Subterranean termites are known to be amongst the largest colony builders. Find out how to identify the swarmer, photos, distribution all over the world, damages, treatment and control measures.
What do they look like
Subterranean termites obtain their name from their lifestyle where they are found in contact with the ground.
In order to know how these termites look like, you can study them in three categories: alates, the winged and the reproductive types of the termites. The alates are dark brown in color.
Here are some pictures to give you a clear impression of how the termites look like. The pictures show the different types and descriptions of the termites.
Subterranean Termites Facts
Here are some of the facts you need to put abreast regarding the subterranean termites. This section discusses their identification, their behavior, eating habits and their habitat.
They are around ¼ to ½ an inch long with some pairs of wings that are almost equal to their length.
The workers on the other hand measure about ¼ an inch and they are cream colored. The soldier wings do not have wings but have large mandibles. They are the defenders of the colony. They are creamy to white colored. Their head is in most cases brown in color.
Their behavior is very distinctive. They build tunnels called mud tubes so as to reach the sources of food. This also protects them from the external environment and risk of destruction.
They have the scissor-like jaws that they use to eat all their lifetime. They feed on all the materials that contain cellulose.
They also behave differently based on the work they perform in the colony. The worker, soldier and swarmers have different roles and they are equipped to perform the particular roles. There are some that have eyes while others do not.
The workers are small and opaque insects that are capable of separating the wood and cellulose materials from the source. The workers live entirely in the dark tunnels and below the ground.
They don’t have eyes simply because they do not need them. What is interesting is that despite the lack of eyes, they are able to differentiate light from the dark.
The queen termites are the ones responsible for laying eggs and ensure the perpetuation of the colony. The subterranean swarmers are the reproductive forms of the termites.
They develop when the colony is about three to five years. They afterwards leave the colony and begin new colonies of their own.
They have eyes which are more developed because they always have to move from one point to another to escape the impending danger.
What they eat
These pests feed on all the moist wood. They also feed on any material that contain cellulose.
Habitat-Where they live
These termites live some feet below the ground and in large colonies. The termites always want to avoid dehydration as they require high levels of moisture so as to survive. Living above the ground therefore does not work for them to avoid the risk of destruction.
They open the tunnels under the ground and then create networks that are made from mud and saliva. The diameter of the tunnels is about the size of a pencil and move outward as far as 150 to 300 feet from the center of the colony.
Signs of a Subterranean Termite Infestation
There are some red flags that you should always look out for so as to know the presence of subterranean termites. Here are some of the signs of the infestation;
Swarmers or Discarded wings. The swarmers are the called the reproductive types of the termites. They constitute the male and female winged termites.
After the last freeze in the spring time, they come out and mate and then search for new areas so as to establish new colonies and homes.
The termite swarmers discard their wings near the windowsills and doors. This is the first sign of the infestation of termites in your home.
The presence of mud tubes. They are the most destructive species of termites and the presence of the built mud tubes will just be a tip of the iceberg to their presence.
They build the mud tubes so as to get enough moisture as they move from one colony to another in search of food. You will find the mud tubes mostly around the foundation of your house.
Damaged wood. These termites chew the wood from inside to the outside. In the end, the wood remains hollow once they have left. You should also look for blistering pieces of wood in your home. There are some of the dark areas that may present on the wood.
These termites can go unnoticed when they damage wood because they eat the inside and leave the external intact. For you to finally pin down the infestation, you notice the wood is hollow when you tap it.
These are termed as the worst house guests. They cause more damage than the drywood termites. The tubes they build help to protect them from the predators and thus enable them to access your home. The reason for the great damage is they multiply very fast and grow quickly.
Once a colony has grown, they will branch and form other branches and this makes them more lethal. The workers are always constantly chewing the wood in your home.
Formosan subterranean termite
This is the largest of this group of termites and the most widely distributed. It is also the most economically important. It obtained its name in Taiwan in the 1900s although it is endemic in China.
A colony of the termites contains some millions of termites that go about 300 feet into the soil. The termite colony contains the reproductive, the soldiers and workers. They feed on cellulose on a daily basis. Each of the categories have specific roles to play in the colony.
The damage caused by the Formosan subterranean termite is not as pronounced as the damage caused by the native subterranean termite.
However, these species cause large cumulative damage because of their large colony numbers. You can recognize them by tapping the wood with a hard surface because they burrow and leave the wood hollow.
Eastern subterranean termite
They are commonly distributed in the USA. They are found in Southern Ontario and all the Eastern states of the USA including but not limited to Texas.
You can identify the swarmers during the spring although a few come out during the summer. They are equally destructive and can eat the internal parts of the timber rapidly leaving the sections of the timber hollow in the inside.
It is estimated that these termites cause millions of dollars of the damage of all the areas they infest. Approximately, 1 to 5 homes especially in the high activity areas are attacked by these termites.
These termites are small in size and 1/8 an inch long have a soft body. They have no wings and also work 24 hours a day throughout the entire time of two years that they have to live.
Arid Land Subterranean Termite
They are similar to the other subterranean termite species and have three major castes (the reproductive, soldiers and worker termites).
The adult termites are about ½ an inch long when they have wings and 3/8 long when they do not have the wings. Their color is dark brown to black. Their wings are almost clear except when the wings have veins.
The soldier termites are almost the same size as the adult termites although they have longer mandibles and are meant to keep the predators off. The caste are similar to the light colored ants and foragers that feed on all cellulose material.
Dark Southeastern Subterranean Termite
They are 1/3 an inch long and have a dark brown color and a black body. They have a rectangular body and large mouthparts and with a rectangular head.
The worker termites of these species look similar to the cream-colored ants. The workers are the most needed in the maintenance of the colony. They also feed the reproductive and soldier termites.
The workers build the mud tubes while the soldiers are charged with the role of making sure the colony is safe and secure. These termites feed on wood and they prefer the pine and Douglas lumber the plywood.
Desert Subterranean Termite
This kind of termite is almost always restricted to the desert environment. It is one of the most common subterranean termites in South Arizona.
It lives in the desert plants which include the cactus but can also damage the timber of other plants in the buildings, poles and other structures. The termites are 3/8 long in length with their wings included.
They have a pale yellow brown body and a fontanelle, although it is at times absent. There are two hardened veins that are prominent on the wings. The membranes of the wings are translucent and almost colorless with only a few hairs that are visible.
Eastern Subterranean Termites
They are known for the damage they cause to the timber on the structures in buildings. They feed on the old roots of trees and stumps of trees or the fallen trees and the branches on the ground.
These termites also attack live plants and like the shrubs and roots. In the house, they feed on the furniture, books and anything that has cellulose in them.
The kings and queens of these termites are 3/8 to ½ an inch long. They have wings that are translucent with a similar length. The wings break off some time after swarming. They also shed their wings often and this gives you evidence of their presence.
Subterranean Nose Termites
This is also called the conehead termite. They are located in the Central America but have also been noticed in other areas like the Southern Florida. Their name is generated from the appearance of the soldiers that have the nose and stout that are very distinct.
Western Subterranean Termite
This group is widely distributed in half part of the North America. They are able to squeeze in the homes using cracks as small as 1/16 inch wide. They are found on the ground below the frost line although above the water level and the rock.
They form mud tubes and these can be used to know their presence in the surrounding. You will notice the damage by these termites in the basement and the ground levels of your house. The termites are also able to attack the wood on higher level.
How to get Rid & Kill
The approaches to the treatment is that you can do it yourself or hire the professionals to do it for you. Looking at how you can do it yourself, you can:
You can use a carton trap
It is made of two cardboard sheets. You wet them with water and then place them at the place you suspect the termite presence. In the morning, you will notice the termites trapped because they are attracted to the moisture. There are other effective methods that can be used but this is the most common.
Place the wood infested on the sun
Because termites love the dark, once you expose the wood to the sun, the termites will get scared and then come out. The heat from the sun is able to destroy the termites because they cannot stand it. This process takes about three days to completely get rid of the pests.
Looking at other approaches, you can also;
Carry out soil poisoning
Spray all the soil around your house with a pesticide. This prevents the termites from gaining access to your house. You can also spray the pesticide below the concrete slabs and in the foundation of the walls. The ideal chemical you can use is the borax powder or even the sodium borate.
Do colony poisoning
The substances that are ideal in this case include organophosphates, borate dust, liquid nitrogen, silica gel dust and natural oils. The venomous foams produced by these substances suffocate and kill the entire colonies.
This is an effective termite eradication method especially the winged ones. The only disadvantage is that it requires the use of sophisticated equipment. You also have to be careful when using because it can cause you some harm. The rays can be harmful to the cells of your body.
What factors will determine the cost
The treatment is not easy as there are number of factors you should put into consideration.
The size of your home
A bigger home will mean there are more risks of the infestation compared to as smaller home. A large home will require extensive inspection and more chemicals if any and thus more cost. A bigger home also means a more spread damage adding to the cost.
The extent of the infestation
You have to look at how deep the infestation has gone or is rooted in your home. The more the colonies in your home the more amount of money you will incur to get rid of the termites. More colonies are more destructive compared to fewer colonies.
The foundation on which your house is built
The approach will dictate the nature of your approach to getting rid of the termite infestation in your home. There are foundations like the monolithic slabs that require you to get the customized approach of treatment. Also, look if the basement has some crawl space or not as these foundations cost more to get termites out of them.
The cost will depend on the type of method you use and the factors listed above. On average, the use of barriers cost about $ 1200 to $ 2000. The use of baits costs $1500 to $1750 for a 1250 square feet while it can cost about $ 3000 for $ 2500 square feet.
How to Prevent
Prevention is useful if you have seen the swarmers but not the colonies. You can:
- Treat the soil prior
- Close any crack on the foundation of your building
- Remove all the mulch and waste from the ground near your building
- Do away with any water accumulating near the foundation of your building
- Cover all the wooden items with curers
- Ensure the hidden places are well ventilated
Subterranean Termites vs Drywood Termites
|Subterranean termites||Drywood termites|
|What they feed on||They feed on the cellulose that comes from the wood and fungi.||They feed on cellulose that comes from drywood.|
|Do they utilize moisture?||They need an outside source of moisture and water such as the water coming from rainwater.||They do not need as much water as the much needed by the subterranean. They only use the water in the wood.|
|Habitat||They live under the soil and produce mounds over the locations of their colonies. They produce tubes.||They live within the wood and do not establish their colonies below the soil.|
|Size||They are big in size and their colonies can increase up to millions.||They are small in size and exist in smaller colonies to the tune of thousands.|
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