Desert Termites

Facts, Identification, & Control


Gnathamitermes spp.


What Do They Look Like?

  • Size: Kings and queens are about 1/2 inch long.
  • Color: Their bodies and wings are light brown in color.
  • Characteristics: Soldier desert termites are armed with large teeth-like mouthparts.

How Did I Get Desert Termites?

These pests feed on both living and dead plant matter, so yards with a mixture of living and dead grass may attract them. Desert termites rarely get into homes since they do not infest wood as do so many other species of termites. Finding these insects indoors may point to an infestation outside since open doors and windows, as well as gaps in foundations, can allow a desert termite to enter.

How Serious Are Desert Termites?

Desert termites are relatively harmless. They are not structural pests and do not harm crops or pastures. If these insects do create damage, it is in gardens or yards.

Homeowners frequently mistake this species for destructive subterranean termites because they both live in the ground. Identification is critical since desert termites are likely to benefit:

  • Crops
  • Rangeland
  • Turf


Signs of desert termites include the presence of these insects along with their tubes in or on soil.

How Do I Get Rid of Desert Termites?

Lawn Maintenance
Practice normal lawn care by using sufficient amounts of water and fertilizer, which usually overcomes any turf-related problems caused by desert termite feeding.

What Orkin Does
Your local Orkin technician is trained to help manage desert termites and similar pests. Since every building or home is different, your Orkin technician will design a unique program for your situation.

Orkin can provide the right solution to keep desert termites in their place and out of your home or business.


What Do They Eat?
Desert termites feed on plant material that is:

  • Dead
  • Decomposed
  • Living

Where Do They Live?
These pests prefer a habitat of living and dead grasses and under livestock manure.

Geographical Range
Desert termites are most likely to be found in:

  • Arizona
  • New Mexico
  • West Texas

Desert termites are very susceptible to losing moisture and drying out, so they build moisture-retaining tubes or sheets that are made of carton – a mixture of moist soil and feces that is glued together with the termite’s saliva – to overcome this obstacle and survive.

They tunnel in or on the soil, and their tunneling makes the soil more porous, a soil characteristic that improves the infiltration of rainfall and can improve plant growth in arid areas.

Life Cycle

Females of all reproductive forms can lay eggs to produce offspring. New desert termite colonies are formed by winged reproductives called swarmers that leave the established colony, find locations for new colonies and become kings and queens of the new colony. These insects are known to swarm before sunset following summer rainstorms.

Desert termites have three castes (stages) in their colonies:

  • Workers – They are the most abundant and provide food and colony maintenance.
  • Soldiers – These termites protect their colonies from predators.
  • Kings & Queens – Male/female reproductives.

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.

Schedule a FREE inspection

We’ll determine whether you actually have termites, then discuss a treatment plan including financing that works for you.

What Orkin does.

Learn what to expect from your Orkin Man and the AIM process.