Termite Terrors: Common Types

Termites 101

These social and destructive insects live off wood, decay, dead leaves and plants. Although there are more than 3,000 species of termites, there are three main groups: Subterranean, Formosan and Drywood termites. Each group has many different varieties and lives in different parts of the country. Knowing the type of infestation you have is vital to eradicating the problem.

Subterranean Termites

The subterranean termite is found in many areas of the country and is the most damaging termite of all the species. They live underground, as their name implies, and they feed on wood. It’s not uncommon to see worker termites in foundations or even around your furniture. They will tunnel wherever they need to in order to find food. Once they’ve exhausted one area, they’ll move on to the next.

These termites usually cause a great deal of damage before even being detected—each termite can consume up to 15 lbs. of wood a week! Think of it this way: one 2×4 beam weighs 10 lbs. One termite can consume three 2x4s in three weeks. We all know that where there’s one termite there are many termites; your house could be condemned in a matter of months! The cost to repair the damage caused by these pests can substantial; undetected terminates can (quite literally) eat you out of house and home before you even realize there is a problem.

Drywood Termites

This type of termite infests drywood and typically lives in rotted tree trunks, stumps and in some cases buildings. These termites are a bit larger than the subterranean termites, and they fly from area to another in search of food sources. The drywood termite lives above ground, unlike the other two groups of termites discussed in this post, which is a key indicator to help identify them. If you see termites flying in or around your home, you likely have an infestation of drywood termites.

But there is some good news. Since they live above ground, it is possible to notice—and remedy—their presence before the destruction becomes too severe. If you spot dry, powdery and smooth pellet piles by a wood structure, chances are you have an infestation of drywood termites. The termite pushes out its feces as it feeds on the wood, leaving the evidence of its infestation.

Formosan Termites

Similar to Subterranean termites, Formosan termites live underground and feed off wood—especially the kinds of wood commonly used to build homes.

The Formosan termite is not native to the United States. It originated in Asia and traveled west on wood products shipped here during WWII. Homes were then built using the infested wood, allowing the termites to thrive and spread. The government was forced to treat all these infestations and to replace all the infested, imported wood—and the cost was substantial.