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At least one termite pest can be found in every US state except Alaska, and there are three types of termites, all of which can be found in the US. These types are known as subterranean, drywood and dampwood termites. Several factors make subterranean termites far more destructive to homes and buildings than drywood and dampwood termite pests. Drywood termite pest species are found only in the southern states where each colony is contained entirely within above ground wood items, such as logs, fallen branches, and dead portions of trees. Drywood termites also establish colonies in a variety of finished wood sources like structural lumber, furniture, pianos, and decorative wood paneling on the exterior walls of structures. While drywood termite pests are far more destructive than dampwood termite pests, only a small minority of all pest-related structural damage reported annually in the US results from drywood termite infestations.

The eastern subterranean termite (Reticulitermes flavipes) is the only termite pest found in Massachusetts, and unfortunately for those who own homes in the state, this species is the most destructive termite pest in the country. Unlike drywood termites, subterranean termites often establish extensive infestations almost exclusively within substructural woodwork in homes and buildings. Around 80 percent of all pest-related structural damage reported in the country each year results from subterranean termite infestations.

While mature drywood termite colonies contain only a few thousand individuals that constantly remain within wood, which serves as both their habitat and food source, subterranean termites live in large colonies that grow to contain between 50,000 and more than one million individuals. The vast majority of these individuals are workers, while the rest are soldiers, nymphs, and the royal pair. Older subterranean termite colonies also contain secondary reproductives and reproductive swarmers known as “alates.” Alates take flight from existing colonies during April and May in Massachusetts.

A large proportion of subterranean termite workers are constantly tunneling through soil in search of food, and only workers initiate infestations in wood. Contrary to popular belief, subterranean termites do not establish colonies within wood. In fact, workers travel anywhere from a few feet to more than 50 feet away from their colony’s nesting site in order to locate wood, and a subterranean termite colony may consist of several interconnected nesting sites that span an area as large as a city block. This is not the case when it comes to drywood termites, as only alates leave existing drywood termite colonies to initiate new colonies. If a drywood alate happens to initiate a new colony in structural wood, that new colony is considered an infestation.

Do you believe that Massachusetts sees a relatively high degree of termite damage?