There are around 2,000 types of termites in existence, 45 of which are present in the U.S. This can seem like a frightening piece of information given their unfavored reputation amongst homeowners. With so many different types, how do you know which types of termites are present near you? Or, if termites have found their way into your home, how do you know which species is invading? Knowing which types of termites are a threat to you can inform you on how to address the problem, or better yet, how to avoid it.
Termites, often seen as a major nuisance of a pest, surprisingly benefit our ecosystem in several ways. Termites feed on dead trees, which helps with the decomposition process that turns them into fertile soil. Fertile soil is great for our environment, as it helps forests flourish and grow back faster. Even knowing the benefit that these insects have, it’s hard to ignore the great damage they can cause. This same wood-based feeding habit that benefits the environment is also the catalyst of mass damage within our homes. As they make their way into our home to feed on wooden structures, they often cause extensive (and very costly) damage.
Thankfully, there are ways to keep these pests out of our homes. And with 45 types of termites present in the U.S., knowing how to identify some of the major species is a key factor in being able to prevent or detect an infestation.
Types Of Termites And How To Identify Them
The various types of termites are broken out into three main categories: subterranean termites, drywood termites, and dampwood termites. The termites within each of these categories have their own unique behaviors, appearances, and regions in which they are found. In addition, different types of termites can affect your home in various ways. In fact, some are far more damaging to your home than others, posing a greater threat. Here, we’ll take a look at the types of termites found within these three main categories. With this, you can be more prepared to identify (and hopefully prevent) them.
Subterranean termites can cause the most damage out of any termite species. That being the case, it is particularly important to be able to identify them. These termite species are creamy white to dark brown in color and typically around ⅛ inch long. In addition, they are found throughout the U.S, typically living in soil. Subterranean termites create distinct tunnels that are often referred to as “mud tubes”. These termite mud tubes in the yard lead from the moist soil in which they live to their food source. Unfortunately for us, this food source can be found within our homes’ structures. They enter homes through the soil that is surrounding or beneath the structure they are invading. Eventually, this leads to significant damage, particularly to the foundational wood of a home. Here are a few types of subterranean termites for homeowners to look out for:
- Formosan termite: Formosan termites are sometimes nicknamed “super-termites” due to their particularly destructive habits and large sized colonies. These termites are creamy white to brown in color and about a ½ inch in length. They are often found in warmer climates, including Hawaii, Florida, and California, and are the cause of most termite damage in the U.S.
- Arid-land subterranean termite: Arid-land subterranean termites are most often found in the Western U.S. and Midwest region. They are dark brown to black in color and have clear veined wings. These ½ to ⅜ inch long termites consume wood, brush, and animal manure. Similar to other termites, they will attack structures when their primary food source is diminished or removed. One sign of an arid-land termite infestation is piles of shed wings present around windows and doors.
- Dark southeastern subterranean termite: Hinted at by its name, the dark southeastern subterranean termite is dark brown to black in color and found along the East Coast. Primarily feeding on wood, this species has been noted to prefer plywood, along with pine and Douglas Fir structural lumber. Signs of a dark southeastern subterranean infestation include the presence of mud tubes and wood damage that has a honeycombed appearance.
Drywood termites live in wood, such as dead trees and, unfortunately for us, structural timber and hardwood floors. They are often found in North Carolina, California, and other coastal southern states in the U.S. Indicated by their name, drywood termites require very little moisture. Because of this, they are often found within dry wood, such as in an attic. One sign of a drywood termite infestation is the presence of small sand-like fecal pellets around places like window sills. Because these termite species typically form smaller colonies, they tend to cause damage to homes at a slower rate than subterranean termites. However, over time, these termites can still cause significant damage. Here are a few types of drywood termites that homeowners should look out for:
- Desert drywood termite: Desert drywood termites, preferring dry wood, are typically found in dry climates such as in Arizona and Southeastern California. These termites are yellow to light brown in color and are about ½ inch in length. Desert drywood termites are most likely to feed on trees and desert cacti, but can also invade homes where dry damaged wood is present.
- Western drywood termite: The western drywood termite is found across the Southwest region of the U.S. They have dark brown bodies and black wings, growing to be about a ½ inch long. Western drywood termites thrive in dry non-decaying wood. In addition, they typically leave piles of brownish fecal pellets below the kick-out holes they create in wood structures, a good indication of an infestation.
- Southeastern drywood termite: Given their distinctly small colonies, southeastern drywood termites cause much less damage than some other drywood termite species. These termites are found in the Southeast region, ranging from South Carolina to Florida. Their infestations are identified by the presence of shed wings and dead winged adult termites, also known as “swarmers”.
As their name suggests, dampwood termites prefer wood with the highest moisture content. Therefore, dampwood termites very rarely invade homes or other structures due to their not being enough moisture for these types of termites. These termites are some of the largest found in the United States, ranging from ½ to 1 inch in length. They also vary in color depending on the species. A dampwood termite can be identified by their appearance, typically having a larger head with mandibles, or pincers. Given their attraction to damp wood, these termites are found in states with damp climates, such as California, Oregon, and Washington. Although dampwood termites are the least likely to invade, plumbing issues and leaks within a home can lead to enough moisture to attract these pests. Here are a few types of dampwood termites that homeowners should look out for:
- Desert dampwood termite: Desert dampwood termites are yellowish to dark brown in color, with nymphs of this species having spotted abdomens. Like the desert dampwood species, these termites are found in dry climates, such as in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. However, unlike the desert drywood, the desert dampwood prefers to eat damp wood that is usually present underground. An infestation by these termites is easily distinguishable by very smooth walls found within the tunnels, which is typically found with most other dampwood species.
- Pacific dampwood termites: Pacific dampwood termites are yellowish brown to reddish brown in color. In addition, the winged reproductive termites within this species can reach almost an inch long! These termites prefer extremely moist wood, most often found in damaged and rotting wood. Due to this behavior, pacific dampwood termites are often found invading homes that have wood-to-ground contact, which often results in high moisture levels.
- Florida dampwood termites: Needing high humidity and water to survive, Florida dampwood termites often prefer living in live trees and logs. With these humidity needs, this type of termite is rarely a cause for concern when it comes to homes. However, leaks in the kitchen, bathroom, or roof can lead to moisture levels that will attract the Florida dampwood termite, possibly causing an invasion.
Other Types of Termites
While subterranean, drywood, and dampwood are the three main categories of termites, there are some other termite species that don’t fall into these categories. Being familiar with these other types of termites can help you know what to look for and how to address an infestation if it does occur. Here is another common type of termite to take note of:
- Conehead termite: When identifying a conehead termite, you’ll notice their yellowish brown bodies and dark cone-shaped heads. Another way to distinguish this species of termite is by their tunnels. Conehead termites create tunnels that are wide and more extensive than that of subterranean species. Like other termites, they feed on virtually anything that contains cellulose, including trees, structural lumber, fences, and more.
What Damage Can These Types of Termites Do to Your Home?
One reason why you should be knowledgeable about the different types of termites is that they have the potential to cause great damage to your home. Most termites invade homes in search of food, which is found within a home’s wooden structures. However, because different types of termites have different habits and needs, the damage can vary from species to species. Here are some of the most common types of damage that termites can cause:
- Damage to your home’s structure: Some types of termites, like subterranean termites, need moisture in order to survive. Because of this, these termites typically travel from moist soil right to the foundational wood of your home. Consequently, as they burrow and eat their way through the wood, it grows weaker and less structurally sound. Not only is this damage costly to repair, it can make your home a dangerous environment for you and your family.
- Damage around doors and window: Windows and doors often have wooden frames for structural support, making them another popular spot for termites to invade. As a result, as termites chew through these wooden structures, they can begin to appear wavy and even split. Aside from being a nuisance to remove, these termites can lead to costly damage to these areas.
- Damage to walls and other wood within your home: Not only can termites burrow through a home’s foundational structure, but they can also find their way into walls, hardwood floors, and even furniture. This is particularly common in bathrooms and kitchens, where moisture is the highest. As termites make their tunnels and mazes, they can cause damage to paint, titles, and ultimately affect the integrity of your home’s structures.
How to Know When One of these Types of Termites Has Invaded Your Home
No matter what type of termite has invaded your home, identifying the issue as soon as possible is key. Here are some common warning signs of a termite infestation that homeowners can look out for:
- Squeaky floorboards
- Buckling wood or laminate flooring
- Piles of termite droppings
- Window or doors that are hard to open and close
- The presence of mud tubes in your yard
- Bubbling or discolored paint or wallpaper
- Dead termite swarmers or wings laying around
- Hollow sounding wood
If you notice any of these signs of a termite infestation, it’s important to call a professional termite exterminator promptly. By catching an infestation early, you can stop termites before they cause further, and more costly, damage. In addition, if you see termites in your yard or around your home, it’s important to take note. Being vigilant can help you stop an infestation before it has the chance to start.
Knowing about the different types of termites and the severity of the damage they can cause is important. With this knowledge, it can be easier to notice (and prevent!) a termite infestation in your home. While there are many ways to prevent termites, like reducing moisture levels, termite problems can still occur. At the first sign of a termite infestation, contacting a professional pest exterminator will save your home from greater damage. Eliminate ‘Em’s termite control specialists are on-call 24/7. Contact us today for an estimate!