto your skin unless you disturb them.

Ben McInerney
Author: Ben McInerney - Ben is a qualified arborist with 15 plus years of industry experience in Arboriculture. He ran a successful tree service before turning to writing and publishing. Ben is dedicated to providing users with the most accurate up-to-date information on everything trees.