Learn more about termites and common types in the Phoenix, Arizona area
Termites are often called "white ants" for their seeming physical similarities and social structure. However, termites are not ants and are actually related to cockroaches. Termites evolved into their present form during the Cretaceous period and currently count over 3,000 species. They are one of the most widely-spread species on Earth and are found in every corner of the planet except Antarctica. While in some cultures termites are widely used for medicinal purposes or as a delicacy, to us they are mostly known as pests that cause millions of dollars' worth of damage to homes, structures, and forests across the US.
All termites are detrivores, which means they feed on dead wood and plants. They get their nutrients from cellulose, organic fiber in plants and trees. Their ability to use their mouth to tear through wood is the cause for major concern. Termites will feed on house foundations, furniture, and even books. If not promptly stopped, they may cause significant and costly damage to property.
Type of Termites
There are three major types of termites that are most prevalent in the United States: Eastern subterranean termites, Southeastern drywood termites, and Pacific dampwood termites. Subterranean is the most prevalent type of termites and can be found throughout the United States. Drywood and dampwood types are more common in the Southern states.
While drywood and dampwood termites will live inside the wood they are consuming, the subterranean termites set up their colonies underground. From there, they dig elaborate and long-stretching tunnels to gain access to food.
Termites are usually small, measuring 0.16 - 0.5 inches in length. Most worker and soldier termites are completely blind as they do not have eyes. Their antennae are used for sensing touch, taste, odor, heat, and vibration. The non-reproductive casts of termites are wingless and rely entirely on their legs for getting around. The reproductive casts have the ability to fly for a short period of time but mainly also rely on their legs as they are quite poor flyers.
In summer, newly hatched flying termites leave their colonies to pair off and set up new colonies of their own. Once settled in a new place, they lose their wings and become kings and queens.
Like ants and bees, termites arrange their society into a caste system. Worker termites constitute the majority of the colony. They are the ones most likely to be found in infested wood as they are responsible for foraging and digesting cellulose, which they feed to the rest of the colony. Soldiers are responsible for protecting the nest, which is kept populated by the king, one or several queens, and reproductive members.
Sign of Termite Infestation
A temporary swarm of flying insects in or around your home. In spring and summer termites take flight to look for their new homes. Be on the lookout.
Discarded swarmer wings. Once a new colony is settled, termites drop their wings. Insect wings around your home can be a sign of termite infestation.
Mud tubes on house walls, beams, in crawl spaces. Termites build mud tunnels to protect themselves from predators and the environment while transporting food and traveling to and from the nest.
Subterranean tunnels. Subterranean termites dig tunnels that go about 1ft deep and fan out in all directions. Worker and soldier termites can be seen traveling in those tunnels.
Earthen packing. One of the most crucial termite signs to watch for. Termites working inside the wood produce mud-like earthen material that would be visible on the foundation walls and at the joints.
Frass or termite droppings. Termite pellets, called frass, can be seen at or near the termite entry. If you see termite pellets around or inside your home, call your exterminator.
Wood that sounds hollow, sagging floors in the house. Termites burrow into the wood in a honeycomb pattern, while working inside it. That results in the wood becoming hollow and weak.