The Three Types of Arizona Termites

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Did you know that there are more than 2,700 named termite species in the world? Of those, about 45 species live in the United States, and 30 of those cause damage to wood and wood products, according to the University of Arizona.

Here in Arizona, there are about 17 species of termites present, but only three of them are of particular concern to homeowners: dampwood termites, drywood termites, and subterranean termites. Read on to learn more about each of these species, how to identify them, and what damage they can cause.

Dampwood Termites

In Arizona, dampwood termites are not considered a widespread problem, but can cause damage under some conditions. They typically infest wood at or slightly below ground level, and attacks the moist wood of living trees and shrubs. They do not build mud shelter tubes aboveground to reach food sources, and do not live underground.

In Arizona, dampwood termites often attack citrus trees and desert shrubs, and use the sap as moisture.

Dampwood termite nymphs are up to ¾-inch long, while swarmers can reach up to 1 inch in length.

Drywood Termites

Drywood termites are considered a more widespread problem in Arizona. They can infest wood that is not in contact with the ground. They do not live underground, and do not construct mud tubes. Infestations can occasionally be found in furniture or other wood products. Tehy6 typically attack all forms of dry, sound wood aboveground.

These termites can fly, and have been known to buzz around on sunny days during the summer. Unlike the subterranean termite, drywood termite swarms don’t typically coincide with rains.

Drywood termites are very easy to identify, although their infestations are harder to detect. They are larger than subterranean termites by about half an inch. Soldiers have large jaws, and the adult bodies are two-toned in color, with a brown head and thorax, and a brownish-black abdomen. Drywood termites are often found around doors and windowsills. A good indication of drywood termite infestation is the presence of dry, hard fecal pellets that form small piles.

Subterranean Termites

The subterranean termite is the species with the biggest impact on Arizona homeowners. They get their name from the fact that they live underground and use the soil as a source of moisture. To move into a food source above ground, these termites construct mud tubes made of fecal matter, soil and wood chips. If you see these tubes in or around you home, chances are you have a subterranean termite problem.

Subterranean termites are voracious eaters, and can digest cellulose, a tough plant fiber. Wood is their primary food source and they spend most of their time hunting for it – they don’t even sleep! In arid areas, subterranean termites typically eat many types of wood such as cactus ribs or desert trees. When homes are built in desert areas, termites often attack human structures as a replacement for their natural food sources. When looking for food or water and infesting a home, termites can damage many other materials, as well, such as paper products, insulation, pool liners, stucco and non-synthetic carpet.

Winged adult swarms typically take place during the monsoon season from July to September. Winged adults are a pale yellowish brown, about half an inch long with wings. Soldier termites are usually about ¼-inch long, with nearly straight jaws. The head is rectangular in shape.

Wood with a honeycombed appearance, as well as the presence of mud tubes protruding through walls, ceilings or floors, are signs of a subterranean termite infestation. Use a good flashlight and look for tuber along your home’s foundation wall at the soil line, cracks in concrete floors, or places where pipes and ducts enter your home. If you tap infested wood with a screwdriver, it will sound hollow, or the screwdriver may break through the wood if there is extensive damage.

The best way to check for an infestation of drywood or subterranean termites is to call a pest management professional. At Blue Sky, we offer a free, no-obligation termite inspection to assess your home for damage and possible infestations.

The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension does not recommend tackling a termite infestation on your own, as they can be difficult to treat without the proper knowledge, products and equipment.

If you suspect a termite infestation from one of Arizona’s top termite species, give us a call to prevent further damage to your home.

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