All about Subterranean Termites


All about Subterranean Termites

Reticulitermes flavipes – the eastern subterranean termite is the most common termite found in North America and is responsible for as much as 80% of the money spent on termite control. These termites are survivors. For more than 55 million years they have adapted to a diversity of environments (wet, dry, hot, cold) which explains why they are found is so many climates around the world.

Eastern subterranean termites are usually located in the ground, just below the frost line, where they start their colony and build their nest. They are known to enter buildings through cracks in concrete or tile flooring through gaps of less than 1/16″ wide.

They seek out places inside the walls of a building, where water collects, and build a nest from which they construct underground tunnels. These tunnels spread out in a 100-yard radius from a central colony nest in search of food; wood and timber (cellulose food source) from building materials, paper, books, rotten tree stumps, and wood scraps and structures.

These wood eaters don’t just appear overnight. Generally, termite problems are the result of years of infestation. You can reduce infestations by avoiding certain faults or errors in construction, site grading and maintenance of your property, or a controlled termite remediation plan.

What do subterranean termites look like?

Subterranean termites are social insects, like ants and bees, that live in colonies within the ground and have a distinct division of labor with a caste system that performs specific colony functions. The termite colony has three primary castes: workers, soldiers, and reproductives.


Workers are creamy white in color, measuring about 3 mm long. They are blind, wingless, and have a round head. They make up the majority of the termites that actually eat the wood. Their duties include foraging for food and water, constructing and repairing shelter tubes, feeding and grooming other termites, caring for younger termites and the queens eggs, and participating in colony defense.

termite Soldier termites are yellowish-brown with long black mandibles. Larger than worker termites, the soldiers are also wingless but represent a much smaller percentage of the colony; about 1 to 2%. The soldiers are the defenders of the colony, but they can’t feed themselves and rely on the worker termites to provide them with regurgitated food.

The kings and queens are dark-brown or black and about 3/8 to 1/2 inch long. They are the only termites with eyes. Once there are enough workers to help the queen, her only job is to produce offspring. A large queen may lay more than 3000 eggs per day. The life span of a queen can be as much as 50 years.

Unlike the worker and soldier termite caste, the reproductive have two pairs of translucent wings of equal length, which break off shortly after swarming. Reproductive termites will leave the nest, via flight, to create new colonies.

What do subterranean termites eat!

Subterranean termites feed upon old roots, tree stumps, fallen tree limbs and branches on the ground, and similar materials. In buildings, they feed on cellulose materials, such as structural wood, wood fixtures, paper, books, cotton, and related products.

Once they find a food source, it doesn’t take long for them to create significant damage, and that’s why it’s important to contact our professionals if you think you have termites.

How do I know if I have termites?

Because subterranean termites live mainly underground, detecting their presence can be difficult. The presence of swarming termites or their wings alone is a sure sign that termites are working in a building.

Termites create runways (trails) through the wood. These runways are the result of termites eating the wood. Where the wood has been eaten away, it may be largely hollowed out with passages and may be rotten in appearance. The wood will appear rotten or soft, and if prodded with a screwdriver or similar tool, many of the hidden worker termites may spill out.

Another sign of termites in the house is the presence of termite tubes. Termites make these earth-colored tubes to protect them from predators and from the weather. You will most likely find these tubes on basement walls, wooden posts, wall studs, mudsills, and door and window trim.

Termite prevention

  • Replace any wooden materials that are in contact with the soil with non-cellulose materials or pressure-treated lumber.
  • Replace badly damaged timbers. Use pressure-treated wood at places where wood must be in contact with soil.
  • Provide proper drainage for basements, cellars, and crawl spaces. Repair leaking faucets and water pipes.
  • Fill all visible cracks and holes in the foundation with concrete or caulking compound. Wood embedded in earth or in concrete basement floors is especially susceptible to termites.
  • The best preventive measure against termites is to establish a treated barrier of soil between the wood in the building and the termite colony in the soil. Contact a professional termite control expert to examine and administer the treatment.
  • Reduce soil moisture near the structure by directing runoff away from the foundation. Make sure water flows away from the house.
  • Keep soil, stacked wood, and other debris away from the foundation of the home. This will reduce the chances of subterranean termites infecting your house.
  • Maintain an 18-inch gap between the soil and wood portions of your home, and store firewood at least 20 feet from the home.
  • Remove old wood, fallen tree limbs, and rotted roof shingles. Replace weather stripping and loose mortar around the basement walls.

Termite control

Subterranean termite colonies may contain many thousands of individuals foraging in numerous directions. A perimeter application treatment program is the best approach. This type of application helps create a barrier around the house that keeps termites out and kills any that might already have taken root.

An important point to keep in mind is annual inspection of the property by a professional is important as it will ensure that the house is properly protected. Just because you applied a barrier or traps doesn’t mean they won’t come back. Make sure you schedule repeat inspections.

Sigma Termite Solutions

Sigma Termite Solutions (STS) allows you to have the peace of mind that your home is protected from termites for good. 

With Sigma Termite Solutions, your home receives a long-lasting barrier against termites, and a thorough inspection of your home is administered every year. If termites are ever found we will, as always, honor our satisfaction guaranty and take care of the problem.

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