More than a dozen termite species dwell within the arid and semi-arid southwest US region. These termites are mostly subterranean species, but a few drywood species have also established a habitat within the region. Termites are the most well known of the few insect groups that consume wood. Considering that termites inflict billions of dollars in damage annually within the US alone, it should not be lost on anyone that termites are destructive to timber-framed homes and some species inflict damage to tree species as well. The high cost of termite damage certainly does not make termites endearing creatures, but if there is one termite species dwelling within America that is worth being spared the hate that so many people feel toward termites, then it would definitely be the Gnathamitermes tubiformans, or the desert termite, as they are more commonly known. Although these termites dwell within Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, they are particularly abundant within the expansive grassy savanna region of western Texas.
Unlike most termite species within the US, desert termites are not structural pests. In fact, desert termites don’t even consume wood, if that can be conceived; instead, desert termites consume both living and dried forms of vegetation, mostly grass and legumes. Desert termites are notable for consuming massive amounts of grass, far more than livestock consume within the state. Amazingly, during this species’ most active period from May through September in Texas, up to six percent of shortgrass grazeland can become covered in carton tubes created by these termites. These carton tubes become particularly abundant during dry seasons and on areas of overgrazed land. Although desert termites are certainly not structural pests, they can reduce the amount of food available to livestock. Desert termites can also be a nuisance to homeowners in residential and rural areas of Texas, as their seasonal swarms can become overwhelming and can occur within homes. For example, residents of Lubbock were forced to endure long periods of heavy desert termite swarming activity during the summer of 2017.
Do you know of any other termite species that is considered harmless to structures in the US?