Eastern Subterranean Termite


Actual Size: 10 mm

Characteristics: Brownish-black to black body, translucent milky wings.

Legs: 6

Antennae: Yes

Wings: Yes

Habitat: Lives in the ground and builds mud tubes to access homes. In structures, can be found in interior walls, basements, crawl spaces, and damp areas.


  • Considered the most damaging termite species in the United States.
  • Termites consume cellulose, the main structural component of plant cells.
  • Over $5 billion in damage and treatment costs to properties in the U.S. annually.

Eastern Subterranean Termites in Iowa

The eastern subterranean termite is a social insect and the most common and widely distributed termite in North America. Due to its wide distribution, it is considered the most economically important and damaging species in the U.S. Termites consume cellulose, the main structural component of plant cells. Any wood material in a home is a potential food source, but it may also damage non-wood material in search of food. Termites rarely show themselves in the open, and infestations can be difficult to detect until the damage becomes severe.

Eastern Subterranean Termite Habitat

Eastern subterranean termites live in the ground and feed on plant materials. In structures, they live in walls, basements, crawl spaces, and other damp areas. Termites swarm in the spring to find a mate. Winged termites are attracted to light and will swarm around doors and windows. After fluttering about for a short time, the termites break off their wings and pair off, becoming king and queen of a new termite colony. A common sign of termites is the presence of mud tubes, inside or outside of a home. Termites make these earth-colored tubes primarily as a protected runway from the earth to the wood they feed upon. 

Eastern Subterranean Termite Behaviors, Threats, or Dangers

Because termites consume cellulose, any wood material in a house is a potential food source. Termites are secretive, and when termite damage becomes evident, it is usually the result of a few years of infestation. The presence of swarming termites or their wings alone is a sure sign that termites are working in a building. Winged termites are often confused with winged ants; however, most species of ants in the house are only nuisances and, except for carpenter ants, they do not damage the wood. Always contact your local termite exterminators for help with eastern subterranean termite problems.