Reticulitermes flavipes - Native Eastern Subterranean Termites
Reticulitermes species are found in every state in the U.S. except Alaska, but are most common in the warm and humid southeastern region (hello, Lower Alabama!).
Subterranean termites form a network of interconnected feeding sites beneath or above the soil surface. A single colony of subterranean termites, may contain 100,000 - 1,000,000 termites and forage up to 150 feet in search of food. When subterranean termites search for food aboveground, they may enter a house through small cracks or joints in the foundation, or by building shelter tubes along the foundation wall. These tubes are highways connecting the underground termite population with aboveground food sources.
Because termites consume cellulose, the main structural components of plant cells, any wood material in a house is a potential food source, but they may also damage non-wood material in search of food. Because termites rarely show themselves in the open, infestations can be difficult to detect until damage becomes severe. In addition to the presence of alates and shelter tubes, wood material can be probed with a screw driver or ice pick to locate infested wood. The surface of severely damaged wood may appear blistered or peeling, as termites hollow out the wood leaving a paper-thin surface.
Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki - Formosan Termites
Coptotermes formosanus, is the most widely distributed and most economically important termite. The Formosan subterranean termite (FST) acquired its name in Taiwan in the early 1900s, but C. formosanus is probably endemic to southern China. As of 2010, the distribution of FST in the United States includes Alabama, California (an isolated infestation in San Diego County), Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.
A single individual of the FST does not consume more wood than a single native subterranean termite, however, because of its large population size, a FST colony can cause more structural damage in a shorter time. The FST generally invades structures from the ground. They commonly enter through expansion joints, cracks and utility conduits in slabs. Any wood-to-ground contact is an inviting entrance for FST infestations. In some occasions, however, FST can form colonies that are not connected to ground, called aerial colonies. If a pair of alates successfully finds suitable conditions, i.e. adequate food and moisture sources in a building, they can initiate a colony with no ground connection. The flat roofs of high rise buildings, because they always pool rain water, are ideal places for the FST to initiate aerial infestations if portals of entry are found.