Requires Special Treatment Methods

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Biology of Eastern Subterranean Termites


   The queen termite is an egg laying machine; her body is enormous compared to her off-spring; she can live more than 25 years and produce more that 2,000 eggs a day.



The life-cycle of subterranean termites


1.  Eggs

2.  Immature (nymphs) develop into:

  • ¬† ¬† Workers
  • ¬† ¬† Soldiers
  • ¬† ¬† Developing Winged Forms

3.  Winged Reproductives (Alates) Young Kings and Queens develop in preparation for swarm.

4.  Male and Female with Wings Drop after a swarm

5.  Queen and King produce new colony



   The workers are by far the largest caste in the eastern subterranean termite colony and the one that does the damage; they are a creamy translucent color, soft bodied and carry out all work in the nest, including gathering food (timber and other cellulose); constructing tunnels; repairing and enlarging the colony nest; grooming each other and feeding the soldiers, the king, queen and also caring for the young nymphs until mature. 

   Eastern subterranean worker termites are small in size, about half the size of match-head or 1/8" long and are soft bodied insects. White in color, they have no wings, are sterile, blind and work 24 hours a day for their entire 2 year life span.

   The soldiers are the defenders of the colony, particularly against marauding ants.

   The soldier termite is usually the first to be seen in large numbers when any active termite workings (mud shelter tubes or damaged timber) are opened. Soldier termites will rush out to guard the opening while worker termites repair the breach.


Eastern Subterranean Termite Swarm

¬† ¬†In northern Texas, swarming takes place in the spring, swarming usually follows rain when humidity is high and the soil temperature is at or above 70¬įF. The swarmers leave the colony in the thousands when a mature termite nest is large and well established.

   The swarmers (reproductives) are called "alates" and are commonly seen when they swarm during daylight; they have eyes; are poor fliers but are swept along by the wind; they land, drop their wings, find a mate to become king and queen of a new termite colony.

   The eastern subterranean termite swarmers are about 3/8" long (including wings) with a dark brown body and a small fontanelle (frontal gland pore) on its head. Their wings are brownish grey with two dark solid veins along the forefront of the front wings. The front wing is distinctly larger than hind wing.


   Eastern subterranean termites swarm in large numbers out side over a wide area to find a mate from another colony nest to start up a new colony. A suitable location for nesting should provide moisture and a readily available timber food source close by.

   Colony nest development is slow in the first few months, with the egg-laying capacity of the new queen termite peaking after a few years, producing up to 10,000 offspring a year. The queen may live for many years and workers up to two years. The swarmers are emitted in their thousands when a mature termite nest is large and well established. Swarmers are usually produced after this period and are an indication a large termite nest is in the vicinity.

   The colony nests of Eastern subterranean termites are usually located in the ground below the frost line, but above the water table. Mud galleries or "shelter tubes" are constructed across hard objects in order to gain access to timber food sources.

   They build a central colony nest from which they construct underground tunnels that radiate within a 100 yard radius from a central colony nest in search of a timber (cellulose) food source.


Timber Damage

   Eastern subterranean termites are highly destructive to douglas fir and other common building timbers. They can rapidly eat out the internal sections of structural timbers devouring mainly the spring wood, and preferring to leave the harder summer wood sections, as a result, infested timbers are often left as a thin shell with layered hollow sections packed with moist soil. These termites love a moist dark damp environment. It is essential for their survival.


Destructive nature of Eastern subterranean termites

   The Eastern subterranean termite is a serious timber pest causing damage throughout the areas where it is located. It is estimated that more than 1 in 5 homes in the high activity areas, have been or will be visited at sometime by these termites. These termites eat through the centre of susceptible timbers leaving nothing but a thin veneer of timber and/or paint. They will pack mud in cracks and joints in timber to prevent loss of humidity and resultant dehydration.

    Eastern subterranean termites constantly search for new food sources. They are known to enter buildings through cracks in concrete flooring or to travel under parquetry or tile flooring through gaps of less than 1/16" wide.


   Several years are required before the termite colony reaches the typically mature size. In some locations an Eastern subterranean termite colony can contain several million termites foraging over a wide area (up to 12,000 square feet) and actively feeding on trees and freestanding poles as well as buildings and other timber structures.

   Termites travel in humidified mud-shelter tubes or galleries. The picture on the left and right shows mud shelter tubes that subterranean termites have constructed over a solid object, in this case, the footer and pier of a home.

   Subterranean termites travel in these mud shelter tubes as protection from predators, sun-burn, dehydration and to maintain a high humidity environment and temperature (75 to 95F) in their central colony nest and is essential for their survival.

(Above) The wall were the wall hanging was.

(The two photo's above show how Easter Subterranean Termites found a way up the interror of a wall and out behind a wall hanging through the sheetrock. (Denton Texas))

   Eastern subterranean termites hide, preferring to enter a building through areas inaccessible to inspection, such as, through in-fill patios, bath traps, expansion joints and cracks in concrete slab from areas touching the ground.

¬† ¬†Eastern subterranean termites can pass through a 1/16‚ÄĚ - 1/32" ¬†crack(s) or an expansion joint (eating through the rubber compound) between adjoining concrete on ground flooring. They can also travel under parquetry, floor tiles, and on pipes to get to the wall framing timbers.

   Only the worker termite caste can digest timber by the use of symbiotic protozoa in their gut. Worker termites feed their partly digested semi-liquid food, regurgitated from their mouth or passing from their anus, to the other termites, a process known as trophallaxis.

   Eastern subterranean termites have a well ordered social system with amazing engineering capabilities and an acute survival instinct; they obtain moisture from the soil and moist decaying timber, and communicate using pheromone signals. The mutual feeding, constant grooming and close social habits of termites are used to advantage in modern termite control products.

   Certain hi-tech termite products are now on the market that have a delayed lethal effect on termites which readily pass on lethal doses of chemicals to other termites in the central colony nest during the mutual grooming and feeding destroying the colony nest usually within 90 Days.

Hiring Pest Management Professionals

   Getting a pest management professional (PMP) involved as soon as possible rather than taking time to try to treat the problem yourself, they are very effective at preventing further infestations. Each pest management company should have instructions for residents on how to prepare for the treatment.

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