Arid-Land Subterranean Termites


  • Scientific name: Reticulitermes tibialis
  • Size: Approximately 1/4th an inch long
  • Color: Dark brown or black bodies with broad, dark colored heads, winged “swarmers” have almost white wings with brown veins
  • Shape: Soldiers have jaws that are nearly straight but thicker than desert termites
  • Found in: Pacific Coast to Indiana, lower California to Texas and Mississippi

What are they?
This type of termite is the most destructive type of termite in Arizona. They usually swarm in between January and March in areas below 4,000 feet. In areas that are above 4,000 feet, they swarm in between June and July. They are usually found in sand dunes and altitudes about 7,000 feet in the states that contain the Rocky Mountains. This kind of termite can be found in moist areas such as river low lands and along streams, but is essentially a desert or dry habitat species. They do prefer to swarm during the day.
Unlike the dampwood termites, this kind of termite does require contact with the soil to gain their moisture supply.
How can you tell you have them?
Like with the dampwood termites, the arid-land subterranean termite is drawn to areas of the home that exhibit water damage. If your home has such damage, that would be the best place to start your search for termites. Look for “shelter tubes” on the outside of the building extending from the woodwork and possibly the foundation to the ground. Termites will use these tubes to travel from their food source to the ground to make it back to their colony. The wood may have the remains of mud tubes on it in other locations as well. You can also find evidence of termite swarms in the form of discarded wings and dead swarmers around the time that arid-land subterranean termites typically swarm in your area.
What kind of environment do they like?
In the wild, the arid-land subterranean termite occurs naturally in the desert in large numbers, feeding on creosote and greasewood bushes, but they have moved from their wild habitat to abandoned buildings and other man-made structures. These termites require soil contact and like dry, open spaces where there are not usually a lot of human structures. However, when they do infest a home, they prefer to focus on the area of the home that is damaged with moisture. Speculation is that they are drawn to the source of water as well as the woody material of the buildings.
The colony of most subterranean species of termites are located 18-20 feet below the surface of the ground to keep the colony safe from the elements.
Eating habits
These termites attack untreated wood like utility poles and fence posts. They also have been known to damage the root systems of plants. They are not as well known for the destruction of human habitats as some species, but due to their wide-spread distribution and the size of their colonies, once a colony has found a food source, they can cause appreciable damage to a structure in 3-8 years.
What to do?
The first thing to do is to look into getting a full survey of the damage done to your home. This should be done by a professional. Depending on how extensive the damage to the structure is, you will need to seek a professional to eradicate your termite problems.

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