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Subterranean Termites



Subterranean Termites

Subterranean termites are the most common and economically important wood-destroying organisms in the United States. They are most abundant in warmer climates. Termites feed on materials that contain cellulose, primarily dead wood and wood by-products. Subterranean termites are closely associated with the soil habitat where they excavate a network of tunnels through the soil to reach water and food. These termites need moisture to survive.

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Subterranean termites do not cause significant damage over a period of days or weeks. It typically takes several months or years of feeding for termite damage to be significant. Termites prefer to feed on the soft grain of the wood. In severely infested wood, only the hard grain and a thin outer shell remain. Termites intentionally remain hidden within infested wood, preferring not to be exposed to the outside environment. This makes it difficult to locate infested wood in a structure. An infested timber can look perfectly normal on the outside, even when riddled with termite galleries on the inside.

Subterranean termites invade homes from the soil around and beneath the structure. Infestations occur when subterranean termite workers locate structural wood in contact with soil or when termites build shelter tubes from the soil across foundation walls and into structural wood. Subterranean termites may also gain access through cracks in the slab or seams where plumbing and electrical lines penetrate the concrete. Foundations that are made of hollow blocks or of masonry and rock can provide several avenues for termites to gain undetected access to wooden parts of the structure. Once inside, subterranean termite colonies maintain access to the soil around or under a home. The soil provides them with the necessary moisture to remain healthy.

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Subterranean termites are social insects that live in colonies that may contain hundreds of thousands of individuals. Termite colony members are dispersed throughout the soil and can extend underground with tunnels that are tens to hundreds of feet, to reach feeding sites.

Each termite colony contains three forms or castes, which are the workers, soldiers, and male and female reproductive, winged (primary) or wingless. These castes are physically distinct and perform different tasks in the termite society.

termite-eggsQueens lay clusters of eggs, which look small, translucent, and a jellybean like shape.

 Larvae are small termites that have just hatched from the egg. They are small with soft head capsules and mouthparts. They are absence of coloration.

workersWorkers are about 1/8 inch long and are blind, wingless, soft-bodied, creamy white to grayish-white with a round head. Workers are the most numerous individuals in a termite colony, and they are the termite caste that actually eats the wood. These sterile individuals forage for food and water, construct and repair shelter tubes, feed and groom other termites, care for eggs and young, and participate in colony defense. Soldiers are also wingless and resemble workers except that they have a large, rectangular, yellowish-brown head with large mandibles (jaws).

soldierThe Soldiers primary function is colony defense. Soldiers are also wingless, soft-bodied and resemble workers except that they have a large rectangular yellowish to yellowish-brown head with large mandibles (jaws). The large mandibles are used to ward off enemies, primarily ants and termites from other colonies.


termite-vs-antMale and female Reproductives can be winged (primary) or wingless (neotenic). Each can produce new offspring. Winged primary reproductives are called alates or swarmers. However, they shed their wings soon after flight. Their body color varies by species from black to yellow-brown. Unfortunately, alate termites are sometimes mistaken for flying (alate) ants.

A pair of primary reproductives that heads a colony is called the king and queen. Neotenic reproductives often serve as replacements if something happens to the king and queen. Neotenic reproductives are generally yellow or mottled black and the female‚Äôs abdomen may be distended due to developing eggs.

Western subterranean termites are in plague proportions in central and southern parts of California, particularly in the older urban areas of the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento, Reno, Fresno, Los Angeles, Orange County, San Fernando Valley and San Diego.

Important Information: The standard Home Insurance policy does NOT cover termite damage to structural or decoration timbers. The cost of repairs can be very expensive, particularly if you are required to remove and replace load-bearing structural timbers in the roof, wall or floor areas.

Call ISOTECH Pest Management for your free termite inspection at 1-888-947-6832.

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