There are Four Major Types of Termites – How to Identify Termites

Inspecting a Crawspace for Termites

When selling or buying a home, a termite inspection is usually required before closing the deal.  And each year, termites damage more homes than hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, and fires combined. The pest’s appetite causes an estimated two billion dollars of damage per year.

While homeowner’s insurance protects your home against these natural disasters, it doesn’t cover termite damage. Fortunately, termite prevention can be obtained through a pest company’s termite bond. A termite bond is a guarantee by the company that termites do not invade the property.

There are approximately 4,000 species of termites in the world, but there are only four major types in North America. I discuss how identifying these termites below.

* Subterranean Termites

Subterranean TermitesSubterranean termites build very large underground colonies. They construct mud tunnels to move back and forth from the colony to their food. They need moisture in order to survive. If the walls or foundation of a house shows signs of mud tubes, it is highly probable that subterranean termites may have invaded the premises. A person should call a pest control company to have a termite inspection done on their home. If a professional inspector thinks the mud tubes shows signs of active termites, treat asap. If no signs of termites are found, then a homeowner should purchase a termite prevention plan.

Drywood Termites* Drywood Termites

Larger than a subterranean termite, drywood termite colonies are created by a pair of swarming termites, which reproduce other termites. In addition to needing very little moisture, these termites eat dry wood, or celluloid material, including the furniture in a house. Fecal pellets and particles that resemble sawdust are signs of an infestation. Mature colonies produce swarms of winged termites that fly out to create new colonies.

* Dampwood Termites

Dampwood TermitesThey are larger than subterranean termites. Like the drywood termite, a pair of swarming termites creates a colony in a damp area, invading decaying wood that is in direct contact with the ground. Colonies are small at first but can become quite large. Moisture is also important in sustaining the colonies. The young, immature termites do all the work for the colony. Sometimes they use their fecal pellets to close the openings in the galleries. If an inspector finds loose fecal pellets, treat for termites. The same goes for when fecal pellets stick to the sides of the galleries.

Formosan Termites* Formosan Termites

Formosan termites are considered to be the most destructive termite species in the United States. This is due to their ability to form enormous colonies. They are native to East Asia, but were introduced to the US during the 1940’s. Not only do these termites invade and damage households, they also infest boats and live trees.


When a person sells their house, expect to produce a termite bond, showing a recent termite inspection. This will satisfy the buyer, the realtor, and also the banker who holds the mortgage. If the seller has been negligent in termite prevention, by failing to perform a termite treatment, they may have difficulty selling their home.

Would This Article Also Help?  The Termite's Innocent :: Other Wood Damaging Pests: Description, Damage, Prevention & Elimination


Editor’s Note: Rose McMillan is an experienced pest control professional who has worked at several pest control companies, including Terminix and now does freelance writing with the purpose of educating homeowners.

To learn more about pest and critter control and prevention, please see our category Pest Control. To learn more about other wood damaging pests, see our article – The Termite’s Innocent. Thanks. ~jb

All images via Rose McMillan for Terminix.