Types of Termites Found in Arizona

In Arizona, you typically only hear of subterranean termites, but there are seven different types of termites in Arizona. Termites are considered social insects since different aspects of the colony’s main functions are carried out by three separate groups or castes: reproductive adults, soldiers, and workers. In general, workers feed and maintain the colony, soldiers defend the colony, and winged reproductives (swarmers) expand the colony and begin new colonies. The queen, a special member of the reproductive caste, regularly produces eggs to ensure the colony remains populated. The risk of termite problems comes from all three of the major groups of termites: subterranean termites, dampwood termites, and drywood termites.

Subterranean Termites
This group of termites builds their colonies below ground and must maintain contact with the soil to meet their requirements for moisture. Subterranean termites forage through the soil in search of food sources and construct mud tubes that protect them from dehydration until they can return to their colony to replenish moisture and feed other members of the colony. Subterranean termites are considered the major urban pest termites throughout the state.

Arid Land Subterranean Termites
These termites are considered the most widely spread subterranean termite in Arizona. However, this group of pests does not seem to prefer the extreme desert conditions of southern Arizona. One key behavior with this termite is its preference to attack moist, decaying wood rather than solid, dry timber.

Desert Subterranean Termite
The most destructive termite in Arizona is the desert subterranean termite. It will attack construction lumber, floors and rafters, plus different kinds of dead wood, such as cactus, desert trees, utility poles, and posts.

Dampwood Termites
Dampwood termites infest wood that has a high moisture content. The only dampwood termite structurally important in Arizona is the desert dampwood termite. These pests typically infest wood that is below ground level and close to the termite colony. They also invade living shrubs and young trees, whose sap it uses to provide the moisture it needs for survival. This termite typically produces reproductive swarms from late May through September.

Drywood Termites
Drywood termite behavior includes attacking wood that is low in moisture content. In certain locations throughout the state, drywood termites are important pests that can do damage that requires significant costs for control and repair. The two principal drywood termites in Arizona are the dark western drywood termite and the light western drywood termite. Neither needs contact with the ground, but can live within the same wood they use as a food source. In the process of tunneling in dry wood, this group of termites creates small hollows called “kick holes” that are used to remove their fecal pellets from galleries. Piles of fecal pellets beneath kick holes are one of the first signs of an infestation.

Dark Western Drywood Termites
The dark western drywood termite is the most widely distributed and destructive of its type in Arizona. These termites are often transported from place to place in Arizona and to other states in wood products like furniture. The dark western drywood termite also attacks dead trees, dead branches on living trees, and solid structural wood on structures. Typical building components that may be infested are flooring, doorframes, soffits, fascia boards, and roof sheathing. This termite will also infest utility poles, posts, and stored lumber.

Light Western Drywood Termites
The light western drywood termite is in the true desert regions of Arizona where the elevation is less than 4,000 feet. This variety can tolerate drier conditions than can the dark western drywood termite.