Skip to main content

How to Identify Termites

Learn how to identify termites in this Howcast pest control video with expert Jeff White.


My name is Jeff White. I'm the research entomologist of bed bug central and the host of bed bug TV, I have no idea how I got into bugs and bed bugs, and here I am, six years later, having a lot of fun working with bed bugs. I will be talking to you about pest control. The last we all want, is termites eating our investment. Are they inside your house? Are they chewing on the wood that makes up your house? It's a great question and one of the most difficult question that we, from the pest control industry, struggle with. Identifying termites is a very difficult task. They lead very cryptic lifestyles, meaning they hide very well and they are very difficult to see. One group of termites is what we call subterranean termites. These are termites that are typically associated with northern states, make colonies outside of the home, in the ground. Those colonies travel underneath the ground, to the house, eat the wood and then go back to the colony. The other group of termites that we have, are formosan or drywood termites. Those are termites that can actually make their colonies inside the walls of the house. Again, very difficult to identify, because they never have to leave the wall and obviously, we can't see into the wall. So how do you identify these things? One of the easiest ways, and one of the ways most people find out they have termites in their house, is by seeing what we call swarmers. Depending on the termite species, they are going to reproduce and try to spread their colonies at different times in the year. So what people will all of a sudden see, are termites coming out of say, an opening around their sliding glass door in the house. All of a sudden they will see these winged termites, flying all over the place. That's an indication that you might have a termite colony, somewhere associated with that home. A lot of times, that's how people find out that they have termites. The other ways are detection systems. Pest control companies can install baiting systems around the house. The termites will chew on the wood inside these baiting systems and give us an indication that there might be termites, somewhere associated with the home. Beyond that, when it comes to subterranean termites, they typically will make mud tubes up the side of the construction. So if you go out and walk around your house, and you see small dry tubes going up the bottom of the foundation to the home, that's probably a termite tube from a subterranean termite. It protects them from the dry air and keeps them moist inside that tube. If you see these tubes, contact a pest control company to identify if it is, in fact, a termite tube. In terms of the drywood termites that live in the wall, you may see a hole where these termites are going into that wall and then you'll see frass or fecal material just below that hole in the wall. Again, very tough for a home owner to identify. If you think you have a problem, you may want to contact a pest control company to identify the situation. So identifying termites is difficult, keep your eyes open and if you're concerned about it, you may want to consider a baiting system to help you identify a problem as early on as possible.

Popular Categories