The eastern subterranean termite is the most economically damaging of all termite species is the United States. This is due to this species’ wide distribution, which covers the entire eastern US, and many states west of the Mississippi River. These termites also dwell within highly populated colonies that can contain anywhere between several thousand to well over one million individual termites. Today, the total cost of termite damage and control exceeds 5 billion dollars per year in the US alone, and much of this money can be attributed to eastern subterranean termite pest issues. In 1983, the total cost of termite control in nine US states amounted to 570 million dollars, 470 million of which was used to control the eastern subterranean termite. In many southeastern states, eastern subterranean termites are being displaced by invasive Formosan subterranean termites, but in the northeast, the eastern subterranean termite dominates the landscape where their claim to territory is not challenged by any other termite species. In urban and suburban areas of the northeast, eastern subterranean termite colonies are abundant below structures, and it is likely that most properties have at least one colony located below the ground.
Most eastern subterranean termite colonies are isolated, but a significant minority of colonies are interconnected. Several studies have found that eastern subterranean workers may forage only 5 to 10 feet from their colony. This small foraging territory makes sense considering that workers make an effort to avoid encountering other workers from different colonies that are located only several feet apart. However, workers are capable of foraging over distances the size of a football field. One study found that workers traveled between 16 and 46 meters over a two month period within an urban region, and most workers traveled over 30 meters. This same study also found that the foraging area of workers amounted to 285 square meters. Another study found that an interconnected series of colonies spanned 79 meters to cover a foraging area of more than 1,000 square meters in a metropolitan area in the northeast. To put it simply, eastern subterranean termite workers have no problem finding houses to infest.
Have you ever found termite damage on a dead tree or fence post on your property?