Subterranean Termites

Subterranean Termites are the most common termites found in North America and the only termites we have here on Cape Cod. They date back more than 120 million years to the time of the dinosaurs. They are known as "silent destroyers" because of their ability to chew through wood, flooring and even wallpaper undetected. Each year, termites cause more than $5 billion in property damage - costs that aren't covered by homeowners' insurance policies.

Termite presence in human made structures often goes unnoticed for lengthy periods of time. A termite infested timber will appear structurally sound from the outside, while inside it will have a honeycombed appearance. Usually termites are found at, near, or below ground level. They love a moist dark damp environment - it is essential for their survival. Trim work, sub flooring, flooring, and the structural timbers are the areas of a building most susceptible to termite damage. The Subterranean Termite is considered a serious economic timber pest and it is estimated that in high activity areas, such as here on Cape Cod, more than 1 in 5 homes have been or will be attacked.

Subterranean Termites

Up to 1/4 inch (12.7mm)

Termites are small, pale-colored insects. They live in colonies. The workers and soldiers do not have wings, but the fertile males and females do have long, thin wings.

Winged Termite Winged Reproductives (Swarmers) are coal black to pale yellow-brown, flattened and about 1/4 to 3/8 inch long, with pale or smoke-gray to brown wings. Swarmers leave a mature colony during warm temperatures and rain. They are usually seen in late March or April here on Cape Cod. They leave their parent colony to mate and establish new colonies. They become the king and queen in the new colonies. Swarmers are matured from larger nymphs with wings. They have two pairs of long narrow wings, equal size.

Subterranean Termites live in the ground and come up to feed on the wood frequently only to return back to the colony deep underground.
Termite damage is usually first seen at or near the ground. However, damage can occur far above ground if the infestation has remained undetected for a long period. Termite-damaged wood has no sawdust associated with it; but, the wood does contain mud tubes and the galleries are lined with soil. Termite damage is sometimes located in wood adjacent to heaters or fireplaces. Perhaps, the soil in these areas remains at higher temperatures during the winter, or the drainage around fireplaces is poor and the soil remains moist for long periods.

Subterranean Termites live in the ground and come up to feed on the wood frequently only to return back to the colony deep underground. The colony could contain as many as a quarter of a million termites.


Termites generally prefer to eat the cellulose in wood but this substance is also found in carpet, paper, cloth and other items in your home including PVC. They like decayed or rotting wood but do not discriminate. Termites will feed on the wood of new homes as well as the wood of an old home.

Termite life cycle Life Cycle:
A mature queen can lay thousands of eggs each year. Eggs are tended by worker termites. The nymph hatches directly from the egg. Attendants feed nymphs regurgitated food for the first two weeks, enabling them to grow. They will become workers, soldiers, reproductives, or supplementary reproductives.

Termites actually eat wood and can cause significant physical damage if they go undetected for long periods of time. Termites often attack wood that is touching or close to soil.

Control of subterranean termites is best left in the hands of a professional pest control operator. The application of termiticides in and around the home-around pipes, wells, and heating ducts-requires experience and the proper tools. There are also other baiting alternatives available when conventional termite treatment may not be an option.

Differences between Ants and Termites

Winged ant

Reproductive ants are sometimes mistaken for reproductive termites that are commonly called swarmers. Ants differ from termites by having a narrow, constricted waist, elbowed (bent) antennae, and hind wings shorter than front wings.

Termites have a more rectangular shaped body with no constrictions, straight, beaded antennae and four wings of equal size and shape that are much longer than the body.

Winged Termite

Termite wings fall off very easily and are usually found on the surface from which the termites have emerged.

Ants are commonly seen in the open, as are winged termites when they swarm. But termite workers, which are creamy white and wingless, avoid light and are rarely seen unless disturbed.

Common signs of a Subterranean Termite Infestation

It is recommended that you have your house thoroughly inspected by a pest control professional trained to detect the sometimes subtle signs of termites.

  • The presence of mud-like material that lines the galleries in an irregular pattern.

  • Termites may excavate the wood so that only a very thin layer of wood is left on the surface of the cavity and the outside. Then this layer is broken; they will cover the holes with mud like material, used to make the tubes. This is a mixture of soil, feces, and saliva.

  • Swarmers: The appearance of a swarm of what you would call "flying ants",especially near light sources This indicates a nest may be near. A "swarm" is a group of adult male and female reproductives that leave their nest to establish a new colony. Swarming occurs when a colony reaches a certain size. Swarming is most common in the spring (March, April, May, and June) and occasionally autumn (September and October).
    Most swarmers emerge during the day, most frequently on warm days after rain. Swarmers found outdoors near tree stumps, railroad ties, etc., are not an indication that your house is infested but are present on the outside only. On the other hand, finding swarmers indoors often means that you have a termite infestation within your house. At first glance, swarmers and ants look similar, but can be distinguished by certain physical features. (see above)

  • Mud Tunnels: Subterranean termites maintain their headquarters in the ground and build "mud tubes", pencil-size, that connect the nest to the food source (wood).The tunnels may contain broken mud particles with fecal materials. Mud tubes or shelter tubes are proof of termite infestation, but their absence does not necessarily mean that a structure is free of termites. The insects may reach sills and other wood members through cracks or voids in the foundation wall, under the outside stucco, or from earth-filled porches, steps, terraces, or patios. You can break open tubes to determine if termites are still active inside. Termites often rebuild damaged tubes, another indication of continued activity. Old tubes are dry and will crumble easily. However, the absence of finding live termites does not mean that they are not present in the structure.

  • Buckling paint or tiny holes on the wood.

  • Damaged wood: Wood may appear crushed at structural bearing points. Termite damaged wood resonates with a dull thud (hollow sound)when tapped with a hammer. Pick and probe the surface of an infested piece of wood with a pen knife and you will find tunnels running parallel to the wood's grain.

  • Finding termites in a structure does not mean you have an immediate emergency because the rate at which damage occurs is relatively slow.

    If you think that you may have a Termite infestation,
    give Fowler and Sons a call
    Our licensed, trained inspectors will provide a thorough, no obligation inspection of your property to determine what treatment, if any, we would recommend.