There are over 45 different kinds of termite species found in North America and are categorized into one of three termite groups – subterranean, dampwood or drywood.
Each termite group has unique environmental requirements and behaviors that determines whether or not they live in soil and where they construct their colonies. That means subterranean termite behavior is unique to the species as well.
Termites create more harm to our economy than any other pest. They cause billions of dollars in damage to homes, businesses, and historical structures every year.
Subterranean termites have been around for more than 55 million years and in that time have become quite proficient at what they do; eat wood.
To survive on this planet for as long as they have, they’d need some significant support and protection. A great deal of their success and survival can be attributed to their loyalty to the colony. Subterranean termites are social insects. They live in family groups called colonies, working together to build the perfect home.
Subterranean termites also need a constant supply of moisture (found in soil), food (cellulose), and privacy which they create in the form of mud tubes.
Behavior, diet and habitat are the ‘keys to success’ for the subterranean termite and we’ll show you just how they do it and what to look for.
Subterranean Termite Behavior
During the spring months (March-May) winged termites, also known as swarmers, emerge from their hiding place (the soil, your home) and take to the skies to seek out new places to colonize.
Swarmers are termite kinds and queens that have left the colony in search of a new place to start a family. Often thought to be flying ants, the swarmers pair up during their flight, land together, discard their wings, and being a new life.
This swarming process is a telltale sign that you have a termite problem. Even if you don’t see them fly, you might still see their discarded wings cluttered upon the ground. Once they lose their wings, they tunnel into the soil, seal the entrance, and spend the rest of their lives underground.
Within a few days of mating, the queen will produce her first batch of eggs. As the queen produces more eggs, the older offspring tend to the younger siblings, and the colony grows from there. The original king and queen enjoy the longest lifespan within the colony and live for a decade or longer.
Privacy to termites means staying enclosed. Workers and soldiers do not have eyes so they can’t see if you are looking at them, however they obviously sense light and want to block it out because an opening represents loss of humidity and the opportunity for invasion from their mortal enemy — ants.
Subterranean termites build their colonies in the soil and construct pathways in the ground that are used to locate sources of wood that remain below ground or on the ground surface.
Wood located above ground, such as the wooden construction components of a house, are reached by termite workers moving through earthen tunnels called mud tubes that connect above ground wood with the soil.
The subterranean termite eats cellulose by way of a specialized stomach that breaks down the fiber. Termites rely primarily upon bacteria and other microbes in their guts to digest the cellulose for them, allowing them to absorb the end products for their own use.
The fact that domestic termites consume cellulose-based products such as wood is beneficial in the wild. When a tree falls and begins to decay, termites can move into the area and consume the dead wood. The result is a composting affect that enrichs the soil from the breaking down of wood products.
It is not known exactly how subterranean termites locate sources of food, but it is a common belief that they divide up the territory around the nest and start digging a network of tunnels. As they dig, they encounter buried wood in the process and alert other termites to the source.
Termites eat cellulose material including the following:
- sheetrock paper
- animal feces
Termites are able to live off cellulose thanks to the organisms found in their stomachs. A mixture of bacteria and protozoa produce a special enzyme that breaks down cellulose. The result is a form of sugar that provides nutrition for the pests to survive.
Younger termites aren’t developed enough to breakdown the cellulose, so they rely on the older members of the colony to pass long the sugar like substance.
Subterranean termites like to eat the soft fibers of springwood and leave the harder summerwood behind. Wood eaten by subterranean termites resembles a honeycomb, and many of its galleries contain dirt and fecal particles.
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.