Subterranean termites are part of the family Rhinotermitidae. With few exceptions, these termites require contact with the soil, which provides optimal temperatures and moisture for their survival. Subterranean termites build underground nests connected to aboveground food sources via mud tunnels.
Subterranean Termite Colonies
These underground termites are responsible for the majority of termite damage to homes and buildings in the U.S.
The most aggressive subterranean termites in the U.S. are the Formosan termites (Coptotermes formosanus). Each year, Americans spend an estimated $1 billion on combined control measures and repair costs associated with Formosan termites.
The eastern subterranean termite (Reticulitermes flavipes) is the most widespread termite in the U.S., found throughout the eastern, Midwestern and southern states. Eastern subterranean termite colonies typically cause less damage than larger Formosan termite colonies. However, the far-reaching distribution of this pest leads experts to estimate it causes more structural damage nationwide than any other termite species.
The western subterranean termite (Reticulitermes hesperus) can be found in many of the western states. It is very common in California, where it is responsible for more damage in the state than any other wood-destroying insect.
Though restricted in geographic reach to the deserts of southern Arizona and California, the desert subterranean termite (Heterotermes aureus) is another subterranean termite that can cause significant damage to homes.
Signs of Subterranean Termite Infestation
Large swarms of flying termites and the presence of mud tubes are the two most noticeable signs of subterranean termite infestations in homes. However, these signs can be difficult to detect. Annual termite inspections focusing on termite entry points and signs of activity are important to prevent damage.
Subterranean Termite Control
Because they infest homes from the ground level, it is easier to prevent subterranean termite infestations than drywood termite infestations. The most common control measures for subterranean termite infestations include treating infested areas (direct applications to the soil and damaged wood) with termiticides, and placing bait stations around the home.
To help make your home less hospitable to termites, you also can focus on reducing moisture sources and wood-to-ground contact. By limiting entry points and water sources, you can help make it less likely termites will make your house their dinner.