Types of Termites
The Three Main Types of Termites
There are about 45 different kinds of species of termites found in the U.S., each of which falls into one of the three main termite types – subterranean, drywood or dampwood. Each species has unique biology and behavior that impact what part of the country they live in,
where they build their nests and their likelihood to damage homes.
Subterranean Termites belong to the family Rhinotermitidae. This species lives in the soil and builds the largest nests of any insect in the U.S. These
nests are connected via mud tubes to food sources, such as trees, fence posts and structural timbers in houses. Subterranean termites, which can live in every U.S. state except Alaska, are responsible for the majority of termite
damage in this country.
Drywood Termites belong to the family Kalotermitidae
and typically live in
wood, such as dead trees, structural timbers or hardwood floors. Unlike subterranean termites, drywood termites do not require contact with soil. Some drywood termite species can cause significant damage to homes. However, drywood
termite colonies tend to be smaller than subterranean termite colonies, so they typically cause damage at a slower rate than subterranean termites.
Dampwood Termites belong to the families Kalotermitidae
and Hodotermitidae and
live in wood with high moisture content. Most dampwood termites do not require contact with the soil. Dampwood termites are rarely found in homes or other man-made structures, since wood in these structures typically does not have
Subterranean Worker and Soldier Termites:
Identifying Termite Species
Worker and nymph termites have few physical differences between species. Therefore, experts primarily use soldiers and termite reproductives (typically alates or swarmers) to identify which termite species may be infesting a
In North America, termites are active year around. The most common termites, subterranean termites, are found in most parts of the US. Drywood termites are also found in various areas but primarily in Florida and California. Dampwood termites are found in the west. Formosan Subterranean Termites are found in a few areas but are not native to the US.
Arid-Land subterranean termite
Arid-Land Subterranean Termites, Reticulitermes tibialis, are related to subterranean and some dampwood termites. These termites prefer dryer regions but can be found in more humid areas such as the south central US. They are day swarmers.
Dampwood termites can be found in western states as far north as Washington and all the way down the coast and east through Montana. They need large amounts of water so the region is ideal for them. If the moisture is removed they will not do well.
Dark Southeastern Subterranean Termite
The dark southeastern subterranean termite, Reticulitermes virginicus Banks, is a common termite found mostly in the eastern part of the United States.
Desert Dampwood termite
The Desert Dampwood Termite is in the same family as the drywood termite and prefers damp wood found in the arid regions of deserts in the southwestern part of the US. This termite does not cause much structural damage.
Desert Subterranean Termite
The Desert Subterranean Termite, Heterotermes aureus, is part of the Rhinotermes family which includes other subterranean termites. This termite prefers arid climates and does cause damage primarily in the southwestern portions of the US.
Distribution of Subterranean Termites
Subterranean termites can be found in nearly all states except the most northern states. The US Forest Service has created a map from the late 1980s which show estimated termite activity. Density increases as one moves south.
Found mostly in southern and western states, the drywood termite species in the US do not need contact with the soil and need relatively little moisture compared to the subterranean termite species. Drywood termite colonies are usually smaller than subeterranean colonies.
Eastern Subterranean Termite
The Eastern Subterranean Termite, Reticulitermes flavipes, is the most common native termite in the east and has a wide domain from Maine to Florida and into the west. It is one of three species native subterranean species in the area.
Family Kalotermitidae Termites
The Kalotermitidae Family of termites includes most drywood and dampwood termite species. This family includes some termites of economic importance especially the drywood termite which can damage heirloom furniture and picture frames.
Florida dampwood termite
The Florida dampwood termite, Neotermes castaneus, prefers wetter wood and is not a pest of significant economic importance. Usually this termite can be controlled by removing the wet wood or drying the wood but in certain cases, a localized control program is required.
The Formosan subterranean termite is a voracious termite that can establish huge populations quickly. Fortunately, it is found only in certain warm areas but it is spreading. The Formosan termite is not native to the US but causes more damage per colony than any other termite.
Nevada dampwood termite
The Nevade dampwood termite, Zootermopsis nevadensis, favors wood in contact with or in close proximity to the soil. Areas such as wood siding contacing soil, fence posts, or firewood on the ground are common targets of this species.
Nose termites, Nasutitermes costalis, are native to the Caribbean islands, but were found in Florida about 2001. This termite builds nests underground or via mounds on the ground surfaces. It is also a termite which will can nest in trees.
Pacific dampwood termite
The Pacific dampwood termite, Zootermopsis angusticollis, is found in California, Washington and Oregon. It prefers high humidity and damp areas along the coast. This termite does cause damage to structures and is of economic importance.
Rhinotermitidae Termite Family
Rhinotermitidae is a family of subterranean termites. These termites are soil dwelling termites and use cellulose as a food source. Learn more on Termites.com.
Southeastern Drywood Termite
Southeastern Drywood Termite information. Southeastern drywood termites live in relatively dry wood compared to their subterranean counterparts. Learn more about termites on Termites.com.
Subterranean termites are named for the fact that they live underground in nature. This cryptic nature is due to this termite's need for moisture and inability to survive in dry air. There are several species of subterranean termites from the natives to the dreaded Formosan subterranean termite.
Tropical Rough-headed drywood termites
Tropical Rough-headed drywood termites, Cryptotermes brevis, also known as the West Indian Drywood Termite and a powderpost termite, are found in tropical areas as well as a few coast places such as Florida and Texas in the US.
Tropical Smooth-headed Drywood Termites
The Tropical Smooth-headed Drywood Termite, Cryptotermes cavifrons, is generally only found in southern Florida in the US, but can be imported into other areas in furniture and frames etc. It is also called the powderpost termite.
Western Drywood Termite
The western drywood termite, Incisitermes minor, is found primarily in California and Arizona. There are some western drywood termites in the coastal areas of Washington and Oregon as well as some sproadic infestations in other areas.
Western Subterranean Termite
The most common subterranean termite in western US is Reticulitermes hesperus. These termites are found from Washington through California including a third of the US. Control for this termite is the same as other subterranean termites.