Up Close and Personal with Subterranean Termites in Southern California

Winged termite

A termite ready to fly and start a new colony! Credit: Derek Keats, Flickr

There is so much to love about living in Southern California, but the same beautiful weather that draws so many people to settle here also attracts two common types of termites: drywood termites and subterranean termites. Subterranean termites can be much more common than drywood termites and are much more destructive too. In fact, subterranean termites are, in large part, responsible for the estimated $1 billion in damage that termites cause in the United States per year.

If you want to start understanding what termite threats your home and property might face in Southern California, it a good idea to start with subterranean termites.

Introduction to Subterranean Termites

Subterranean termites don’t mean to destroy your house. In nature, they are actually quite helpful. They break down dead trees and other cellulose into nutrients for the soil. Unfortunately, they can live in huge colonies made up of thousands of termites, and if one of those colonies happens to be near your home, they could mistake your deck, your walls, even your wood furniture for breakfast.


Subterranean termites can be found in every state in the union except for Alaska. However, subterranean termites are known to enjoy warm, dry weather, which is why they thrive in Southern California.

How the Colony Works

Subterranean termites live in large colonies divided by castes. At the very top of the pyramid is the queen, which lays eggs. Below the queen are two other main castes – workers and soldiers. The workers make up the largest percentage of the colony and spend their days building tunnels, foraging for food, maintaining the existing tunnels, and grooming the queen. Soldier termites defend the colony from outside invaders like ants.

How to Tell if You Have Subterranean Termites

Even if you have an infestation of subterranean termites in your home, you may never know it. These guys are very small and like to stay hidden in their tunnels. If you do see them, it’s easy to mistake them for ants. The best chance to catch a colony of subterranean termites is during their swarming season. This is when winged termites leave the colony to start new colonies of their own. You may discover dead termites in your home or tiny, translucent wings, which the termites shed after the swarming season.

The best way to identify a termite infestation is to bring in a professional termite inspector.

Subterranean Termite Control

It is really important for you to identify whether you have a drywood or subterranean termite infestation, because different extermination methods work on different kinds of termites. Since subterranean termite colonies can grow large and develop extended networks, the smartest approach for subterranean termite control include bait stations and soil treatment.

If you live in San Diego or San Diego County and believe you might have a termite problem, contact Best-Rate Termite. We would be happy to send over a termite inspector to assess your property.