While termites may look harmless, these tiny pests can cause major damage to your home in a short period of time. Termites are known as “silent destroyers” because of their ability to chew through wood, flooring and other parts of your home completely undetected for long periods of time.
There are about 2000 species of termites worldwide and 45 species in the United States. To help determine what kind of termite that is, let’s take a look at 4 of the most common termite species in the US.
Subterranean termites are the most common species found in home infestations. Belonging to the family Rhinotermitidae, these termites are found in every US state except Alaska. Subterranean termites live in either underground colonies or in moist, secluded areas above ground. With up to 2 million members to a colony, these termites build the largest nests of any insect in the States. These termites build mud tubes to gain access to food and protect themselves from the open air. They infest wood touching the soil or wood that is piled close to siding. They also feed on trees, fence posts, and structural timbers. One of the most destructive species in the United States, they work inside the wood they are eating, weakening buildings and causing structural issues. Signs of a subterranean termite infestation include active swarmers, discarded wings, the presence of mud tubes, and damaged wood that appears soft, sounds hollow, or appears rippled, peeling, or bubbled.
Formosan termites are a type of subterranean termite that are originally from China. Formosan termites are the most aggressive termite species in the US and one of the most destructive. Formosan termites multiply faster than any other subterranean species which makes them difficult to control once an infestation is established. These termites prefer warmer climates and are found in Hawaii, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, and California. Formosan termites build huge underground colonies with nests that can have millions of members. They enter your home via wood that touches the soil or by traveling from the ground to a wood source through mud tubes. They then make their way inside through unsealed joints and cracks. Once inside, they build intricate mud nests inside the structure walls. While they don’t eat any faster than other termite species, they do consume more wood because their colonies are typically larger than those of other types of termites. Signs of Formosan termites include the presence of swarming termites, discarded wings, and damage to wood, which is often discovered during home renovations. As Formosan termites eat wood, they leave behind smooth sided galleries and cause walls to sag.
Drywood termites are less common than their subterranean cousins and don’t require contact with soil. These termites belong to the Kalotermitidae family and are mostly found in the southern states. Drywood termites don’t require as much moisture for survival and infest wood that is dry, hence their name. These termites establish their nests in roof materials and wooden wall supports, as well as dead wood found around your home. They can also live in dead trees, structural timbers and even hardwood floors. Drywood termites don’t produce mud tubes. Their colonies tend to be smaller with only several thousand members versus millions in subterranean colonies. Signs of drywood termites include discarded wings, dead swarmers, and the appearance of frass (hexagonal fecal pellets that pile up under the wood they infest).
Dampwood termites come from two families: Kalotermitidae and Hodotermitidae. These termites infest wood with high moisture content and most don’t require contact with the soil. Dampwood termites are rarely found in homes or other manmade structures because the wood in these areas have a low moisture content. These high moisture requirements make these termites less common than other species. They are often found in wooded areas and rotting tree stumps. Dampwood termites are also larger in size than other termite species.
- Securing wood piles; store firewood off the ground when possible. Inspect your firewood for mud tubes before bringing them indoors.
- Avoid wood to soil contact. Replace any wood that touches the soil (decking, fencing, posts, etc) with non-cellulose or pressure treated materials. Don’t let wood siding touch the floor. Keep a gap of at least 6 inches between siding and the ground. Don’t use mulch next to foundations and keep a 1′ to 2′ wide gap between mulch and foundations.
- Replace damaged wood with other construction materials or pressure treated wood.
- Clean up any landscape debris. Grind down stumps and roots from fallen trees and remove them. Dig out any dead shrubs and remove them, as well.
- Keep plants and shrubs trimmed and thinned. Don’t let shrubbery touch siding or get too thick around foundations.
- Eliminate moisture. Check and make sure there are no plumbing leaks, air conditioning condensation, leaking gutters, and that downspouts are directing water away from the house. Make sure crawlspaces are ventilated.
- Repair foundations. Fill any cracks or crevices with concrete or heavy duty caulk.
Dealing with any type of termite infestation can be difficult. If you have signs of termite damage or suspect you have a termite infestation, contact a professional pest control company who can provide you with a thorough termite inspection and appropriate termite control plan.