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Subterranean Termites

Termite Worker

Subterranean Reproductives

Reproductive males and females can be winged (primary) or wingless (secondary or tertiary). Each can produce new offspring. The bodies of primary reproductives, also called swarmers or alates, vary by species from coal black to pale yellow-brown. Wings may be pale or smoky gray to brown and have few distinct veins. Swarmer termites are about 1/4 to 3/8 inch long. Secondary and tertiary reproductives in the colony are generally white to cream-colored and may have short wing buds. Developed as needed, they replace a primary queen when she is injured or dies. They also develop in addition to the primary queen and lay eggs for the colony.

Subterranean Worker Termites

Supplementary reproductives, including a group of males, workers and soldiers, may become isolated from the main colony and can establish a new colony. Termite workers make up the largest number of individuals within a colony. Workers are wingless, white to creamy white, and 1/4 to 3/8 inch long. They do all of the work of the colony — feeding the other castes, grooming the queen, excavating the nest and making tunnels. In working, they chew and eat wood, causing the destruction that makes termites economically important.

Subterranean Soldier Termites

Soldiers resemble workers in color and general appearance, except that soldiers have large, well-developed brownish heads with strong mandibles or jaws. Soldiers defend the colony against invaders, primarily ants. In some types of termites generally occurring in arid regions, soldiers are called nasutes. Nasute soldiers have pear-shaped heads with a long, tube-like projection on the front. They exude a sticky substance to entrap their enemies.


Subterranean Termite Biology


Subterranean Termite Habits

The subterranean termites are the most widespread and destructive termite group in the United States. Subterranean termites are named after penchant to working in soil. Subterranean termites excavate passages through the soil to reach wood buried in, or in direct contact with the ground. Cellulose materials above ground are reached by either moving through connecting wood, or through mud tube tunnels. Subterranean termites prefers to eat soft, spring wood fiber, which means the wood they eat has a honeycombed appearance, with only the grain left behind. This species can enter structures through cracks less than 1/16″ wide, even the minute openings found in concrete slabs, around drain pipes, and between the slab and the foundation.

Geographic Reach of the Subterranean Termite

Subterranean termites are found in every state in the U.S., except Alaska. Subterranean termite infestations are most common in warmer climates, particularly in southern and southeastern states.

Subterranean Termite Treatment

For overview of treatment techniques click here.



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