Geographical Range Western North America
Habitat Forests and woodlands; also found in and around human-made structures
Scientific Name Reticulitermes hesperus
Conservation Status Not listed by IUCN

Termites are well known for their ability to quickly eat through wooden structures and dead wood. They can do this because of a tiny protozoan and a bacterium that live together in the termites' gut. These small life forms work together to digest wood cellulose, thus making the nutrients available to the insects.

There are more than 2,000 species of termites worldwide. While they vary in where they live and what they eat, all termites live in colonies and all are highly social.

Termites are understandably feared by homeowners everywhere, because they do billions of dollars' worth of structural damage every year. But these decomposers also perform valuable services for forests and other natural ecosystems because of the role they play in returning valuable nutrients to the soil from decaying wood.