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Worker subterranean termites
Clemson University / USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series,
Worker subterranean termites

Termites are social insects that live in large colonies, produce overlapping generations, and take care of their young collectively. They divide labor among workers, solders and reproductives. Subterranean termites nest in the soil and can attack structures by building tubes that connect their nest to wood in structures. Aerial nests can occur without a ground connection if all castes of the colony are present and moisture is available.

Subterranean termites are the most destructive insect pests of wood in the United States. They cause more than $2 billion in damage each year, more property damage than that caused by fire and windstorm combined.

In nature, subterranean termites also are beneficial. They break down many dead trees and other wood materials that would otherwise accumulate. The biomass of this breakdown process is recycled to the soil as humus.

Forest Service termite research in Southern Research Station was initiated in 1938 to focus on the biology and control of subterranean termites. Some of the research studies that began from 1946 to 1958 on the Harrison Experimental Forest are still in progress.

From 1971 to 2004, the Forest Service provided termiticide efficacy data for product registration and labeling. To learn more about the history of Forest Service termiticide test sites in Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, and South Carolina, read this publication by the Southern Research Station.

Information on current termiticide testing designed to develop, refine, and assess new and improved controls can be found on Insects, Diseases, and Invasive Plants.

Find research publications about termites on Treesearch.