Termites are sometimes called 'white ants', but they're not ants at all - in fact, they're not even closely related to ants. So what are they?
Termites are small (their size can range from about 3 to 10 mm long), pale or transparent, and have thin skins. Unlike ants they don't have a thin waist, they are usually blind (there isn't much need for vision in the dark tunnels they inhabit) and they cannot tolerate dry conditions. They are similar to ants in that they occur in large, complex colonies. Ants and termites also both have different social orders (castes) that include sterile workers, soldiers and a single large queen.
Entomologists have worked out that termites are really a type of specialised cockroach! They diverged from cockroaches on the evolutionary tree many millions of years ago, and have successfully pursued a plant-eating life ever since.
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