Termite mud tube coming through concrete crack
Trenching and Rodding
Stem Wall Treating
Subterranean termites are the most destructive insect pests of wood in the United
States. They cause more than $2 billion in damage each year, more property damage
than that caused by fire and windstorm combined.
In nature, subterranean termites are beneficial. They break down many dead trees and
other wood materials that would otherwise accumulate. The biomass of this breakdown
process is recycled to the soil as humus.
Problems occur when termites attack the wooden elements of human structures --
homes, businesses and warehouses. Their presence is not readily noticed because they
hide their activity behind wall boards, siding or wood trim.
Subterranean termites are social insects that live in nests or colonies in the soil, hence
their name “subterranean.” These colonies contain three forms or castes: reproductive’s,
workers and soldiers. Individuals of each caste have several stages: the egg; the larva
that develops into a pseudergate and eventually into a brachypterous nymph or soldier;
and the adult. Reproductive adults have three forms: primary, secondary and tertiary
Reproductive males and females can be winged (primary) or wingless (secondary or
tertiary). Each can produce new offspring. The bodies of primary reproductive’s, also
called swarmers or alates, vary by species from coal black to pale yellow-brown. Wings
may be pale or smoky gray to brown and have few distinct veins. Swarmer termites are
about 1/4 to 3/8 inch long.
Secondary and tertiary reproductive’s in the colony are generally white to cream-colored
and may have short wing buds. Developed as needed, they replace a primary queen
when she is injured or dies. They also develop in addition to the primary queen and lay
eggs for the colony. Supplementary reproductive’s, including a group of males, workers
and soldiers, may become isolated from the main colony and can establish a new colony.
Termite workers make up the largest number of individuals within a colony. Workers are
wingless, white to creamy white, and 1/4 to 3/8 inch long. They do all of the work of the
colony -- feeding the other castes, grooming the queen, excavating the nest and making
tunnels. In working, they chew and eat wood, causing the destruction that makes termites
Soldiers resemble workers in color and general appearance, except that soldiers have
large, well-developed brownish heads with strong mandibles or jaws. Soldiers defend
the colony against invaders, primarily ants. In some types of termites generally occurring
in arid regions, soldiers are called nasutes. Nasute soldiers have pear-shaped heads
with a long, tube-like projection on the front. They exude a sticky substance to entrap
It is important to be able to distinguish between swarming termites and ants They often
swarm around the same time of year, but control measures for each differ greatly.
After a termite colony matures, which requires from 2 to 4 years, swarmers are
produced. Swarming usually occurs from January through April, during the daylight
hours, usually after a rain. Environmental factors such as heat, light and moisture trigger
the emergence of swarmers. Each species has a definite set of conditions under which
it swarms. The number of swarmers produced is proportionate to the age and size of the
Both male and female swarmers fly from the colony and travel varying distances. They
are extremely weak fliers; wind currents usually carry those that travel any distance. Only
a small percentage of swarmers survive to develop colonies; the majority fall prey to
birds,toads, insects and other predators. Many also die from dehydration or injury.
Termite treatment requires specialized equipment such as drills, pressure injectors,
pressure-generating pumps and high-gallon tanks. Therefore, in almost every instance,
using the services of professional pest control operators is recommended. They are
familiar with construction principles and practices, have the necessary equipment, and
know termite biology and habits. Members of the pest control industry who offer termite
control may be licensed or certified by a state agency for competence in treatment
procedures that provide safe and effective control