By looking at a single termite, it certainly doesn’t look dangerous or menacing, but a whole colony of them can inflict serious structural damage on a home in a fairly short period of time. Termites are known as “silent destroyers” because of their ability to chew through wood, flooring and even wallpaper undetected. Each year, termites cause about $5 billion in property damage.
The Three Main Types of Termites
Subterranean termites, also known as ground termites, live underground in groups or colonies. Their main source of food is wood, and they’ll tunnel underground up to 150 feet (45.7 meters) to find it. This source of wood could be your house. Subterranean termites are found throughout the United States, but are scarce in colder climates. A colony of subterranean termites can have up to 1 million members and can eat up to 15 pounds (6.8 kilograms) of wood per week! These termites can destroy home foundations, support beams, plastic pipes, insulation and more.
Signs of subterranean termites
Subterranean termites use mud tubes to move around above ground to forage of food. The tubes maintain the humid environment that the termites need and help protect them from predators.
Drywood termites live above ground, preferring to make their homes inside wood and trees. They don’t need moisture in their nests and instead get it from humidity in the air. You’ll find more of them in Southern California and the Southeast United States. Drywood termites live inside wood, eating it from within. They like to make homes in attics, doorframes and window frames. Wood that’s infested with drywood termites may look fine from the outside but actually be crumbling from within.
Signs of drywood termites
Frass is termite waste or fecal matter. Unlike subterranean termites, which build nests and tunnels for foraging out of fecal matter, drywood termites have no use for it as they only excavate tunnels in wood. They get rid of their feces by making a small hole in the wood and pushing it out of their home.
Dampwood termites like to build their colonies in damp, decaying wood, as their name implies. Considered an economic pest along the Pacific coast, they’re also sometimes found in the desert of the American Southwest and in southern Florida (but aren’t considered as dangerous in those areas). They’re attracted to damp wood, so homes with moisture or plumbing issues can be affected. Dampwood termite damage looks smooth and clean inside.
Signs of Dampwood termites
Dampwood termites do not create shelter tubes as with subterranean termites. The appearance of timber damaged by dampwood termites can be varied but they always eat across the grain, consuming both spring and summerwood. While doing this, they make a series of chambers or galleries connected by tunnels whose walls are smooth as though they are finely ‘sandpapered’.
Ronca, Debra. 2012. Types of Termites and the Damage They Cause. https://home.howstuffworks.com/home-improvement/household-hints-tips/insect-control/types-of-termites-and-the-damage-they-cause.htm (8 October 2019)
Alaspa, Bryan. 2018. Drywood termites and subterranean termites — What’s the difference?. https://www.jcehrlich.com/blog/drywood-termites-and-subterranean-termites-whats-the-difference/ (8 October 2019)
Fumapest Group. Dampwood termites. https://www.termite.com/termites/damp-wood-termite.html