South Florida Termite Identification Guide for Homeowners

March 3, 2022
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A drywood termite searches for food on the ground.
For proper pest treatment in Florida, termite identification is the first step.

South Florida homeowners are rightly concerned about the threat posed to their homes by storms, floods, and fires. Yet, one tiny pest does more damage to structures in Florida than all of those natural disasters combined—termites. 

The danger of a termite infestation is more perilous to homeowners in our region because home insurance policies don’t cover the cost of repairing the damage done by these insects. Good construction and regular maintenance can reduce the threat of termites, but the best way to keep these wood-eating pests at bay is by partnering with a trained and licensed pest control professional.

The first step in determining whether termites are present in or around your home is knowing how to spot them. This guide to Florida termite identification explains the distinctive characteristics of the termite species that are active in the region and that pose a threat to your property.

Florida Termite Identification: Facts and Figures

There are 21 different species of termites present in Florida, although only a handful of them cause damage to wooden structures. Six of those termite species are invasive, which is more than any other state. The termites that South Florida homeowners need to be concerned about are placed in four categories based on their lifestyle and habitat, which are:

  1. Subterranean termites include two native species and three invasive types. The natives are the
    Eastern subterranean termite (scientific name Reticulitermes flavipes) and the Cuban subterranean termite (Prorhinotermes simplex). The invasive species in this category are the Formosan (Coptotermes formosanus), Asian (Coptotermes gestroi), and West Indian (Heterotermes) subterranean termites.
  2. Drywood termites in the area are one of three types: Florida Drywood termites (Cryptotermes cavifrons) are native, while West Indian Drywood termites (Cryptotermes brevis) and Western Drywood termites (incisitermes minor) are invasive.
  3. Florida Dampwood termites (Neotermes castaneus) are a native species.
  4. Higher termites include the Florida Darkwinged subterranean termite (Amitermes floridensis) and the Conehead termite, which is also called the tree termite.
A graphic displaying Florida termite identification between Drywood termites and Subterranean termites.

How to Identify Different Types of Termites in South Florida

The two types of termites that are most likely to damage homes in South Florida are Subterranean termites and Drywood termites

Subterranean termites come up from the ground to feed on wood and can be voracious. While they prefer soft or damp wood, they’ll also feed on dry hardwood. These termites measure from about 0.3 inches to a half-inch long and are either dark brown (native) or yellowish-brown (Asian and Formosan). They generally stay out of sight and aren’t noticeable until their annual flights of winged termites, which are called alates.  

The damage done by Subterranean termites usually doesn’t become apparent until it is severe. The termites tend to nest where damp wood meets soil and build mud tubes between the ground and the wood. 

Drywood termites feed on hardwood such as window sills, door frames, and furniture. They are about 0.3 inches long and are pale brown or tan in color. These termites are sometimes called powderpost termites. They are easier to spot than Subterranean termites because of the feces they leave behind, which resembles sand, sawdust, or pellets. Drywood termites begin to swarm at dusk as the rainy season arrives in April and runs through July.

Tips for Detecting a Termite Infestation in Your Home

As Drywood termites swarm in search of a place to establish a colony, they bore into wood and leave behind small piles of debris called frass. These are among the methods used to detect Drywood termites:

  • Listen for the clicking sounds the termites make as they communicate with each other.
  • Watch for sand-like pellets or small piles of dust on window sills and other wood that indicates a “kick-out” hole that the termites use to eject waste.
  • Knock on the wood with a hard object such as the end of a screwdriver and listen for a hollow sound compared to the solid sound you would expect to hear.

In addition to looking for the mud tubes that are characteristic of Subterranean termites, the best way to spot these pests on your property is by watching for swarmers and the wings that the swarmers have shed. Unlike Drywood termites, Subterranean termites feed on building insulation and cellulose in plants along with wood.

A finger pointing to a mudtube helping with south florida termite identification
Mud tubes are a dead giveaway of the presence of Subterranean termites.

Getting Started With Nozzle Nolen

In addition to avoiding the conditions that attract termites to your property, the best way to put your mind at ease about the possibility of termites damaging your home is by contacting an experienced pest control service such as Nozzle Nolen and asking for a free evaluation. The trained specialists at Nozzle Nolen spot the presence of termites and craft a treatment plan that’s customized to your needs.

Nozzle Nolen has provided expert pest control services to South Florida residents for more than seven decades. If you suspect termites are in your home after reading this Florida termite identification guide, give us a call at 800.226.6536 or Contact Us. We look forward to serving you.   

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