For Service & Free Quote CALL 386-767-7451

Eastern Subterranean Termites in Florida: Biology, Lifecycle, Impact, and Control

Jack Carter was in for a whirlwind Saturday adventure. Determined to tackle his long-neglected garage, he embarked on a mission to conquer the towering stacks of boxes that had become permanent residents. As he waded through a sea of dusty old photo albums, forgotten sports gear, and relics of outdated gadgets, a wave of nostalgia washed over him. It was a trip down memory lane, but the task was daunting—one he had masterfully avoided for years.

Midway through relocating a particularly heavy box marked “Winter Clothes,” something caught Jack’s eye. The wooden shelf beneath had an odd, sandy texture. Intrigued, he leaned in for a closer inspection. The wood disintegrated at his touch, revealing a labyrinth of tunnels. His heart plummeted.

“Termites,” he whispered, a chill running down his spine. He had heard the horror stories of the destruction these minuscule monsters could wreak, but he had always hoped his home would be spared.

Understanding Subterranean Termites

What Are Subterranean Termites?

Subterranean termites are a type of termite that lives and builds colonies in the soil. They are among the most destructive termite species, causing significant damage to wooden structures and other cellulose-based materials. These termites are known for their ability to construct extensive underground tunnels, which they use to forage for food and establish their colonies.

What Do Subterranean Termites Eat?

Subterranean termites primarily feed on cellulose, a complex carbohydrate found in wood and other plant materials. Their preferred food sources include:

  • Wooden structures such as beams, flooring, and framing in homes and buildings.
  • Fallen trees, stumps, and decaying wood.
  • Paper products, cardboard, and plant debris.
  • Roots and other plant matter.

Their ability to digest cellulose enables them to break down wood, which can lead to severe structural damage if an infestation goes unchecked.

What Do Subterranean Termites Look Like?

Subterranean termites vary in appearance depending on their caste:

  • Workers: Creamy white to grayish in color, wingless, and about 1/8 to 3/8 inch long. They are responsible for foraging, feeding, and maintaining the colony.
  • Soldiers: Similar in size to workers but have larger, darker heads with powerful mandibles. They defend the colony from predators.
  • Reproductives (Alates): Winged termites that are dark brown to black and about 1/4 to 1/2 inch long. They have two pairs of wings of equal length and are responsible for starting new colonies.

How Can Homeowners Tell If They Have Subterranean Termites?

Homeowners can look for several signs indicating a possible subterranean termite infestation:

  1. Mud Tubes: Subterranean termites build mud tubes (also known as shelter tubes) to travel between their colony and food sources. These tubes protect them from predators and maintain a moist environment. Look for mud tubes on exterior walls, foundation slabs, and other surfaces.
  2. Wood Damage: Termites eat wood from the inside out, often leaving a thin veneer of wood or paint on the surface. Tap on wood structures and listen for hollow sounds, which can indicate internal damage.
  3. Swarmers: Winged reproductives (alates) swarm during certain times of the year, typically in the spring. Seeing a swarm of flying termites or finding discarded wings near windows, doors, or light sources can be a sign of an infestation.
  4. Frass: Although less common with subterranean termites, sometimes you may find small piles of termite droppings (frass) near infested wood. Subterranean termites typically use their droppings to build their tunnels, so finding frass is more common with drywood termites.
  5. Damaged Wood or Paint: Bubbling or uneven paint, blistered wood, or visible tunnels in wood can be signs of termite damage. Termites often leave a honeycomb pattern inside the wood.
  6. Structural Issues: Doors and windows that are hard to open, floors that feel spongy or weak, and sagging ceilings or walls can all be signs of severe termite damage.

Subterranean termites are a significant threat to wooden structures due to their diet of cellulose and their ability to go undetected for long periods. Homeowners should be vigilant and regularly inspect their property for signs of termites. If an infestation is suspected, it is crucial to contact a professional pest control company, like Dave’s Pest Control, to confirm the presence of termites and implement appropriate treatment measures. Early detection and intervention can prevent extensive damage and costly repairs.

Eastern subterranean termites (Reticulitermes flavipes) are among the most destructive termite species in the United States, particularly in Florida, where the warm and humid climate provides an ideal environment for their proliferation. Understanding their biology, life cycle, preferred food sources, and the extent of their impact is crucial for effective management and prevention of termite infestations.

Preferred Food Sources

Eastern subterranean termites primarily feed on cellulose, a complex carbohydrate found in wood, paper, and other plant-based materials. They prefer wood that is in contact with soil, as it provides them with the moisture necessary for survival. Common food sources include:

  • Wooden structures of homes, including framing, flooring, and support beams.
  • Fallen trees, stumps, and decaying wood.
  • Paper products and cardboard.
  • Plant debris and mulch.

These termites are known for their ability to forage over large areas and find even the smallest wood-to-soil contacts, making nearly any wooden structure susceptible to infestation.


Eastern subterranean termites are social insects living in colonies that can number in the hundreds of thousands. The colony is divided into distinct castes, each with specific roles:

  • Workers: Sterile, wingless, and blind, workers are the most numerous caste. They forage for food, maintain the nest, and care for the young.
  • Soldiers: Sterile and wingless with large mandibles, soldiers defend the colony against predators, primarily ants.
  • Reproductives: This caste includes the king and queen, who are responsible for reproduction. There are also secondary reproductives that can take over if the primary pair dies.

Life Cycle

The life cycle of eastern subterranean termites begins with a nuptial flight, typically occurring in spring when winged reproductives, or alates, swarm to mate and start new colonies. After mating, the male and female pair shed their wings and become the king and queen of the new colony. The queen lays eggs, which hatch into larvae. These larvae undergo several molts, developing into workers, soldiers, or secondary reproductives based on the colony’s needs.

A termite colony matures over several years. The queen’s egg-laying capacity increases with age, potentially reaching thousands of eggs per year, allowing the colony to grow exponentially. Mature colonies can produce alates, which leave to form new colonies, perpetuating the cycle.

Impact on Homes in Florida

Florida’s conducive climate for termites results in significant property damage each year. Eastern subterranean termites are responsible for the majority of termite-related damage in the state. According to industry estimates, termites affect thousands of homes annually in Florida, causing property owners to spend millions of dollars on repairs and pest control.

Management and Prevention

Effective management of eastern subterranean termites involves a combination of prevention and treatment strategies:

  1. Inspection: Regular professional inspections are crucial for early detection. Signs of infestation include mud tubes along foundations, hollow-sounding wood, and swarming alates indoors.
  2. Soil Treatment: Termiticide treatments create a chemical barrier in the soil around the foundation, preventing termites from entering the structure. These treatments can be either liquid or bait systems.
  3. Wood Treatment: Wood treatments with termiticides can protect wooden structures from termite damage.
  4. Moisture Control: Reducing moisture around the home by fixing leaks, ensuring proper drainage, and maintaining gutters can make the environment less attractive to termites.
  5. Physical Barriers: Installing physical barriers, such as stainless steel mesh or sand barriers, can prevent termites from accessing wood structures.

Dave’s Pest Control and Sentricon Termite Stations

Eastern subterranean termites pose a significant threat to homes in Florida, driven by their biology, lifecycle, and preferred food sources. Understanding these factors is essential for effective management and prevention. Homeowners must remain vigilant and proactive, employing a combination of regular inspections, soil treatments, and moisture control to protect their properties from these destructive pests. With proper management, the impact of eastern subterranean termites can be mitigated, safeguarding homes and reducing the financial burden of termite damage.

Sentricon: An Effective Solution for Controlling Subterranean Termites

What is Sentricon?

Sentricon is a termite baiting system designed to eliminate subterranean termite colonies and protect homes from infestations. Developed by Dow AgroSciences, Sentricon uses a scientifically proven method to target and destroy termite colonies at their source. The system is widely regarded for its effectiveness, environmental safety, and non-intrusive installation process.

How Sentricon Works

  1. Installation: Sentricon stations are installed around the perimeter of a home. These stations contain cellulose-based bait that termites find highly attractive.
  2. Baiting Process: The active ingredient in the bait is an insect growth regulator (IGR) called noviflumuron. When termites consume the bait and share it with their colony, it disrupts their molting process, leading to the gradual elimination of the entire colony.
  3. Continuous Monitoring: Pest control professionals regularly monitor the Sentricon stations to ensure termites are feeding on the bait. If termites are detected, the bait is replenished to maintain effective colony control.
  4. Colony Elimination: Over time, as termites continue to consume the bait, the IGR spreads throughout the colony, eventually leading to its collapse. The Sentricon system remains in place to provide ongoing protection against future termite infestations.

Swarming and Termite Mating

Swarming: Swarming is a natural part of the subterranean termite lifecycle. During swarming season, usually in the spring or after a warm rain, winged reproductive termites (alates) leave their colony in large numbers to mate and establish new colonies. This swarming behavior is often the first visible sign of a termite problem for homeowners.

Mating and Colony Formation: After a nuptial flight, male and female alates shed their wings and pair off. They then seek out a suitable nesting site, typically in soil, where they will start a new colony. The mated pair, now king and queen, begin producing offspring. Initially, the queen lays only a few eggs, but as the colony matures, her egg-laying capacity increases significantly. The colony grows as the queen lays more eggs, which develop into workers, soldiers, and new reproductives over time.

The Role of Water and Moisture in Termite Infestations

Water and Moisture: Subterranean termites require moisture to survive, and they are attracted to environments where water is readily available. Excessive moisture around a home can create ideal conditions for termites to thrive and establish colonies. Here are some common ways moisture can contribute to termite infestations:

  1. Leaky Pipes and Faucets: Water from leaky pipes and faucets can seep into the soil, creating a moist environment that attracts termites.
  2. Poor Drainage: Inadequate drainage around a home’s foundation can lead to water accumulation, which provides the moisture termites need.
  3. Clogged Gutters: Gutters clogged with leaves and debris can cause water to overflow and pool around the foundation, increasing the risk of termite infestation.
  4. Humid Crawl Spaces and Basements: High humidity levels in crawl spaces and basements can create conditions conducive to termite activity.

Preventing Moisture-Related Infestations:

  • Fix Leaks: Repair any leaky pipes, faucets, or fixtures promptly to prevent water accumulation.
  • Improve Drainage: Ensure proper grading and drainage around the foundation to divert water away from the home.
  • Clean Gutters: Regularly clean gutters and downspouts to prevent water buildup.
  • Ventilate Crawl Spaces: Use ventilation and dehumidifiers to reduce humidity levels in crawl spaces and basements.

The Sentricon system is a highly effective and environmentally friendly solution for controlling subterranean termites and protecting homes from infestations. By understanding the swarming behavior and mating process of termites, homeowners can better recognize the signs of an infestation and take proactive measures to prevent it. Addressing moisture issues around the home is also critical, as termites thrive in damp environments. By combining the use of a professional pest control company like Dave’s Pest Control using Sentricon, and with proper moisture management, homeowners can significantly reduce the risk of termite damage and maintain a healthy, termite-free home.

Call us today for a free estimate for your home, business, or condominium.

If you see one more bug, call Dave’s!


Scroll to Top