There are three types of termites in the world, and a variety of species belonging to each type can be found in Arizona. These termite groups are known as subterranean, drywood and dampwood termites, and while dampwood termites occasionally infest decayed and excessively moist finished woods, they very rarely inflict costly damage to structural lumber in Arizona homes. However, subterranean and drywood termite pests establish infestations within the structural wood components of Arizona homes frequently and all year round in Phoenix, Tucson, Yuma and other urban and suburban centers located in the Sonoran Desert. Of the 30 termite species inhabiting the US, a whopping 17 are known to inflict structural damage to homes and buildings in Arizona. Surprisingly, only three of these pest species are responsible for the majority of annual termite damage reported in the state. These termite pest species include Heterotermes aureus, Reticulitermes tibialis, and Incisitermes minor, and they are commonly known as desert subterranean, arid-land subterranean, and western drywood termites, respectively.
Just as their name suggests, subterranean termites live in colonies located in moist soil beneath the ground, and mature subterranean termite colonies can grow to contain between 50,000 and two million individuals, the vast majority of which are workers. Workers carry out a variety of duties including nest construction, foraging, feeding their nestmates, and establishing satellite colonies. Drywood termites, on the other hand, live in colonies located within above ground wood sources, and these colonies are much smaller, as they grow to contain only a few thousand individuals at maturity. Subterranean termite infestations are usually far more destructive than drywood termite infestations due to the much larger size of their colonies. Also, large subterranean termite colonies are composed of several interconnected nesting sites that can span areas larger than a football field. Desert subterranean termite infestations see workers excavate many long tunnels through multiple lumber boards, and the damage they inflict is unique for its shredded appearance. In most desert subterranean termite infestation cases, substructural wood components, subflooring, beams and joists are often the first to sustain damage by foraging workers. This species is notable for being the only subterranean termite pest species in the US that is capable of initiating infestations in structural wood components located far away from the ground surface. Other subterranean termite pest species establish infestations that rarely see workers advance beyond the first floor of structures.
Have you ever lived in a home that had an active termite infestation?