Termites are the worst kind of infestation. Well, bedbugs are pretty nasty, too, but at least bedbugs don’t have the potential to eventually collapse your house.
Unlike crickets and cockroaches and spiders, which are simply nuisances, termites can do actual damage to your property. Termites are sneaky little buggers that hide in walls, foundations and window frames, sometimes with little evidence of their presence. Homeowners and property owners often don’t even know they have a termite infestation until the damage – sometimes very expensive damage – is done.
Although you’ll often hear that termites are most common in warm, humid, subtropical climates, termites can invade and infest anywhere, even in colder climates in the Midwest and Northeast.
So, what termite species are most common in the U.S., and in which regions are they a common problem?
Just like their name implies, subterranean termites live underground. They depend on the soil’s moisture to survive, which is why they usually infest structures through the foundations. They build tunnels in search of food then build mud tubes to reach – and eat – the wood inside structures. Subterranean termites prefer to munch on soft wood.
Subterranean termites are the most destructive wood pests in the United States, causing more than $2 billion in damage each year – more than the cost of property damage caused by both fire and windstorms combined, according to a study done by entomologists with Texas A&M University.
Subterranean termites can be found in every state in the U.S. (except Alaska), making them a real threat to property owners because they attack the wood elements of buildings, including homes and commercial properties. These types of termites are also difficult to find because they live underground and their activity in a building is often hidden behind drywall, siding or other structural elements.
Drywood termites infest, nest and feed on dry wood. They do not need contact with the soil to survive and can live in dry conditions for extended periods of time because they get all the moisture they need from the wood they eat.
Drywood termites can be difficult to control because their colonies live within structures, rather than outside in the soil, and they can establish several colonies throughout the building or home,. They can live in structural wood, window casings, door frames, attics, porches, basements and even utility poles and fence posts. Like subterranean termites, Drywood termites are more common in warmer climates with mild winters that don’t reach freezing temperatures, so they’re common in the southernmost states.
Formosan termites are the worst of the worst. The colonies are generally much larger than those of other termite species, and it’s the colonies’ sheer size that makes this species so destructive. Formosan termites are also subterranean, but Formosan termites don’t need direct contact with the soil to survive. They build a sort of water storage system within the colony – nests made of soil and undigested cellulose from chewed wood – where they can retain moisture to supply the colony. Like other species, Formosan termites can be found across most southern States, from California on the West Coast to Florida on the East Coast.
Just like Drywood termites live in, well, dry wood, you can probably guess where Dampwood termites like to take up residence. This species lives only in wood that is very moist such as decaying logs, dead trees and damp stumps. Because they are not a subterranean species, Dampwood termites don’t need direct contact with soil to survive. However, like Subterranean termites, Dampwood termites need moisture to survive and can often be found in wood has direct contact with the ground such as in utility poles, fence posts or porch foundations with wood piles. They also thrive in areas that may be moist from water leaks such as bathroom or basement window casings. Several species of Dampwood termites can be found in the U.S. Although they thrive in the Southwest and Pacific Coast regions, Dampwood termites are also common in central and southern Florida.
Although termites certainly are scary when it comes to your home or building’s structural integrity, don’t panic. It takes years for termites to cause any serious structural damage. But it’s important to treat termite colonies as soon as they’re detected – both to contain the infestation and to minimize damage to the structure.