Like bees, termites are social insects, with primary functions assumed by different groups in the colony. This is true of all Arizona termite species.
Workers are responsible for feeding and maintaining the colony, while the soldiers defend it. You find swarmers in the reproductive caste, and that includes the queen. Their job is expanding the colony as well as creating new colonies. The queen’s job is to regularly produce eggs, ensuring the colony’s population continues.
Keep reading to learn about the four termite species commonly found in Arizona and how to recognize them, including their favorite foods and the signs that indicate an infestation.
Desert Subterranean Termites
Desert subterranean termites thrive in extreme, dry heat, so it’s no surprise they’re found in Arizona, particularly the southern parts of the state. You may find them living in desert plants, such as cactus, but they’re also attracted to the soft, porous rings in timber (called springwood), so they cause significant damage to utility poles and the structural timbers found in buildings. When they eat, the damage left behind resembles honeycombs.
Including their wings, swarmers grow to be about 3/8″ long. Their coloring is pale, between cream and light amber, and their wings have prominent veins surrounded by a nearly colorless wing membrane. The head’s fonatanelle is indistinct and may not even be present.
The soldiers have a rectangular body that is about twice as long as it is wide, flat, and nearly as broad as their head. Jaws are long, pointed, and powerful, with slender, slightly curved mandibles. They are smaller than swarmers.
Desert subterranean termites don’t require the dampness that most other termite species need. They love dry wood. The presence of drop tubes from ceiling rafters, sheetrock, or plasterboard indicate an infestation, as do honeycombed timber and holes in sheetrock.
The photo to the right is from Stil Home Inspection and demonstrates a termite drop tube.
Arid Subterranean Termites
Arid subterranean termites are the most commonly found termite species in Arizona, mainly because they thrive in multiple environments. You find them in deserts but also in canyons, rivers, sand dunes, and high altitudes (above 4,000 feet). Swarming season varies according the altitude but generally occurs sometime between May and October.
This species resembles most subterranean termites, with the same three main castes. Adults are around 1/2″ long when they still have their wings and around 3/8″ long after losing them. Coloring ranges from dark brown to black, and wings are practically translucent except for the veins.
Soldiers have longer mandibles than members of the other castes, which they use to fight off threats. The workers are lighter in color and resemble ants; these are the members responsible for foraging the cellulose material that makes up their diet.
These termites spend most of their time hunting wood, their primary food source, although they also eat cellulose material, including desert trees and cactus ribs. Of course, they also attack homes and other buildings in their quest for food and water, eating a wide variety of materials, including insulation, paper, stucco, pool liners, and natural fiber carpeting.
Western Drywood Termites
As the name implies, western drywood termites love drywood, even though you typically find them in coastal areas. They work slowly but cause incredible damage because they form multiple colonies in a single structure, with each colony housing around 2,000 termites.
Including its wings, the swarmer reaches around 1/2″ in length. The wings are around 3/8″ long, with dark veins in the front wing. Their abdomen is dark brown while the head is more of an orangey-brown. The head has a gradual slope and whitish eyes. The soldiers’ mandibles have an uneven number of teeth and they have large, club-like antennae.
Western drywood termites create chambers by eating across the wood grain, with tunnels connecting them. Walls within the galleries and tunnels are smooth and free of soil but typically contain fecal pellets. These are distinctive in appearance – six-sided, elongated ovals measuring around 1/32″ in length. In addition, infestation signs include the swarmers themselves and their shed wings. You may also see “blisters” on the wood surface, which are caused by enlarged galleries close to the surface.
Unfortunately, it is easy to take an infestation with you when you move, by transporting infested furniture and other wooden items.
Desert Dampwood Termites
Arizona is not home to many dampwood species simply because it isn’t very damp here and their diet relies on wood with a high moisture content. You do, however, find the desert dampwood termite here, which is a subterranean species that loves citrus groves. In addition, it eats other living trees and shrubs, infesting the wood from below ground. This species takes its moisture from the sap of these living plants.
Compared to other termite species commonly found in Arizona, the desert dampwood is quite long – up to 20 mm for soldiers, with swarmers growing to 25 mm when you include their wings. Their heads are large, with powerful pincers. Instead of worker termites, this species’ immature termites do the work of feeding and maintaining the colony.
Infestation occurs at or below ground level, typically of living trees but also untreated poles, fences, and posts that are in direct contact with the soil.
If you’re ready to schedule an inspection, contact Arizona Pest Solutions today. Our termite experts conduct a thorough inspection of your property. If they find evidence of a termite infestation, they explain treatment options and provide a free estimate.Tags: Home Termite Protection, Termite Damage, Termite Exterminator, Termite Inspection