By the time you notice termite damage in or around the home, it’s often already extensive. The US Department of Agriculture estimates that termites cause over a billion dollars of damage to homes in America every year. With that monetary level of destruction, it’s best to know what kinds of termites thrive in your area and what they can do to your home if left unchecked.

Common Species of Termites

There are more than 2,000 different species of termites in the world, with just fewer than 50 making their homes in the United States. Of these, there are three distinct families to watch out for: the drywood, the dampwood, and the subterranean termite. Each type of termite makes colonies in different locations, searches for different kinds of sustenance, and thrives in different ways.

  • Drywood. As you might expect, drywood termites like their wood without moisture. These are small-bodied termites and are easy to miss because their colonies grow slowly and remain relatively small, usually comprising fewer than 2,500 members. As with most other types of termites, one easy way to determine if you have an infestation of drywood termites is by spotting a swarm near the home. (The presence of many flying termites, or alates, is a sign that a colony has reached its maximum population, pushing termites to start new colonies close by.) A drywood termite infestation can also be identified by the presence of pellet-shaped feces known as frass. Though individually quite small, feces will become noticeable as they accumulate in piles beneath the “kickout holes” through which termites expel waste from their colony.

    Drywood colonies are found in southwestern and southern states, but they can live in treated wood or even furniture almost anywhere and are the main culprits in most home infestations.

  • Dampwood. True to their name, dampwood termites prefer moist wood. Because of this dietary restriction, they are more likely to be found in trees rather than manmade structures. However, if your home is in a wet climate or has a serious moisture problem, such as a leaky roof or pipes, a dampwood termite infestation is possible. You can identify a dampwood termite by its wings and size—they’re the largest termites found in the States.

    Living mostly in the Pacific Northwest and parts of the Southeast, especially Florida, dampwood termites colonize wooded areas where moisture levels are high, and they love to set up shop in places like rotting stumps and dead trees. You can discourage a dampwood termite infestation by correcting moisture problems and making sure that no wet wood—perhaps a fallen tree or a long-unused pile of firewood—sits near your house.

  • Subterranean. Subterranean termites have giant colonies—the biggest of any insect in the country—and live throughout most of the continental US. Unlike the damp- and drywood families, subterranean termites connect their underground colonies to their food sources using complex corridors—called mud tunnels in the termite removal business—of interconnecting pathways. These tunnels, along with swarms of flying termites—or their discarded wings—are indications of an infestation.

    Subterranean termites are the most widespread group of termites in North America, with various species found across the continental US. Homeowners living in the Southeast should be aware of the Formosan subterranean termite, an invasive species originally from China with a reputation as the most destructive termite in the world.

No matter the type of termite that thrives in your area, it is important to know the warning signs of a termite infestation in or around your home. Click here to see Part 2 of this blog post, which takes a closer look at the different symptoms of termite damage.

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