Dozens of termite species have been documented as inhabiting the United States, and with the possible exception of Alaska, termite pests that attack the structural wood of homes and buildings can be found in every state. Most termite species in the country belong to one of three groups known as subterranean, drywood, and dampwood termites, and pest species from each one of these groups can be found in Texas. Historically, experts were under the impression that only subterranean and drywood termite pests attacked structures in Texas, but multiple studies have conclusively shown that a species of dampwood termite pest can be found in the state. This pest is commonly known as the Arizona dampwood termite (Zootermopsis laticeps), and it swarms in and around El Paso every year from June to August.
While the desert dampwood termite is known for being the largest termite species in North America in terms of body size, the damage this pest inflicts to structural and decorative woodwork is considered insignificant, and they can only be found in the far southwestern portion of Texas. Many reliable sources state that the desert dampwood termite (Paraneotermes simplicicornis) species inhabits the southwestern and south central regions of the country from the southern California coast all the way to the Gulf Coast. While pest control professionals and urban entomologists refer to this pest as the “desert dampwood termite,” it should be known that this species is technically a drywood termite, though its taxonomic identity is in need of revision.
Like all dampwood termite pests, the desert dampwood termite is not a particularly destructive pest of sound structural lumber due to the species’ reliance on excessively moist and decayed wood to avoid dessication. However, these termites frequently establish costly infestations in utility poles, wood fences, subflooring in old homes, and decaying wood components of sheds, porches, and outbuildings. Homeowners living in areas of Texas where desert dampwood termites are prevalent refer to the pests as “rotten wood termites.”
The most destructive and economically costly termite pests in Texas are subterranean termite pests of the Reticulitermes genus, which includes eastern subterranean termites (Reticulitermes flavipes), the arid-land subterranean termite (R. tibialis), the light southern subterranean termite (R. hageni), and the dark southern subterranean termite (R. virginicus). All of these subterranean termite species can be found throughout Texas. The invasive Formosan subterranean termite (Coptotermes formanosus) can also be found in Texas where they are particularly prevalent and destructive to homes and buildings located along the Gulf Coast.
Have you ever spotted a seasonal termite swarm consisting of unusually large-sized winged termites known as “alates”?