Types of Termites in California

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Each year in the United States, termites cause an estimated $750 million in property damage, according to Termites.com. These soft-bodied insects, which feed on wood and wreak havoc for homeowners, number more than 2,500 species worldwide. In California, where termite activity is among the highest across the U.S., scientists have identified at least 17 different types of termites, the University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program reports.

Subterranean Termites

  • Subterranean termites are oval in shape, about one-eighth of an inch long and creamy brown in color. They need moist environments to survive and, for that reason, usually live in or near the soil--typically 5 to 20 feet below the ground. From their colonies of up to 2 million members, subterranean termites build elaborate mud tunnels to connect to food sources and for protection from air, the National Pest Management Association’s Pest Guide notes.

    In California, a number of subterranean termite species are active in the state. These include the western subterranean termite, the desert subterranean termite, the arid-land subterranean termite and the formosan subterranean termite. The common western subterranean termite is one of the most destructive termites in the state. These termites like to eat soft wood fiber, leaving a typical honeycomb appearance in the wood grain. It is especially troublesome in central and southern California and older sections of the San Francisco Bay area, Sacramento, Reno, Fresno, Los Angeles, Orange County, the San Fernando Valley and San Diego, Termite.com notes.

Drywood Termites

  • Unlike their subterranean counterparts, drywood termites do not require moisture to survive and live in colonies of up to 2,500 members, according to the National Pest Management Association’s Pest Guide. These oval, light-brown insects are up to 1-inch long and live within dry wood. The wood left behind by these termites is clean and smooth in appearance. They are most common in southern California but also may be found along the Central Valley and in coastal regions.

    The western drywood termite and the desert drywood termite are common species of this group found in California. The western drywood termite, responsible for most of the drywood termite damage in southern California, is found in areas from the central valley of California to Sacramento and parts of the high desert.

Dampwood Termites

  • Most species within this group are found exclusively in California--in cool, humid areas along the coast and the Pacific Northwest. Dampwood termites are brown, oval insects, about a half-inch long. They live in moist wood, such as decaying wood stumps, dead trees and buried wood. They typically do not infest homes or buildings and leave little sign of wood damage, according to the National Pest Management Association’s Pest Guide.

    Species of this type found in California include the Pacific dampwood termite and the Nevada dampwood termite. The Pacific dampwood termite is the most common of its type in California; it typically infests rotting wood products, including decaying, dead trees and shrubs, according to the County of Los Angeles’ Agricultural Commissioner/Weights and Measures Department.

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  • Photo Credit tree with termite holes image by Yvette Bessels from Fotolia.com
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