Western Subterranean Termites


  • Scientific name: Reticulitermes hesperus
  • Size: 1/8th of an inch
  • Color: Creamy white with darker brown head and darker pincers
  • Shape: Long bodies with short, square heads
  • Found in: Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Idaho

General Overview
The western subterranean termite is one of the most destructive species of termites in the United States. It is a serious timber pest that costs logging companies millions of dollars in lost profit every year. Western subterranean termites have distinct social castes of reproductives, winged reproductives/ swarmers, soldiers and workers.
Signs of Infestation
Like many types of termites, the western subterranean termite swarm during the warm months of the year. You can often tell if your home is at risk for termite infestation if you see flights of swarmers. This can indicate that there is a colony nearby and that your home is at risk due to virulent nature of this species of termite. In areas where this termite is native, they can infest as many as 1 house in every 5. These termites also build mud tubes to their food source from their colony. Their colonies are located in the ground, not the actual structures that they feed on, usually below the frost line but above the water table. They can get into a house through an opening as small as 1/16th of an inch.
The western subterranean termite is attracted to the moisture in the timbers of a home as well as the cellulose they feed on. The mud tubes that these termites construct keep the workers and soldiers from exposure to the elements and predators while they travel from their colony to the food source. They will also build these tubes over areas of the home that do not allow them access to the home. They prefer to enter a home through ground level access, however, which can make it difficult to spot where the areas of highest risk for entrance. The western subterranean termite requires a high level of both humidity and temperature in their central colony.
Eating habits
The western subterranean termite is considered not only a pest to homeowners, but also an economic pest to the timber industry. They can decimate douglas firs and other species of trees that are used for building materials. Western subterranean termites prefer the soft “springwood” of the timber, and will leave the inside of the wood honeycombed with tunnels. While these tunnels are partially filled with soil and frass, the wood will still sound and feel hollow when tapped.
Treatment and Prevention
The western subterranean termite is a serious problem in the areas of the United States that it is native. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to deal with this type of termite on your own. When the colony is disturbed, it is likely to abandon the current site and relocate to a separate part of the structure. Therefore it is best to consult with a professional as full scale control measures may need to be taken.

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