Can termites see? Are they blind? (the TRUTH about termite vision)


Have you ever wondered whether or not termites can see?

Termites appear to be pretty adept at finding their way to wood and wood structures, thus they obviously have methods for successfully negotiating their environments and for avoiding predators. 

Surprisingly, however, many termites are indeed blind. In the hierarchy of a termite colony, both soldier termites and worker termites lack the ability to see. Instead, these bugs rely on chemical signals and their sense of touch to help them identify moisture, food, and shelter and to find their way back to the nest.

Table of Contents

  1. How Termite Vision Impacts Treatments
  2. Termite Vision And Termite Prevention
  3. The Dangers Of Shooing Termites Away
  4. Additional Resources About Termite Vision

How Termite Vision Impacts Treatments

Lacking vision does not make termites less perceptive of their environments. It simply affects the way in which they perceive them. When combating insects that identify and avoid dangers based upon chemical signals, finding an effective termiticide that can go undetected is often critical for success.

Homeowners can use repellent termiticides to combat subterranean termites in the soil. This treatment method is commonly preferred by consumers with small children and household pets, given that repellent termiticides are very toxic to termites, but they are not known to have a negative impact on mammals.

Unfortunately, however, some repellent termiticides are easily detected by termites, given their extraordinary use of chemical signals to navigate through cellulose and mud tunnels. This is why many people are opting to use innovative options in non-repellent termiticides. These products have only been recently introduced and are designed to be undetectableto termites at all levels of the colony.

Termite Vision And Termite Prevention

Just because soldiers and workers cannot see accessible food and water sources, this does not mean that they cannot detect them. They can easily find uncovered bodies of water, damp building materials and other desirable property features.

Thus, good prevention requires people to be diligent in their efforts to eliminate or properly position these things. For instance, while wood mulch is an attractive landscaping addition, it should always be placed several feet away from the property foundation in order to avoid drawing termites closer to the home. The same sense that allows termites to find wood mulch are the very same sensors that will lead them to wood-based, structural materials.

The Dangers Of Shooing Termites Away

Termite visionTermites rely on their sense of smell over vision to become aware of their environment.

When attempting to self-treat termite infestations, many homeowners make the mistake of nervously shooing termites away from their building structures whenever they encounter visible colonies or swarms. Although termites cannot see you waving your hands at them, they can sense this movement. Moreover, due to their utter lack of defenses against predators, their first and only response is to simply fly away and resettle in a new location.

Scaring termites away from an existing nest can make the colony difficult to locate and treat. This can be especially problematic when baiting systems are being used for treatment given that the relocation of a colony can significantly increase the amount of time that it takes for a colony to discover a baiting system. In spite of their lack of vision, termites can be very challenging to treat. Thus, when in doubt of how to handle a termite infestation, consulting with pest control professionals is always best.

Additional Resources About Termite Vision

  1. How Insects See
  2. How Large Are Termites?
  3. How Termites Use Sense of Smell

2 thoughts on “Can termites see? Are they blind? (the TRUTH about termite vision)”

    • Thanks Tim, glad you like the article. Interesting question about termites ability to see colors. It seems that the swarmers or winged termites who possess eyes are somewhat attracted to blue and white light making some researchers believe that these termites have some color discrimination. I could not find any info on whether or not the soldier termites who have eyes can see colors. One thing is for certain, that termites primarily rely on pheromones and their sense of scent to navigate. There are some really cool videos of people performing ink experiments with termites on youtube. These videos are a great demonstration of termites ability to navigate with their sense of smell.


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