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Western Subterranean Termites

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Western Subterranean Termites

Subterranean termites live in wood in contact with soil. They travel inside specially constructed mud tubes to feed on wood above or below ground. Damage to buildings is typically found in wood in basements and at ground level although wood at higher levels can be attacked.

Termites ate the center portion of this 4X4. Visual examination would not show the damage.

Western Subterranean Termite Damaged Wood. Note the presence of dirt in the galleries.

The termites enter buildings through cracks and holes in concrete or where wood is in contact with the soil. The small opening in concrete slabs around drain pipes or between the slab and the foundation is all the space these termites need to enter a building. In fact, they only need less than 1 mm (only 1/64th of an inch) to squeeze through.

A large Dirt Tube Passing Over the Cement Foundation and to the Floor Joists in the Crawlspace.

Subterranean termites are found by the presence of their mud tubes, when structural weakening occurs or when large numbers of winged termites leave their colony in search of mates.

Soldier with Large Head

Winged or Reproductive Termite

Termites can be easily separated from ants because they have only 2 body parts, a head and a larger back portion. Ants have 3 distinct body parts, a head, middle or thorax and back end or abdomen. Termite colonies consist of workers, soldiers, queens and winged reproductive males and females. The winged termites are 1.3 cm (1/2 inch) long with black bodies and long, pale wings. They usually leave their colonies to mate in the late summer in September.


Good building practices (refer to the Building Code) are important to prevent Western Subterranean Termite problems.

Fill all cracks and holes in the foundation and slab with good quality cement patch.

Do not allow soil to contact any wood of the house.

Keep the soil level at least 6 inches (10 cm) below the bottom of the siding.

Remove wood scraps from soil near the house.

Correct any moisture problems next to or under the house.


Application of Termiticide to Soil under House Prevents Soil Dwelling Termite Attack.

Subterranean termite control frequently involves applying termiticides to the soil under and around infested buildings.

Sometimes the wood in danger of attack can be treated with a borate spray. This work must be performed by qualified pest control professionals.

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