Termite swarming season will be ramping up soon as the weather starts to get warmer and the spring season approaches — with many termite species being particularly prevalent in the Southeast. In case you’ve never heard, termites are nicknamed “silent destroyers” because of their ability to chew through wood, flooring and wallpaper without any immediate signs of damage. In fact, termites cause more than $5 billion in property damage each year— costs that are typically note covered by homeowners’ insurance policies. That is why it’s extremely important to know what types of termite species are active in your area and to understand ways to prevent them from causing damage to your home.
Here are five types of termite species to be aware of at the turn of the season if you reside in the southeastern United States:
This termite species is extremely common in southern states and hotter climates. Subterranean termites live in underground colonies with as many as two million members and are also found in moist, secluded areas above ground. They build distinctive tunnels, often referred to as “mud tubes,” to reach food sources and protect themselves from open air. Subterranean termites are by far the most destructive termite species — their hard, saw-toothed jaws work like shears and are able to bite off extremely small fragments of wood, one piece at a time. Over time, they can collapse a building entirely, meaning possible financial ruin for a homeowner.
Largely found coastally from South Carolina westward to Texas, these types of termites form colonies of up to 2,500 members and primarily attack wood structures, frames, furniture and flooring, as they receive all of their nutrition from wood. Unlike other termites, drywood termites do not require moisture from soil. They typically swarm on sunny, warm days after a sudden rise in temperature and can be difficult to treat because they have the ability to create multiple colonies within a home.
Occasionally found in Southwest and Southern Florida, dampwood termites are attracted to wood with high moisture content and have a preference for decaying wood, areas with leaks and woodpiles. These termites create a series of chambers in wood, which are connected by tunnels with smooth walls, as if sandpapered, and are usually found in logs, stumps, dead trees, fence posts and utility poles. Dampwood termites do not usually infest structures because of their need for excessive moisture.
This species lives in huge underground colonies with an average of 350,000 workers and can be found in several Southeastern states, including North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, Alabama, Florida and Tennessee.
In addition to structures, they also infest trees, shrubs, utility poles, timber, railroad trusses and even boats. Formosans build intricate mud nests in the ground and can chew through wood, flooring and even wallpaper. The average formosan termite colony can consume one foot of 2X4 wood in less than a month.
Originally called “tree termites,” this species was renamed conehead termites to alleviate the misconception that this pest is only found in trees. These termites— most prevalent in the Broward County, Fla. region — build dark brown “mud” tubes and freestanding nests on the ground, in trees or in wooden structures. The nests can be up to 3 feet in diameter and have a hard surface of chewed wood. Unlike most termites, the conehead termite does not rely on underground tunneling to travel. Instead, they forage on the ground like ants, allowing them to spread quickly.
Termites are not a pest that can be effectively controlled with do it yourself measures. If you live in an area prone to termites, it’s important to have regular, annual termite inspections.
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