Termite identification is certainly not a pleasant job but then neither is the job of eradicating them. Seeking out faecal pellets is no one’s idea of a good time but unfortunately, it is one of the indicators of the species you’re dealing with.
If you find wooden furniture, picture frames or other wooden items hollowed out in “galleries” or “chambers”, you can be pretty sure you have a drywood termite problem.
Faecal pellets that assist with termite identification can be seen throughout their tiny tunnels and you’ll notice that they are hard, elongated, approximately 1/32″ long and have rounded ends. Distinctively, they will have six concave sides, rather like a striped bullet.
Drywood termite soldiers have an orange to reddish brown head with whitish eyes and their heads are slightly flattened with a little rounding in profile. They feature strong mandibles (jaws) and antennae that have a rather larger third segment that is club-shaped.
Swarmers are around 1/2 inch in size including their wings which themselves, are roughly 3/8 inch long. Their heads are orangey brown and they have dark brown abdomens. Swarming season is usually during the months of September and October and you will commonly see 100 to several hundred swarmer termites taking flight in the middle of a sunny warm day, especially if there has been a recent spike in temperature.
Drywood termites and their biological names:
- Tropical Rough-headed drywood termites – Cryptotermes brevis
Tropical Smooth-headed drywood termites – Cryptotermes cavifrons
Western drywood termite – Incisitermes minor
Drywood or Powderpost termites – Cryptotermes species
Subterranean termites are devastating timber pests responsible for significant structural damage to buildings, both commercial and domestic in the U.S. The subterranean species are very small, roughly half the size of the head of a match, and their bodies are soft.
Typically, they will construct a fundamental colony followed by radiating subterranean tunnels leading to food sources. They are small enough to pass through an expansion joint or crack of 2mm and they are also cunning enough to reach wall framing timbers via the spaces underneath floor tiles and parquetry so if this is the problem you’re experiencing, termite identification is made easy. For subterranean termites, a high level of temperature (around 77 to 95° F) and humidity must be sustained in the central colony nest.
Subterranean termites Biological names:
- Eastern subterranean termite – Reticulitermes flavipes
Western subterranean termite – Reticulitermes hesperus
Desert subterranean termite – Heterotermes aureus
Arid-Land subterranean termite – Reticulitermes tibialis
Formosan subterranean termite – Coptotermes formosanus
Dampwood termites are usually much greater in size than their subterranean cousins. The swarmers may grow to 1 inch in length, including wings. Dampwood soldier termites are distinguished by their large red-brown head and multiple-toothed mandibles.
There are several known species, and their swarming season – when they seek to build new colonies -lasts from January to October. Unlike subterranean termites, the dampwood species do not build tubes through wood.
You can make a termite identification if you see they are consuming the wood across the grain and in doing so, making a succession of chambers linked by tunnels with smooth walls. Dampwood termites are, logically enough, only interested in wood that is high in moisture. They live exclusively in wood, not in soil environments.
The faecal pellets are similar to those of drywood termites except that their six sides are flattened, not concave. Depending on the moisture content of the wood, the shape of the faecal pellets will differ – the damper the wood, the more round the pellets.
Dampwood termites and their biological names:
- Pacific dampwood termite – Zootermopsis angusticollis
Florida dampwood termite Neotermes
Desert Dampwood termite – Paraneotermes simplicicornis
Nevada dampwood termite – Zootermopsis nevadensis
If you think you have an infestation, termite identification is vital so that you know what species you’re dealing with before you take any action. If you’re unsure, it’s always wise to consult a professional. You must never disturb a termite infestation or the termites may relocate their nest or colony to another location before you get around to remedying the problem.