Termite, common name for numerous species of social insects that can damage wooden structures such as furniture or houses. Of about 2000 known species, most are distributed in tropical countries and some inhabit the temperate regions of North and South America; two have become established in southern Europe.
Termites are known also as white ants, a misnomer based on superficial similarities in the appearance and habits of these two insect groups. True ants belong to a more advanced insect order that includes also the bees and the wasps. Termites are relatively primitive; they have thick waists and soft bodies and undergo incomplete metamorphosis. Nevertheless, they have developed remarkable patterns of social behavior that are almost as elaborate as those of the ants, social bees, and wasps.