Subterranean Termites

Subterranean termites live underground and build mud-tube tunnels to reach food sources. Like other termite species, they feed on wood and other products containing cellulose. Swarming in the spring, groups of the winged, reproductive subterranean termites will fly off to start new colonies.

Subterranean termites need contact with the soil to survive and thrive underground, which is why they build their distinctive mud tubes to gain access to food sources and to protect their colonies from the open air. These industrious termites can even build tunnels through cracks in the concrete that are at least the width of a business card.

How to Identify Subterranean Termites

There are three distinct types of subterranean termites with physical differences, including the reproductive royalty, workers and soldiers.  

The reproductives include the emperor, empress and alates. Integral to a colony’s growth, the queen is the largest termite while the king is much smaller. Alates, better know as swarmers, have long, dark brown to almost black bodies and translucent, slightly milky-colored wings. Their bodies typically measure about ¼ to ½ inch in length and their wings may have a few barely visible hairs. Unlike swarmers, workers and soldiers do not have wings. Workers are about ¼ inch or less in length and have cream colored bodies. They have small jaws that help them chew away at wood and move materials. Soldiers can be distinguished by their large mandibles. They have rectangular shaped heads and their bodies are flat and wide. Although their body is usually a creamy white color, similar to workers, their head is darker and more brownish in color.

How to Avoid Subterranean Termites

There are steps you can take to prevent a termite infestation, including:

  • Avoid water accumulation near your home's foundation. Divert water away with properly functioning downspouts, gutters, and splash blocks.
  • Reduce humidity in crawl spaces with proper ventilation.
  • Never bury wood scraps or waste lumber in the yard.
  • Eliminate wood contact with the soil. Maintain a six-inch gap between the soil and wood portions of the building.

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