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Most subterranean termite species that are pests of structural wood in the US belong to the Reticulitermes genus. Termite pest species in this genus include western subterranean termites (Reticulitermes hesperus) found in the western coastal states, arid-land subterranean termites (R. tibialis) found in most western states, dark southern subterranean termites (R. virginicus) found in the south and southeast, and light southern subterranean termites (R. hageni) also found in the south and southeast. The most widespread, destructive, and economically costly subterranean termite species in the country is the eastern subterranean termite (R. flavipes) and along with the invasive Formosan subterranean termite (C. formanosus) found in the Gulf Coast states, the above listed termites are responsible for 80 percent of the more than five billion dollars in termite-related structural damages reported in the US annually.

The dark southern subterranean termite’s habitat distribution extends all the way up to the southern border of Connecticut, but it cannot be found in Massachusetts. The eastern subterranean termite is the only pest of its kind found in Massachusetts, and they live in colonies containing between 50,000 to as many as two million individual termites. Initially, subterranean termite colonies are contained within one below ground nest, but the largest eastern subterranean termite colonies are divided into several sub-nests, all of which form an interconnected network of nests that surround the original primary nest where the queen and her eggs permanently reside. One eastern subterranean termite colony that has matured for several years can be composed of many nests that span an area larger than a football field, and these decentralized colonies likely exist below a number of urban and suburban areas in Massachusetts. However, as long as cellulose-rich bits of wood and other forms of plant matter are prevalent below the ground, subterranean termite workers will not be motivated to seek out above-ground structural wood within homes.

Have you ever witnessed swarming termites (alates) emerging from the ground?