Flying ants? Guess again these are mature termites that are looking for a new home
  Termite facts  
Subterranean termites

Family Rhinotermitidae

Color: Creamy brown
Legs: 6
Shape: Long, narrow, oval
Size: 1/8
Antennae: True

Subterranean termites live in underground colonies or in moist secluded areas aboveground that can contain up to 2 million members. They build distinctive "mud tubes" to gain access to food sources and to protect themselves from open air. Termite colonies are organized into castes depending on tasks -- workers, soldiers and reproductives. The characteristics of a subterranean termite are dependent on the termite's role in the colony. Cream-colored Worker subterranean termites are 1/8 to 3/8's of an inch in length. Soldier subterranean termites are of a similar body length, but are distinguished by their powerful mandibles. Solider termites have cream-colored bodies and brown heads. Reproductive subterranean termites are approximately one inch long.


Subterranean termites live underground and build tunnels, referred to as mud tubes, to reach food sources. Like other termite species, they feed on products containing cellulose. Subterranean termites swarm in the spring -- groups of reproductive termites go off to start new colonies.


Subterranean termites need contact with the soil to survive and live underground. They can build tunnels through cracks in concrete.


Subterranean termites are by far the most destructive species. They can collapse a building entirely, meaning possible financial ruin for a homeowner. The hard, saw-toothed jaws of termites work like shears and are able to bite off extremely small fragments of wood, one piece at a time.


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look for large mud tubes this what Subterranean termites use to travel from the ground to the wood in your home.


The most common kind, live in the soil, from just below the surface to as much as 12 feet down. Up to two million termites inhabit a colony. These colonies consist of a network of tunnels and chambers built around a King and Queen whose sole job is to reproduce. In fact, in some of the 55 termite species, queens can lay up to 86,000 eggs a day! Often the queen's swollen body can weigh more than a pencil. The rest of the colony is made up of termites who all play specific roles in keeping the colony healthy. Among these termites are the workers. Worker termites keep busy 24 hours a day digesting wood fibers and other forms of cellulose which they eat, digest and share with the other members of the colony. Workers also clean the royal pair, the King and Queen, and carry away the eggs.

Termites that are going to become queens are fed special chemicals and food by the workers to make sure that they grow up with wings and the ability to mate and to lay eggs. Most of these termites, often called "reproductives", fly off from the nests in large numbers during the wet part of the year. At this stage they all look very similar, whether they are male (kings) or females (queens) and none of them have swollen abdomens. They fly away from the nest to begin a new colony in another place. If they are successful, they meet a mate and dig into the soil. Once there, they begin to form a new colony. It is only when the king and queen are safely together in the nest, that the queen begins to grow and produce the eggs to start a new colony.

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examples of extreme Subterranean termite damage

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Subterranean Termite Workers

Drywood Termites
Family Kalotermitidae



Light brown




Long, narrow, oval


3/8" to 1 inch




These social insects infest dry wood and do not require contact with the soil.


They form colonies of up to 2,500 members. Unlike subterranean termite species, drywood termite colonies do not have a worker caste. The work is done by immature termites before they reach adulthood.


Drywood termites infest dry wood, like that found in attic framings.


Drywood termites can infest structures and cause significant damage.


Drywood termites can be avoided by making sure firewood and scrap wood is stored at least 20 feet from the home. Because drywood termites form new colonies by gaining access to wood through small holes, seal all cracks and crevices in a structure.

Drywood Termites




An example of drywood termite damage.

termite facts

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