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Types of termites

There are approximately 2,000 known termite species, all of them varying in shape, size and behavior. But the two things they all have in common are a love for wood and a propensity for causing significant damage to homes and property. Here are the four that present the biggest threat to homeowners in North America and require professional termite control:

What type of termite are you seeing? We can help.

Where are different types of termites found?

Depending on where you are located, you will be more susceptible to different types of termites. Subterranean, drywood, dampwood, and formosan termites cover a large portion of the United States, with many of them found in Arizona and California. This means protecting yourself from different types of termites is vital. 

Map of the United States showing where termites are active

Subterranean termites

Western subterranean termites

By far the most destructive and widespread species in the U.S., subterranean termites live in underground colonies, in contact with the soil. To protect themselves from open air, subterranean termites build mud tubes for safe passage. Secondary colonies may live above ground if there is a moisture source, such as a leaky pipe.

Subterranean termites only need an opening 1/32 inch wide to gain access to your property. These termites eat 24/7 – usually softwoods such as springwood, or wood byproducts like newspapers, drywall, cardboard, etc. Because their colonies are so large, a tiny crack in your foundation can quickly lead to significant damage. If you find mud tubes or blistering/hollow-sounding wood on your property, subterranean termites may be to blame. 


Drywood termites

Drywood termites

Unlike their subterranean cousins, drywood termites do not need to be near the soil, do not create mud tunnels, and prefer to eat wood with a moisture content of 12% or less. Drywood termites are commonly found in the southwest U.S. and northwest Mexico but can be carried elsewhere via infested furniture and lumber.

Drywood termite swarming typically occurs on warm and sunny days after a sudden temperature increase. These termites are homebodies, setting up house within the wood itself. Swarmers start by gnawing a small tunnel. They then close it, excavate a chamber, and mate. Drywood termites commonly establish nests in roof materials and structures such as wooden support beams, furniture and hardwood floors, leaving the tunneled wood smooth. Once drywood termite eggs hatch, immatures and nymphs are put to work, as there is no worker division.

What type of termite are you seeing? We can help.

Dampwood termites

Dampwood termite

As their name suggests, you will find dampwood termites infesting wood with high moisture content. Dampwood termites rarely end up inside a property since dry wood is generally used for building, but they might be eating the utility pole or old tree stump right next to your home. They do not usually live or burrow underground, as they do not need contact with damp ground. However, they do require wood in contact with some sort of moisture.

Dampwood termites are commonly found on and adjacent to the western coast of the U.S. and in the desert or semi-arid southwest. Swarm timing depends on the colony, but when it happens, swarmers excavate a chamber in the wood, enter, and seal it off. They then mate within the chamber and the female lays eggs. Like drywood termites, there is no worker caste, so once they hatch, the immatures do all the work.

Formosan termites

Formosan termites

Formosan termites are originally from China and are now the most aggressive of the termite species we find here in the U.S. They prefer mild climates such as those found in the southern U.S. or in Hawaii. Bigger in size than the average termite, Formosan termites are some of the most destructive subterranean termites. One colony may have as many as 350,000 workers and together they can eat more than one ounce per day. These voracious termites can be difficult to control once they infest a structure, so prevention is key when it comes to Formosans. 

What type of termite are you seeing? We can help.

Identifying termites from their damage

At Western Exterminator, our experts can confirm the invading termite species through a visual identification process, but you may also be able to identify them by the evidence of the damage to your building or home.

Subterranean termites begin their feeding process from the ground up and typically enter a building through the sub-structure. Homes with crawl spaces are at great risk. It is here you should look for evidence of damaged wood and mud tubes. Wood damaged by this particular species develops “galleries” (hollow tunnels), which run along the grain of the wood.

Drywood termites typically enter structures near the roof line or other exposed wood to begin building their colony. Inspect your attic for evidence of damaged wood. Look for tiny holes in the wood with evidence of frass collecting nearby. Probing the wood can also expose galleries as well.

Having experienced a termite infestation, most people will be eager to ensure they do not have the same problem in the future. Your Western Specialist can give you simple steps you can take to “termite-proof” your home or business and offer prevention solutions to keep your property protected.


Western Exterminator: Experts in termite species

Our Western Exterminator termite specialists are trained to spot the signs of termites and to accurately identify what types of termites are at work on your property. Experienced termite inspectors can identify hiding places, access points, and existing termite damage before recommending the most suitable termite treatment plan to protect your home or business. Contact us to schedule a free termite inspection today.




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