Subterranean Termites: An Earth-Wise Guide

credit: Mike Merchant


Native Subterranean Swarmers (adult reproductive termites) are dark-brown to black; 1/4 to 3/8” long; shed wings after emerging from underground tunnels; often confused with ants but termites do not have the “pinched” waist and their wings are of equal length and twice the length of their bodies.

Ants (on the other hand) have a pinched waist and longer front wings than hind wings.

The antennae of termites are straight, while the antennae of ants are elbowed.

Subterranean termite swarmers can be found year-round but typical swarms occur between February and March in Austin during the day.

Formosan Subterranean Termites can rarely occur in the Austin area. Swarmers are brown to gold in color. This species swarms later in the year, typically in May. Swarming occurs in the evening and early night, and swarmers are attracted to lights.


Termites feed on wood and other materials containing cellulose such as paper, cotton, burlap and other plant products; need moisture, such as that found in soil or near leaky plumbing or near air conditioning condensers, to survive.


Though termites are beneficial in nature because they break down cellulose into usable nutrients, they cause billions of dollars in damage to homes nationwide, feeding on the wood in our homes.

Signs of Infestation

Swarmers (including dead termites in windows)

Mud tubes or shelter tubes extending from the ground to the structure

Damaged wood and the presence of small, pale worker termites in the wood


Look for termites on windowsills or near indoor lighting

Check the foundation of the house, garage and other structures for mud tubes; do this on a regular timetable, such as quarterly

Check roof eaves and gutters for leakage and wood rot

Least Toxic Treatments

  • Spray or immerse structural wood with a borate solution prior to, or during, construction, but realize that this provides only partial protection; borates must also have a sealer coat to prevent leaching

  • Avoid using beneficial nematodes — they have not proven effective in treating termites in structures and cannot be recommended

If You Must Use a Termiticide…

  • When using a professional, compare warranties or service agreements; you should be offered the chance to extend your warranty beyond the typical one year guarantee; annual warranties should not exceed 20% of the original treatment cost

  • Choose a company based on its service, reputation and warranty, rather than just which termiticide it uses

  • Ask your professional about non-repellent termiticides (fipronil, imidacloprid, chlorfenpyr) – they have proven to be very effective on subterranean termites and they also appear to work better in heavy clay, alkaline soils



Content and copyright permission generously granted by:
Austin Grow Green: www.growgreen.org, who works in close association with:
Texas AgriLife Extension Service:  http://agrilifeextension.tamu.edu 
                [icon type=”thumbs-up” size=”default” float=”none” color=”default”]Thank you!






(Visited 101 times, 1 visits today)

Categorised in: , , ,

This post was written by Marjory

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.