Subterranean Termite Facts & Information

Protect your home or business from subterranean termites by learning techniques for identification and control.

Reticulitermes spp.
Coptotermes spp.
Heterotermes spp.

IDENTIFY

Types of Subterranean Termites

What do subterranean termites look like?

If you are trying to classify a specific termite colony into a group, you need to look at the soldiers and the alates, the winged, unmated reproductive caste, because worker termites across groups tend to look the same. Also important is the appearance of the damage wood they consume.

Arid Land Subterranean Termites

Arid Land Subterranean Termite

Reticulitermes tibialis

Dark Southeastern Subterranean Termites

Dark Southeastern Subterranean Termite

Reticulitermes virginicus

Desert Subterranean Termites

Desert Subterranean Termite

Heterotermes aureus

Eastern Subterranean Termites

Eastern Subterranean Termite

Reticulitermes flavipes

Western Subterranean Termites

Western Subterranean Termite

Reticulitermes hesperus

Treatment

How do I get rid of subterranean termites?

What Orkin Does

Continuous Treatment Plans: With Orkin, you receive the most dependable termite control from an industry leader. Our Continuous Protection Plans use scientifically proven treatments designed for your home’s construction type, and every one of those treatments is backed by a money-back guarantee. We’ve been around for more than 100 years, so you can be confident we’ll be here when you need us.

Customized Treatments: Based on the layout of your home and the degree of termite infestation, Orkin will create a treatment plan tailored for your home.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Behavior, Diet & Habits

Understanding Subterranean Termites

Identification

Termites are broadly divided into three major termite groups:

Identification factors for subterranean termites are:

  • Alates (swarmers): Dark-brown to black in color, about ¼ to ½ inch long with two pairs of wings that are very close to being equal in length.

  • Workers: No wings, about ¼ inch or less in length and cream colored.

  • Soldiers: No wings, large mandibles (jaws), termite colony defenders, are creamy-white in color, but their head is often brownish in color.

  • Appearance of damaged wood: Since subterranean termites build their nests underground, damaged wood usually has an accumulation of soil or mud within the tunnels of the wood they are eating. Since subterranean termites only eat the softwood, damaged wood appears to be layered, the result of the workers not eating the hardwood portion. In addition, subterranean termites feed “with the grain” rather than across the grain, as do drywood termites.

  • Location of the nest: As their group name suggests, the nest is usually found below ground. Nests may be found above ground, but only when sufficient moisture conditions are available to support the above-ground nest and the colony is old and well established.

Habitat

Live in colonies underground, from which they build tunnels in search of food; able to reach food above the ground level by building mud tubes; dependent on moisture for survival.

Diet

Diet consists of wood and other cellulose material.

Reproduction

Different rates of growth from egg stage to adult, depending on individual species; one primary queen per colony, which can lay tens of thousands of eggs in its lifetime, but eggs also can be laid by supplementary reproductives in an established colony. Read more about subterranean termite reproduction.

Distribution

Subterranean termites are found throughout the United States, but are relatively scarce in the colder states. They occur in greater numbers in warm, southern states. However they exist in every state except Alaska. They are most common in the humid, subtropical south between Florida and Southern California.

Termites Swarms: Formation of New Termite Colony

More Information

If you are constructing a new home, especially in a high-risk area, it is advisable that you obtain estimates from reliable professionals for termite-proofing your home. Pest control professionals are best equipped to take preventive measures, which could save homeowners from severe loss. Pest control experts will also be able to make recommendations that can help to prevent termite infestation.

There are over 2,300 described species of termite living today. Many of them are found in tropical and subtropical regions such as deserts and rain forests. However, there are more than 50 species that have been found living in the United States. Collectively, they are responsible for an average of $1 billion per year in property damages, infesting 350,000 structures.

These numerous species are broken down into subterranean termites, dampwood termites and drywood termites. The three types of termites differ in colony-building habits and preferred climate. Subterranean termites build large colonies underground, which are composed of elaborate tunnels and chambers. Worker termites then construct protective tunnels made of mud and saliva in order to reach above-ground wood. When subterranean termites eat wood, they fill it with soil to help maintain the humidity. If mud tunnels are visible on the walls or foundation of your home, it is highly likely that you are experiencing a subterranean termite infestation.

Subterranean vs. Drywood

Alternatively, drywood termites make their nests within cellulose-based materials such as lumber, siding and wooden trim. They require no soil contact and get their moisture from the wood. They also attack floors, furniture and books. Drywood termites can be more difficult to detect and aren’t typically noticeable until small piles of pellets (their feces) collect.

Subterranean vs. Dampwood

Dampwood termites locate their colonies in wood that is wet and even decaying. Wood that is in contact with the soil or wood that is constantly wet are ideal nesting sites for these termites. They are common in the Southwest and along the Pacific Coast. They are also found in Florida. If your home has leaky pipes or other moisture situations, it may be attractive to dampwood termites.

Termite Control

How do you know if you have termites?

Learn the signs to look for to determine if you might have a termite infestation.

Why should you be worried?

Termites cost Americans more than $5 billion in damage each year and most insurance plans don’t cover the damage.

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