There are three main classifications for termites: subterranean, dry-wood and damp-wood. The name of this dodgy pest explains pretty easily how they are different from the other two: they live inside soil. This type of termites have been found across all of the United States (with the exception of Alaska) and can be as invasive and destructive as any other, nesting under your home or in the sidings and devouring all the wooden structures.
Among subterranean termites we can find three castes, with slightdifferences between each other depending on the “job” they have. Remember termites are highly colony-oriented creatures, so the all of them have a specific activity to perform and their little bodies reflect that.
Workers: These compose the biggest part of termite population and are also the most damaging. If you stumble with a termite crawling around your wall or floor eating wood, it will most likely be from this type. They are the responsible of feeding the rest of the colony. They are a creamy color and do not have wings. However, worker termites from all types (subterranean as well as dry-wood and damp-wood) are very similar, so you would have a very hard time figuring out what type of plague your house has from looking at them alone. Recognize swarmer termites and soldier termites for that end.
Swarmers: They vary in color in a range for black to light brown, but the biggest detail about them is they have wings. They look alike winged ants, which makes them easy to confuse and you need a closer look in order to tell them apart. This can be done by recognizing the shape and size of the wings, as termites have four wings of equal size, while ant’s wings are longer at the front and smaller on the back. Also the fact that termites have two body segments of equal color, while ants have three body segments and they might be of different colors (red and black).
Soldiers: They look very similar to worker termites, except they have enlarged mandibles that they use to protect the group from other predators. They are the ones responsible of safeguarding the rest of the colony from any natural threat that comes to the nest.
Evidence of subterranean termites
Although usually only the worker termites leave the nest, in the months from January to April they go through their reproductive cycle, which means swarmers will be out and about. They are looking for a mate with whom they can start a new nest, but if the colony is mature enough to produce swarmers, you most likely already have a big problem underneath.
If you find these winged termites hanging around your window sills or light bulbs, it means that the nest they come from has been developing for at least 2 years. You may also find the little wings left behind instead, which is part of their reproduction process.
Another clear sign are tiny, tunnel-like constructions protruding from the walls they occupy. These are made of mud or dirt that sticks together by way of termite saliva or fecal matter. They use these little tubes to move around their food source without being detected.
Finally, there can be similar little constructions protruding from the ground or walls which are a result of several mud-tunnels being built over long periods of time. They adopt the shape of a castle, thus known as “launching castles” or “swarm castles”. This is evidence of a long-term termite infestation, and a very good reason to call a termite control professional in the matter to ask for help