Subterranean termites prefer environments with dead trees and wet wood. In nature, they can be found feeding on old tree stumps and fallen tree branches.
This species requires constant moisture to survive, so they often establish their colonies beneath the soil or in damp wood.
Prior to infesting your home, subterranean termites might be found living in your yard, where they build colonies and tunnels underground and next to sources of wood.
Depending on where you live, they might also come from further away, like from a nearby park or forested area.
Subterranean worker termites typically make their way inside through a network of underground tunnels. They look for cracks in foundation walls, openings and gaps around pipes, or any place where wood directly touches the soil. This includes wooden structures like decks and porch steps.
When they can’t reach these openings from underneath the soil, subterranean termites can go aboveground by constructing mud tubes. In terms of appearance, they look like narrow lines or patches of dried mud that seem to branch out of the ground and up the sides of walls or structures.
Mud tubes are made from a combination of soil, digested wood, and saliva, and they help termites travel from their underground colonies to aboveground food sources. Not only do they protect the termites from predators, mud tubes also act as a barrier that prevents these moisture-loving termites from drying out.
During the spring, winged subterranean termite swarmers emerge from their colonies to reproduce and find new places to establish colonies. These swarmers, which resemble flying ants, use their wings to travel up to 100 meters from their original colony. If you’re unlucky, they might land near — or even inside — your home.
Subterranean termites are mainly attracted to sources of food (primarily wood) and moisture. Conditions that make your home more attractive to termites include:
Drywood termites establish their colonies inside of dry wood and don’t make contact with the soil. Compared to subterranean termites, they don’t need much moisture to survive — just the small amount of water content in the wood they feed on is enough for them to thrive.
This species prefers warm, humid climates, and is most commonly found in southern, coastal states ranging from Florida to California. While drywood termites are not native to New York, they can sometimes be inadvertently transported into the state through infested wooden objects like furniture and crates.
In nature, drywood termites are mainly found in hardwood forests, establishing colonies in large, old trees. Since they don’t need to worry about finding water, drywood termites spend most of their time deep inside wood and are seldom seen.
Drywood termites, true to their name, are attracted to dry, untreated wood. They prefer wood with moisture content around 10% moisture content, but can survive on as little as 3%.
Their swarmers, which are most active during dusk or at night, are attracted to light. During swarming season, they can be seen flying around exterior lights and windows. Turning off outdoor lights and covering windows in the evenings can lower your chance of drawing termite swarmers to your home.