About Termites

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Learn About Termites

soldier termite worker termite swarmer termite
Soldier Worker Swarmer

Typical signs of termite infestations include swarming of winged adults in the spring (March, April, May, and June) and occasionally autumn (September and October). A “swarm” is a group of adult male and female reproductives that leave their nest to establish a new colony. Swarming occurs when a colony reaches a certain size. Emergence is stimulated when temperature and moisture conditions are favorable, usually on warm days following rainfall. Other signs of termite presence include “pencil-size” mud tubes constructed over the surface of foundation walls, mud protruding from cracks between boards and beams, and hollow sounds from infested wood when it is tapped, or extreme softness when probed with a knife. Termites feed slowly and there is no need to panic. A few weeks or months may be needed to determine whether the infestation is a do-it-yourself treatment or one that is complex, requiring a commercial, licensed pest control firm. Consider getting two to three estimates, and be cautious of price quotes that are substantially lower or higher than the others.


Subterranean termites are social insects that live in nests or colonies in the soil. Each colony consists of three forms or castes of individuals, which are the reproductives, workers, and soldiers. Reproductives can be winged (primary) or wingless (secondary). The latter are found in mature colonies and serve as replacements if something happens to the primary reproductives. Winged, primary reproductives (alates) are coal black to pale yellow-brown, flattened and about 1/4 to 3/8 inch long, with pale or smoke-gray to brown wings. Secondary reproductives are white to cream-colored with short wing buds. Workers are wingless, white to grayish-white with a round, yellow-brown head and about 1/4 to 3/8 inch long. Soldiers are also wingless and resemble workers except that they have large, rectangular, yellowish and brown heads with large mandibles (jaws).

Swarmers have straight, bead-like antennae, a thick waist, and a pair of long, equal-length wings, that break off easily. The presence of winged termites, or their shedded wings, inside a home should be a warning of a termite infestation. They can be differentiated from adult winged ants that have elbowed antennae, constricted waists, forewings are larger than the rear wings (unequal size), and not easily detached.

About Subterranean & Dampwood Termites

Subterranean termites usually get about by tunneling underground and entering their food from below. Tree roots are usually attached to trees and termites often travel from root to root great distances underground (there’s almost always a small air gap under a big root, so they don’t even have to dig so hard). Timber waste buried around buildings usually leads to better food inside. Sometimes the termites just fly in and start up a fresh colony, but tunnelling is more common, because big bits of damp wood suitable for nesting are more often outside, not in. Dampwood termites don’t tunnel nearly as much but can fly in just as easily.

About Drywood Termites

Drywood termites can live in small pieces of wood so long as it is a little moist and not too hot or cold. They’ll fly in and start their colonies right in that wood.