Termites (Order Isoptera)

Management of Pest Insects

in and Around the Home

Termites (Order Isoptera)

Subterranean termites wamers are often the first sign of an infestation. Photo by B. Forschler, UGA Ent.

Termites are eusocial insects that live in colonies that, at maturity, number from several hundred to several million individuals. A colony contains nymphs, workers, soldiers, and reproductive individuals of both sexes. The commonly encountered species are economically significant pests that can cause serious structural damage to buildings.

Subterranean termites (Rhinotermitidae: Reticulitermes spp., Coptotermes formosanus): Winged reproductives, called swarmers, are most often seen in Spring, but can be observed at any time of year. All four wings are the same size. Swarmer body color is black to caramel colored and 1/8 to 3/16 inch. Habits: Subterranean termites live in the soil, and forage into structures to gain access to wood. They excavate galleries
in wood as they consume it, sometimes leaving only a thin wooden exterior. Termite workers, but not swarmers, eat wood. Swarmers are the most common sign of termite infestation when they swarm from any part of a structure or home. Outdoor swarms from fence posts, stumps, etc. are signs of an active colony in the area or yard but not necessarily a sign of structural infestation. Interventions: A good preventative strategy
is to have the home inspected annually for termites. If an infestation is present, seek help from a professional termite control company. Homeowners should not attempt to treat a structure for termites. The products and equipment used by professionals are not available to the novice. For more information see University of Georgia Extension bulletins #1241, Termite Control Services: Information for the Georgia Property Owner, and #1209, Biology of Subterranean Termites in the Eastern United States, at caes.uga.edu/publications. Might Be Confused With: drywood termites, earwigs.

Drywood termites (Kalotermitidae: Incisitermes spp., Cryptotermes brevis): Adult termites rarely seen. Other than a swarm, the most common outward sign of  infestation is the continued appearance of uniform sized fecal pellets (frass) which are usually found on a flat surface directly underneath infested wood. All pellets same size (grain of sand) and color of infested wood. When cleaned up, pellets return because termites continue to discharge them from infested wood. Habits: Drywood termites do not need contact with soil, as do subterranean termites, or any form of liquid moisture as they get all their moisture from wood and metabolic water. Colonies of drywood termites are small in number. In Georgia, they are most commonly found in furniture, picture frames, etc. in the central and northern parts of the state, but native species can be structural pests in south and southeast Georgia. They can also be found in wood items that had originated in Gulf Coast states or California—all states where drywood termites are native.

Drywood termitefecal pellets (frass)and close-up.

Interventions: Homeowners should not attempt to treat a structure for drywood termites for the same reasons mentioned under subterranean termite interventions. There are several options to discuss with a professional. For example, if the structure is infested, structural fumigation should be considered. An alternative would be spot treatment of active galleries, preferably with a dust or foam formulation. A structural infestation might also be remedied by wood removal and replacement, if possible, following thorough inspection. Infested furniture can be removed from the home, fumigated, and returned. Might Be Confused With: subterranean termites.


Food, Shelter, Man Made Harborages, Exterior Vegetation, Water
Other Proactive Pest Management Practices

Crickets (Order Orthoptera)
Cockroaches (Order Blattaria)
Termites (Order Isoptera)
True Bugs (Order Hemiptera)
Beetles (Order Coleoptera)
Moths (Order Lepidoptera)
Flies (Order Diptera)
Ants, Bees, and Wasps (Order Hymenoptera)
Minor Orders of Insects – Occasional Pests
Non-Insectan Arthropods



University of Georgia publication Management of Pest Insects in and Around the Home

About this Publication

This article is part of the publication, “Management of
Pest Insects in and Around the Home” is a guide to
quick identification of 75 pests, including more than
120 color photos.



Daniel R. Suiter
Brian T. Forschler
Lisa M. Ames
E. Richard Hoebeke