Eastern Subterranean Termites

Facts, Identification, & Control

Scientific Name

Reticulitermes flavipes

Appearance

What Do They Look Like?

  • Characteristics: Eastern subterranean termites are social insects that organize into very functional colony structures. Each colony member or caste performs very specific and specialized functions for the overall success of the colony. These colonies are made up of three castes:
    1. Workers
    2. Soldiers
    3. Reproductives

Workers

picture of eastern subterranean termite worker

The workers are the cream-colored caste that consumes cellulose and feeds the colony.

Soldiers

picture of eastern subterranean termite soldier

The soldiers are about 1/4 inch-long protectors of the colony. Soldiers are equipped with large jaws that they use to combat colony intruders.

Alates

picture of eastern subterranean termite alate

The alates are winged termites or “swarmers” that leave the colony and establish new colonies. The male and female alates leave the colony in the spring, mate after leaving the colony, construct a new colony, and then become the primary king and queen of this new colony. Fortunately, extremely few alates actually succeed in establishing new colonies.

Queens
The reproductive caste is made up of the primary queens and males (kings) that stay within the colony for life. The secondary reproductives are important during times of colony stress or conditions unfavorable to the success of the colony.

Alate queens and kings are black or dark brown, about 3/8 to a half inch long, and have two pairs of wings that are lost after a termite swarm. Generally, the appearance of swarmers or their shed wings is the first sign of a problem with eastern subterranean termites.

How Did I Get Eastern Subterranean Termites?

These termites nest underground and cause expensive problems for homeowners. The pests infest wood touching the soil or piled close to siding. Eastern subterranean termites also build mud tubes, which they use to access untreated walls, doors, or trim to venture deeper into homes.

How Serious Are Eastern Subterranean Termites?

All termite species cause issues, but the Eastern subterranean termite is one of the most destructive. The pests’ feeding weakens buildings, causing issues with a house’s framing that can lead to collapse or costly repairs. Because these termites work inside wood, it may be years before residents suspect an infestation.

Signs of Infestation

Usually a subterranean termite infestation is first discovered when winged termite swarmers are seen in the early or late spring, depending upon the climatic conditions. A good inspection will help you locate and become familiar with the following common signs indicating a termite problem:

  • Finding shed swarmer wings or winged swarmers around windows, patio doors, or other sources of light.
  • The presence of mud tubes.
  • Wood material in the home that appears to be soft, easily penetrated, rippled, peeling, or bubbled.

How Do I Get Rid of Eastern Subterranean Termites?

What Orkin Does
It’s always advised to call your local pest management professional (PMP) as soon as an infestation is suspected. Common control methods invovle removing termite food sources, fixing or repairing entry points, and reducing moisture around the home are good preventative measures to keep Eastern subterranean termites away. Some other recommended control methods your PMP will suggest include:

  • Secure wood piles: Keep wood piles off the ground and don’t allow any ground contact. Inspect firewood to ensure that termites have not constructed exploratory mud tubes and found your firewood.
  • Avoiding wood-to-ground contact: If possible, replace any construction wood that contacts the soil (deck and fence posts, etc.) with materials that are non-cellulose or pressure treated. Also, never allow any wooden siding to contact the soil surface. Maintain at least six inches or more of space between siding and the ground. Do not put mulch on the ground next to the foundation. If you want to use mulch around the home, be sure to provide a “no mulch” zone that is at least one to two feet wide since mulch allows the soil to hold more moisture.
  • Replacing damaged wood: Replace severely damaged wood with sound construction materials. Use pressure-treated wood at surfaces where wood must be in contact with soil.
  • Cleaning up fallen vegetation: If a tree blows down, grind down the stump and roots; never simply let a stump remain in place. If a shrub dies, dig it out and remove all the woody parts and roots of the dead shrub.
  • Trimming and thinning plants: Do not let landscaping plants touch the siding or get too thick around the foundation. Not only does this make a friendly environment for termites, it also makes it more difficult to inspect for signs of a termite problem.
  • Guarding against moisture: Ensure there are no plumbing leaks, water from air conditioner condensation, leaking gutters, and that downspouts direct water away from the house, not close to the foundation. Provide ventilation and drainage in the crawl spaces under the house.
  • Repairing possible entryways:If you notice a crack in the foundation, repair with concrete or heavy duty, durable caulking materials.

Your local Orkin technician is trained to help manage Eastern subterranean 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 Eastern subterranean termites in their place…out of your home, or business.


Behavior, Diet, Habits

What Do They Eat?
Termites are the most destructive insect pests in the U.S., causing damage well into the billions of dollars annually. Eastern subterranean termites consume wood, but also will feed on and damage almost anything that contains cellulose such as book pages and other papers.

Foraging
Termite workers are constantly foraging for food, and when a food source is located, the workers communicate the food source location by depositing complex odors called pheromones along trails.

Above ground foraging also takes place, and the typical termite mud tube must be constructed when workers forage above ground. The mud tube’s purpose is to protect the workers as they explore for new sources of food or travel back and forth with the cellulose they bring back to nourish the colony members.

Where Do They Live?
Eastern subterranean termites infest damp timber and prefer damp soil because they need moisture to survive. Humid areas of the home, around the home, and water-damaged lumber are perfect habitats.

Geographic Range
There are numerous termite species native to the United States. Eastern subterranean termites are a subterranean species found primarily in the South and on the East Coast. These insects can have a large economic impact on homeowners due to their dense distribution.

Colonies
One colony of Eastern subterranean termites may contain anywhere from 60,000 to nearly one million individuals. Unlike some other insect species, reproductive male termites mate throughout their lives, and males do not die immediately after mating. Eastern subterranean reproductive termites do shed their wings after mating swarms, at which time they go on to found new colonies.

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.