Termites, the proper name of the white ants, or the neuropterous insects of the family termitinoe. Though they resemble the common ants (formica) in their social habits, they belong to a different order, and in many respects come near the orthoptera. In the genus termes (Linn.) the antennas are thread-shaped, with about 20 joints; the eyes small but prominent, and the ocelli three; the mouth as in orthoptera; thorax distinct, and wings large, long, and membranous; legs short with four-jointed tarsi; abdomen with a pair of minute caudal appendages. They live in vast communities, principally in the tropics, and do great damage by devouring everything but metals and stone which comes in their way, gnawing even the interior of the beams of houses, leaving only a thin shell. According to Latreille there are five classes in their communities, males, females, workers, neuters, and soldiers. The males and females are at first coming down to N. Europe; it is a very rapid and graceful flier, dashing boldly into the water after fish and shrimps; the eggs are delicious, 1¼ by ⅝ in.
There are several other species, and another genus, the short-tailed or black tern, hydrochelidon (Boie), with the species H. plumbea in America and II. nigra in Europe.