What Are Subterranean Termites?

One innocent day you are poking around in the basement and you find a telltale sign, tiny dried wings resting upon a window sill. You root around some more in any exposed wood looking for saw dust and soft spots in the wood, and your horror is complete because you find it.

You are lucky, many homeowners don’t know they have termites until it’s too late. At this point in your harrowing tale, you call an exterminator for an inspection. He walks around your home looking in dark spaces and touching things.

The exterminator looks down at the dirt and nods. Shifting from foot to foot and hoping that you are wrong, you sigh wondering how much this is going to cost you. The man in the exterminator uniform approaches and tells you, “You have subterranean termites.” Your eyes are dull and your voice is shaky as you ask, “What is a subterranean termite?”

What are Subterranean Termites?

A subterranean termite is an insect that nests underground to be near moisture. They tunnel into damp soil often building mud tunnels to reach wood this is a bit above the ground. They are a fraction of inch long and range from dark brown to a dirty white color.

The little buggers come in three castes, soldiers, workers and swarmers. The swarmershave two sets of wings and are the darker brown pests. Soldier termites don’t have wings, but they have large mandibles to protect their fellow termites. The worker termite doesn’t have wings and they have a dirty white color.

The Nest

Termites build underground nests in the soil and not the wood. They need damp conditions to thrive. The swarmers come after soaking rains during the spring, Often they are mistaken for flying ants, but this termite has distinctive four wings. After the queens and kings team up and land, then they shed their wings and nest.

These males and females dig down in soft moist soil and build a chamber. They crawl in and seal the chamber after them. The queen lays her first batch of eggs within a few days, and after they hatch she lays more and the first born care for the next batch and the cycle begins. Often, the original male and female can live as long as 10 years. After the colony grows, it will often split and the insects infest a new nest connected via underground tunnels, and the population of these colonies can grow to be in the millions.

Ranging across the United States, subterranean termites inflict billions of dollars of damage each year. They can be a serious threat to your home, because it's estimated that one in five homes suffer termite infestations.

A smart homeowner won’t waste time waiting for damage to show itself, but will take preventive measures by calling an extermination professional today.


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