There are more than 40 species of termites in the U.S. Because different species require different control methods, it is very important that your pest control expert correctly identify the termites before treating an infestation.
Subterranean, drywood and dampwood termites prefer different types of wood, moisture levels and temperatures. Each species also builds nests in locations that provide the right conditions – above-ground or underground. Subterranean termites build their nests in the soil, while Formosan termites (a species of subterranean termite) can build their nests in the soil or inside walls. Drywood termites and dampwood termites build their nests in the wood they consume.
How to Tell Termites Apart
Across most species of termites, worker and nymph termites look very similar. They are small and have soft, pale-colored bodies that look like the larval stage of other insects.
Therefore, experts typically rely on termite soldiers and winged reproductives to identify species. Soldiers can be distinguished by variations in color, size and head shape. Some soldiers also have a nasutus, a long tubular snout from which they can expel a sticky, glue-like substance that helps fend off predators.
Experts can identify the species of winged alates based on variations in size, body color, wing color and wing veins.
Identify Termites By Damage to Wood
Subterranean and drywood termites leave different patterns in the wood they damage. These patterns can help experts identify the termite species that have infested a home.
Subterranean termites prefer softer springwood, which is digested more easily. Springwood can be found along the grain, which means that wood damaged by subterranean termites often looks like a honeycomb.
Drywood termites eat across and with the grain, damaging both the softer springwood and the harder summerwood. They excavate large rooms (called galleries) in the wood and connect them via tunnels.
Subterranean and drywood termites also leave other clues in wood they damage. Subterranean termites may leave mud in the wood, as they carry soil with them to make mud tubes for moisture and shelter. Drywood termites, which remain solely inside the wood they inhabit, leave fecal pellets (or frass) in their galleries. As they move through the wood, they often will push out frass through kick out holes in the wood. You may see frass underneath infested wood.