- Scientific name: Varies according to subspecies
- Size: ¼th to 3/8th and inch long
- Color: White to grayish with pale yellow to light brown heads and darker mandibles
- Shape: Small, long bodies with long, rectangular heads and short, serrated jaws
- Found in: Every state except Alaska, the most wide-spread type of termite
What are they?
Subterranean termites are so known for their habit of making mud tubes both within their underground nest and on the surface of the ground up to the entry point in the houses they infest. Subterranean termites must remain in some form of contact with the ground for the supply of moisture it affords, unlike formosan termites and some kinds of drywood termites. These tunnels are necessary to keep this type of termite from drying out as it forages for food. Subterranean termites cause the majority of home owner damage, more so than formosan termites and drywood termites, because of their wide-spread habitat range.
How can you tell you have them?
Subterranean termites, as the name implies, do most of their home entry at the ground or below ground level, leaving it often times difficult to identify an easy access point, add this to their ability to enter a home through a space 2mm in diameter and it can often be quite a while before a home owner realizes that they have an infestation. Like many different termite species, the subterranean termite is attracted to the moisture found in homes and it is a good idea to check your home for signs of damp as the start to your examination for termites. This type of termite seem can also leave behind subsidiary nests in the cavities they excavate in your home, so you may even be able to spot workers and soldiers during your inspections if the infestation is great enough.
What kind of environment do they like?
Subterranean termites are drawn to areas of a structure that afford water and cellulose, two of the essential things they need to survive and flourish. In the wild, they subsist on rotting wood, water damages tree stumps and old roots and fallen trees. Subterranean termites are very important to the ecosystem for their disposal of woody detritus. It is only when they come into contact with man-made structures that they become an issue for home owners. Because they do not feed on living cellulose, as in the case of formosan termites, this type of termite is not as much of a threat to the lumber industry.
Subterranean termites typically access structures through the ground, unlike some species that can access a structure through though above ground cellulose, like gasp in the roofing. Their tunnels can radiate over 300 feet from the central colony in search of timber, so if your neighbor has an infestation, it is a good idea to go ahead and check your house as well.
What to do?
Because of the type of habitat this termite prefers, most of the damage done by subsidiary termites occurs in the foundation or structural part of a building. As this damage can be quite extensive and weaken the support of a home, it is important to have your residence professionally inspected if you suspect an infestation of subterranean termites. If such an infestation is virulent, your home may need extensive remodeling at a structural level, so it is important to make sure that your home’s foundation and basement areas are as damp-proof as possible to avoid being a tasty target for this type of termite.