There are over 2000 species of termites in the world, more than 40 of which are present in the United States. Termites are dangerous pests, causing millions of dollars of property damage each year due to their tunneling and food-finding activities. Termites can be mistaken for other types of pests, however, so here are some ways to identify them if you discover them in your home.

Differences In Species

There are four main species of termite that give property owners trouble:


  • Subterranean termites are the most dangerous of all common termite pests, living in underground colonies and using mud tubes to find food and navigate through their nest without being exposed to the air. These types of termites are about ⅛ inch long with creamy white to dark brown or black coloring.
  • Dampwood termites can be found in areas where moisture and wood combine, though they don’t often infest structures like homes. They may not be found in drier areas, but that means it’s important to keep dry areas dry so they won’t be attracted to your property. These termites are generally about ½ inch-⅝ inch long, with white to brownish coloring.
  • Drywood termites are the most common kind of termite to actually find inside your home, as they (as their name implies) create their colonies in dry wood structures. They can be anywhere from ⅜ inch to 1 inch long and a white to light brown color.
  • Formosan termites are similar to subterranean termites in their destructive ability, viciousness and aggression and in the fact that they build massive colonies underground that can reach into structural walls. They are a creamy white to brown color and about ½ inch in length.


Differences In Castes

Besides the queen termite, there are three distinct castes in a termite colony, and each one has a unique appearance.


Worker termites are soft-bodied and lighter in color. They are also the smallest members of a termite colony, doing all the work necessary to find food and care for the queen and the larvae.


Soldier termites are darker brown in color and have soft bodies like workers, but their heads and mandibles are larger and much harder than those of worker termites to allow for defensive capabilities.


Alate, or swarming, termites are dark brown to black in color, with harder bodies than workers or soldiers. This enables them to be exposed to the outdoors when they use their two pairs of long, equal-length wings to fly from the colony and find a suitable place to start a new colony. These termites have more well-defined body segments with straight abdomens and antennae.

Termite Lookalikes

Flying termites are often confused with flying ants. This is a distinguishment that a pest control professional can make. However, it is important to note that, unlike a termite, a flying ant’s front wings are bigger than its back wings, and flying ants have narrower waists and bent antennae.

Are Termites Visible to the Human Eye?

Termites can be seen by the naked eye, particularly the larger alate swarmers that are the most common type to see outside the colony. In fact, one identifying factor in a termite infestation is finding discarded wings near doors and windows. But even if a property owner happens across a colony of termites, they would be able to see any kind of termite that is in the nest.

Identifying Termites By Their Habitats

  • Dampwood termites may be found in moist habitats or in areas with water leaks, such as bathrooms and basements. They are most common on the Pacific coast, the southern part of Florida or the southwest United States.
  • Drywood termites may be found in drier environments, particularly the coastal, southeastern and southwestern parts of the U.S.
  • Subterranean and Formosan termites may be found in the ground near structures and other sources of wood. Subterranean termites live in every U.S. state but Alaska, and Formosan termites are often found in Hawaii, the Carolinas, Georgia, Virginia, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee and California.

Identifying Damage

Since termites eat the cellulose found in wood, you will find most damage in walls, ceilings and wooden furniture. Damaged structures may be sagging, and infested wood will sound hollow or feel brittle. You may find feces that resemble sawdust, along with mud tubes and shed wings. Termite damage often requires reinforcing wooden structures at best and completely replacing them at worst.

Professional Identification

A pest control professional will be able to identify if you have a termite infestation. At Dodson Pest Control, we know the level of property destruction that this pest can do and how to find them, and we will work hard to eradicate termites from your home if they are found. Contact us for a free inspection today!