Termites look a little like ants, but they have no middle body segment between the head and the abdomen. If you see termites in the grass, don't panic. These termites may not damage your home at all, because they probably belong to a termite species that doesn't feed on wood.
Only certain termite species, such as the subterranean termites, eat wood and destroy building structures. The termites in the grass probably belong to a grass-eating species, known as agriculture and desert termites. These termites live above the ground and up to 4 feet below the ground. They have white bodies, brown heads and no wings. One colony of agriculture or desert termites may have a population that numbers in the thousands.
Agricultural and desert termites live in arid, dry areas, such as savannahs and prairies. They live in various parts of the world, including Northern Australia and West Texas. You may find agricultural and desert termites in fields and pastures of rural areas eating various soft plant materials, such as grasses, weeds and forbs. During drought, these termites move closer to humans and start living in lawns, where they have easy access to grass.
Although the damage is minimal compared to subterranean termites, agricultural and desert termites may also cause problems. They usually wreak havoc when conditions are dry, forcing them to move above the ground and may damage your lawn by feeding on the grasses and by building ugly tubes of mud on the ground. These tubes may encase various objects, such as blades of grass, fence posts and litter. Agricultural and desert termites don't harm humans, animals or building structures.
If you can't determine the type of termites you have, either pay a visit to your local extension office with a specimen or contact a professional exterminator. To get rid of agricultural and desert termites, destroy their mud structures with a rake or a heavy chain, then apply a pesticide to kill them. In urban areas, pesticides developed for use against termites work well to eradicate agricultural or desert termites. If you live in a rural location, Texas A&M University recommends that you use a pesticide that contains malathion.
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