Termite Nests and Mounds

giant termite nest in a treeTermites build their nests in locations that meet their particular species’ preferences for moisture and temperature. Drywood termite nests are built inside their feeding material (wood), while subterranean termite nests are built in the soil underground. Other termite species live in aboveground termite mounds that are made from soil, termite waste and termite saliva.

Subterranean Termite Nests
Termites create the largest nests of any insect. Since subterranean termites need moisture to survive, they build their nests in the soil. You will not find a subterranean termite nest in the house. In fact, subterranean termite nests can be 4 inches to 18 inches below ground.

Subterranean termite nests contain many rooms, called galleries, and are connected by tunnels that run between the galleries. In total, a subterranean termite nest can have a radius of 165 to 340 feet.

Subterranean termites connect their nests to food sources via tunnels and mud tubes. These protected “hallways” help maintain the right level of moisture and moderate temperature these termites need to survive.

Termite Mounds
In very hot locations, some species of termites build above-ground mounds. A termite mound structure may be several feet tall. These termite mounds are oriented to minimize sun exposure and designed with chimneys for airflow. The largest termite mound reported in the world was 19 feet across, while the tallest was 41 feet tall.

Termite Nest in a Jungle:
picture of jungle termite nest

No species native to North America builds termite mounds, so you will have to visit Australia or Africa to see them. These termite mound structures are so impressive that they have become tourist attractions in some areas, including Litchfield National Park in Australia.

Termite Nest in Your House?
In the U.S., the majority of termite damage is caused by native subterranean termites – and the Formosan subterranean termite, in particular. However, drywood termites also can cause substantial damage in the areas where they are common.

Subterranean termites can live in the soil around your house, including in crawl spaces and your foundation. A subterranean termite nest may be connected to your house via tunnels and mud tubes, which sometimes are visible but often are hidden inside walls. In addition to nests below ground, Formosan termites also can build nests called cartons inside the walls of a home.

Drywood termite nests in your house could be found inside furniture, hardwood floors or support timbers. However, drywood termites and the damage they can cause likely will not be seen by the untrained eye. One sign of a drywood termite infestation is the presence of termite droppings, or frass, which often looks like salt and pepper. These small pellets are wood-colored and typically form small mounds near the infested area.

Other signs of termite nests in your home include discarded wings and swarming termites. Wood damage also can be a sign, although it often is invisible to the naked eye. You may find damaged wood if you accidentally break through a wall or baseboard that has been damaged, or notice a hollow sound when tapping on a wall.