How to Tell if Your Home Has Termites

TermitesTermites. To homeowners, this can be one of the most terrifying words in the book. Termites have gained the notorious nickname of “the silent home killer.” This is because they can be so stealthy that many home and building owners don’t even realize they’re there until a significant amount of damage has been done. Termites are known to cause billions of dollars in damage every year. That’s why it’s important for you to know the signs of different types of termites so you can stay proactive about protecting your home.

Types of Termites

It’s important to know the difference between the most common types of termites in Florida. These common types of termites actually have different warning signs, as their lifestyles are different from each other. The three most common types of termites are subterranean termites, drywood termites, and dampwood termites.

Signs of Subterranean Termites

Subterranean termites are one of the most common types of termite in Florida. They make their homes underground in damp, loose soil. They create special tunnels that they use to travel back and forth from above ground, where they forage for food.

Signs of subterranean termites may include:

  • Piles of wings that resemble fish scales, which are shed during mating season
  • Mud tubes, or tunnels that are formed on structures like exterior walls and crawl spaces
  • Buckling wood and ceilings and floors that appear swollen
  • A scent that resembles the scent of mold or mildew.

Signs of Drywood Termites

As indicated by the name, drywood termites make their homes in dry wood, inside the structures where they feed. This means that they can be found inside walls or furniture, where they create a series of tunnels that are similar to a maze.

Signs of drywood termites may include:

  • Small piles of fecal pellets that are kicked out of tunnels and therefore collect outside
  • Small kick holes in wood, through which fecal pellets are discarded
  • Cracking of veneer that reveals maze-like tunnels underneath
  • Swarms of winged termites during mating season, especially in warm or rainy weather

Signs of Dampwood Termites

Dampwood termites also live inside the wood on which they feed. But as indicated by the name once again, these termites make their homes in damp, moist wood as opposed to dry wood. The wood may even be decaying. They are more commonly found in buildings where wood makes direct contact with soil, or in areas that may have leaky pipes or other excess moisture. Dampwood termites are often much more difficult to detect, as they don’t show the same warning signs as subterranean or drywood termites.

Signs of dampwood termites may include:

  • Fecal pellets that have been used to seal termite galleries from the outside, which stick to the outside of damp wood
  • Swarming males and females during mating season, and fish-like scales in areas like windowsills

Types of Termites

All homeowners are familiar with the silent home destroyer – the termite. Termites are dangerous to all types of homes because they feed on dead trees and plants and other forms of cellulose. For many, this means that termites may target their homes. Each year, termites chew their way to billions of dollars’ worth of home damage. In many cases, homeowners may not be aware of a termite infestation until it’s too late.

subterrenean termite

There are three main types of termites: subterranean, drywood, and dampwood. Each of these main types has several more specialized species. It is important to identify which type of termite is present in the home. While all termites live in “social” colonies, different types have varying nesting, feeding, and reproductive habits that play a role in proper termite management.


Subterranean Termites

Subterranean termites are the most common and destructive type of termite in the United States. These termites typically live in the soil or in moist, secluded areas above the soil. Subterranean termites are the only type of termite with a true caste system consisting of reproductive termites, workers, and soldiers. Reproductives focus on reproducing, workers focus on building shelter and finding food for the colony, and soldiers focus on defending the colony from intruders like ants and other termites.

Mud Tubes

One of the telltale signs of a subterranean termite infestation is the presence of mud tubes outside the home or on areas such as foundation slabs and crawl spaces. Mud tubes, also called shelter tubes, are built by worker termites to provide shelter as they travel back and forth outside the colony for food. These mud tubes are made of components like dirt, wood bits, termite saliva, and termite fecal matter.

Drywood Termites

As indicated by the name, drywood termites live and feed deep inside in sound, dry wood. Drywood termites are the second most common type of termite after the subterranean termite. Drywood termite colonies are typically smaller than subterranean termite colonies. A telltale sign of drywood termites is the presence of feces pellets that are discarded through “kick holes” made in a building’s wood. The pellets will collect over time, and have a distinct shape. A pest control professional can help to identify the presence of drywood termites and these characteristic feces pellets.

Dampwood Termites

Dampwood termites make their home in damp and sometimes decaying wood. Unlike subterranean and drywood termites, they do not nest in soil or dry wood. These termites are significantly larger than subterranean termites. Due to the need for moist wood, it is important to help prevent dampwood termite infestation by avoiding moisture in and around the home. Roof or siding leaks, plumbing issues, and wood that touches the ground should all be tended to accordingly.

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