Most Wanted: Distinguished Termites


October 17, 2014

Photo courtesy of, and copyrighted by, Gene White,

Be sure to inspect shallow foundation walls and footings. Photo courtesy of, and copyrighted by, Gene White,

Species: subterranean termite (Reticulitermes spp.)
Distribution: many areas of U.S.
Environment: found in soil, moist areas
Behavior: constructs shelter tubes, without fecal pellets
Description: workers and soldiers are about 0.25 in.; alates are about 0.5 in.

Species: Formosan termite (Coptotermes formosanus)
Distribution: along Gulf and southern Atlantic coasts, Florida, Hawaii
Environment: structural lumber, plants; can penetrate soft metal and concrete
Behavior: constructs shelter tubes and carton; swarm on warm evenings, after rain
Description: soldiers have oval heads and a distinct, horn-like gland. Alates are pale, yellow-brown and about 0.5 in.

Species: drywood termite (Incisitermes spp.)
Distribution: Southern and coastal areas
Environment: dry areas
Behavior: excretes oval, six-sided fecal pellets into piles through kickholes
Description: soldiers and alates are as long as 0.5 in.

Species: powderpost termite (Cryptotermes spp.)
Distribution: Southern and subtropical areas
Environment: dry wood, furniture, woodwork and floors
Behavior: excretes small fecal pellets
Description: soldiers have profoundly concave brown or black heads; alates are about 0.5 in.

Species: dampwood termite (Zootermopsis spp.)
Distribution: Western U.S., British Columbia to California
Environment: damp, decaying wood
Behavior: excretes large, oval fecal pellets — only soldiers and alates (no workers)
Description: largest termite in species in U.S.; alates are 1 in., with wings twice the body length

Dr. Mitchell, D.O., Ph.D., M.P.H., B.C.E., a board-certified physician and entomologist, is principal technical specialist for PestWest Environmental, as well as PMP’s Technical Editor. He can be reached at or 515-333-8923.

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  1. Brian says:

    Termites are no joke– the variety among subspecies hold differing abilities to annihilate and overtake your home. It’s really challenging to completely lock down a house from them.