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Home >> Roaches >> Pest Identification >> Subterranean Termites

Subterranean Termites

Termites live in large colonies and are social insects. Their population is divided into three castes: swarmers or reproducers, workers, and soldiers. Their antennae have bead-like segments. The swarmers has a pair of equally sized long wings that breaks off after swarming. Their abdomen is broadly joined at the thorax.

The winged swarmers are dark brown to almost black in color and about 3/8 inches in length. Their wings are of brownish gray color with a few hairs and two dark veins on the leading edge. They have a very small pore on their heads. The soldiers are wingless and have white bodies, rectangular yellow-brown heads that are two times longer than their width, and large mandibles, which no teeth.


Subterranean termite colonies are always connected to the soil and/or close to a moisture source. They are usually located in the soil from which the workers build mud tubes to structural wood where they then feed. The workers feed on fungus-infected wood but readily feed on undamaged wood as well. The foraging workers feed the other immature workers, swarmers, and soldiers with food materials from their mouths and anuses.

The colonies are established by the winged swarmers or reproducers, and usually appear in the spring. Swarms usually occur in the morning after a warm rain. A male and female that have swarmed from an established colony lose their wings and seek a dark cavity inside which they mate and raise the first group of workers. Both of these swarmers/reproducers feed on wood, tend to the eggs, and build the initial nest.

When the workers mature, they take over expanding the colony and feeding the swarmers. As the colony becomes larger, light colored supplementary reproducers are produced to lay eggs, which then become workers. The soldiers, are responsible for repelling invading ants and other predators.

A mature queen produces 5,000 to 10,000 eggs per year. An average colony consists of 60,000 to 250,000 termites. A queen might live for up to 30 years and workers as long as five years.

How to Prevent Damage

  • Repair structural and plumbing leaks.
  • Remove piles of trash and debris from around the home.
  • Remove dead tree stumps from the yard.
  • Keep firewood stacked away from the structure.
  • Make sure downspouts are long enough to direct water away from the foundation.
  • Keep the gutters clean.
  • Avoid direct wood-to-ground contact when building porches or decks.
  • Siding, brick veneer, or foam insulation should not extend below the soil grade.
  • Call for professional pest exterminator if things go beyond control.

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