Rhinotermitidae is a family of subterranean termites. These termites are soil dwelling termites and use cellulose as a food source. Rhinotermitidae contains 14 genera and over 300 species of termites. Some of the more notable termites in the United States belong to the family Rhinotermitidae. The Eastern subterranean termite, Reticulitermes flavipes (Kollar) is found throughout the Eastern United States. It is found as far north as Ontario, Canada and as far west as Texas. Some scientists think that this may be the most common termite in North America and one that causes the most widespread damage.
The voracious Formosan subterranean termite, Coptotermes formosanus (Shiraki) is also a member of Rhinotermitidae. It is an invasive species, meaning that it is not native to the United States. It was imported into the US about sixty years ago. This termite is found in subtropical areas but also can be transported to other areas.
Subterranean termites typically live in the soil and do not come into the open. Their bodies are sensitive to dry atmosphere and need high moisture for the colony to survive. They will also build mud or shelter tubes to cross areas which are open. This ensures that the moisture is maintained and allows them to move freely without the danger of drying out. If there is adequate moisture in wood that they have tunneled to, they can feed and do not have to build tubes. They also will not have to return to the soil for moisture.
Formosan subterranean termites make above ground nests with a material called “carton”. The carton is made from soil, wood, and feces. The termites cement the material together with their saliva.
Subterranean termites typically have three castes. The worker termites do most of the work of maintaining the colony by physically repairing colony damage, tending to eggs and young, finding food sources, and feeding reproductives and soldiers. Soldiers defend the colony from invading insects. Reproductive termites either reproduce thus expanding the colony or they leave to start new colonies.