Soldier Termites: Feature, Functions, why they Bite & Explode

You think that insects live purposelessly without following any special rules. Surprisingly, some of them have social roles in well-organized societies. So, termites basically own a clear cast system, made up of a queen and a king, workers, soldiers, eggs, and young reproductive insects.

Every caste is responsible for their own special duties. Soldiers have similar duties as in human society; they protect their colony and the main termite, the queen. Termite soldiers possess few techniques and use weapons against their enemies. In this article you can see full characteristics of soldier termites.

How do Soldier Termites look

How can you distinguish the soldier termite? They share similar attributes with the worker termites in some areas. So, both of them posses have pale reddish-brown or white rounded bodies. Although, termite workers and soldiers are really different. They are bigger than other insects, their heads are darker and sometimes have different color than the bodies and possess bulgy jaws or snouts.

The main aim of the soldier termites is protecting their colony from enemies (which mostly are ants). That’s why they possess bulgy jaws and big armored heads that are usually brown, red, orange or yellow. In some species soldiers possess snouts instead of their jaws, in which they release a repellent liquid at enemies. Interestingly the soldiers may be both male and female termites.

Soldiers assist in differentiating termite species. While the other colony members, kings, queens and workers, look the same. But soldiers differ a lot. They are embodied with jaws of different shapes. Their heads also ranges different in shapes and sizes. And there are more characteristics, that assist in differentiating soldier termites of different species. It comes handy for scientists.

READ ALSO: Termite Queen: Lifespan, How to Identify & Kill the Termite Queen

Soldiers Termite in the colony

The termite soldiers make up about 1-10% of any given colony’s termite population. All ants have the ability to fight, but termites possess special caste for this purpose. Worker termites don’t have the ability fight, their duty involves lots of jobs around the house like looking after the queen and her eggs, feeding the queen and much more. The queen and the king do not partake in a fight either, because of how precious they are to the termite colony.

There are about three times more workers than soldiers in every colony, there are much more jobs around the nest than to protect. If there is a violation in the tunnels or walls of the nest, soldiers head to it immediately and block the gap, few times by forming a large group.

Sometimes soldiers also shake their heads against the ground to notify the other insects that the danger is near. Such sound is quite loud, and it remains in an organised crescendo. If the termite colony is large enough there are two types of soldiers in it, big and small. The major soldiers who seem large are quite slow, they defend the colony where the real strength is required.

Small or minor soldiers usually direct the worker’s traffic and defend their nest from small ants, which the big soldiers find difficult to deal with. As far as the soldiers are endowed with large jaws they can’t feed themselves. Workers feed not only the queen and the king, but also soldiers.

Soldier Termites

Colony protection by the Soldier Termites

In some termite species soldiers possess the ability to not bite their enemies but to release a fluid from the stomachs during biting as well. This fluid is usually a white sticky liquid which termites release from their throat. This process reduces energy a lot. Soldiers don’t usually release their grip after biting. If they do, they become really weak and it can lead to their death, especially if workers do not care properly for them.

READ ALSO: More Differences Between Termites and Flying Ants?

Some soldier termites even “pop” themselves in order to release sticky liquid after biting the enemies.
These termites are very smart and use various defensive methods. While some soldiers use passive defense, which involves blocking the tunnels using their heads. Phragmosis is the name for such defense. Termites use their heads for plugging up tunnels. If one termite soldier falls down, his place is taken by another one.

Some species release either a form of resistance or sticky liquid from a rostrum on their heads, which is so unpleasant for ants. The others are so wise that they can easily detect the threat level of various species with the help of smell. Some ants which possess “friendly” chemicals won’t fight. The interesting thing about this is that ants and termites are able avoid fighting and co-exist together. The chemical defense methods are really effective, because ants try to avoid these termites.

Immediately a human walks close to a termite colony the first termites he sees are soldiers. Guarding the colony and ready to fight any intruder, Every stranger is an enemy.

Watch fight between soldier termite vs ant

Why soldier termites explode and what does it mean?

Long time pouches that are capable of exploding and causing damage to the enemies colony are developed by older soldiers in some termite species. The termites who explode also die as well. It’s a heroic sign – to die for their colony at the end of their life. These pouches grow during the termite’s full life; they get filled with blue crystals, secreted by termites’ glands. The toxic quality of the backpack depends on how old the soldier is.

The soldiers in some termite species just fight the enemies by simply defecating on them from a distance.
A reaction is able to make this defensive chemical more toxic. s
Situated next to the salivary glands are pouches holding blue crystals containing copper. The moment ants or other predators attack the termites, their bites cause the burst of swollen pouches and the crystals mix with salivary secretions, producing the toxic blue liquid.

READ ALSO: 5 Types of Termites: Subterranean, Dampwood, Drywood, Formosan & Conehead Termite

Soldier termites in house

Soldiers are regarded as their colony’s defenders. They are not involved in collecting cellulose which is the termites’ food and do not engage in causing damage wood themselves. Nevertheless, they are indicators of termite infestation.What are activities of soldier termites in a house? With the knowledge of how the soldiers look, noticing them in your house you should pay attention to following things:

  1. Sagging of wood floors or buckled floorboards.
  2. Bubbling paint and discoloration on your walls and ceilings, which look like water damage.
  3. Termite tunnels and “mud tubes” on vertical structures, outside or under your house and especially around the foundation.
  4. Some pattern of wood damage followed by the woodgrain, creating a “ribbed” effect in the wood around your house.
  5. Mounds looking like tiny wood pellets in and around your home’s wooden structures.


As you can termites life is much more complicated than you can imagine. Their nest could be regarded as little kingdom with a couple of monarchs, lots of workers and a number of soldiers as defenders.

Now you know the physical appearance of termite soldiers, you could probably recognize them coming to the termite’s nest. Not only had these facts provided you with some interesting information for evening reading but also few handy tips against your small but powerful enemies.

In the article about the queen termite information are provided on how to find and destroy the termite queen by yourself. Endeavor to wear proper protective clothes on your way to the nest. As you’ll encounter aggressive soldiers and might even get bitten by them. That should be regarded, either as a positive or negative experience of dealing with soldier termites.

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