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Desert Subterranean Termite Facts & Information

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

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Heterotermes aureus
3 castes


How do I get rid of desert subterranean termites?

What Orkin Does

Because they are small, the desert subterranean termite can infiltrate cracks in concrete and masonry, which prove too miniscule for other termite species to use.

Desert subterranean termite control is labor intensive and exacting. Always contact your pest management professional to confirm whether you have a termite problem. If you need termite control, your pest management professional will recommend the treatments that will be most effective and efficient for your home. In addition, your pest management professional will suggest that your termite control program also include an annual termite inspection.

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Behavior, Diet & Habits

Understanding Desert Subterranean Termites


Desert subterranean termites have three castes –workers that resemble cream-colored ants; reproductives that are pale, yellowish-brown, winged adults about ½-inch long; and soldiers that are large, with rectangular-shaped heads and big imposing mouthparts. Because desert subterranean termites are so small and can operate under dry conditions, the insects have etched out a niche unexploited by other termite species.


As the termites inhabit only the most arid, hot land in Arizona and California, they are also less dependent on moisture and fungal decay than other subterranean termite species. Typical sources of food include woody-type plants such as cactus, living and dead desert trees, plus utility poles, posts and structural timbers in homes. These termite colonies are large in population, with more than 300,000 members in well-developed colonies.

Desert subterranean termites prefer to forage for food in shaded soil or areas where irrigation practices keep the soil moist. As with other subterranean termites, the desert subterranean termites build mud tubes that protect the foraging workers as they search of food.


Beginning in the warm July rainy season, desert subterranean termites swarm until September. This termite swarms at dusk after a rain and will form a new colony by mating with other primary reproductives, and then enter the ground where they excavate a cavity or cell. In addition, colonies of these termites generally have a sizeable number of secondary reproductives that can form new colonies by breaking off from a primary colony.

Signs of Infestation

Evidence of a desert subterranean termite infestation includes damaged wood, presence of mud tubes and the appearance of swarmers. Wood damaged by termites is soft and honeycombed in appearance with layered hollow sections of the wood packed with mud, and partially digested wood.


U.S. habitats for desert subterranean termites are restricted to Southeastern California and the southern portion of Arizona.

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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