Subterranean termites are the most common type of termites that infest homes. They are found throughout the United States, but more typically in warmer climates. These termites need moisture to survive. They are closely associated with the soil, where they typically construct an underground nest or a series of interconnected nests, hence the name "subterranean termites." Soil serves as a source of moisture that helps protect termites from the drying effects of air. It also shields termites from predators (ants, birds, lizards, etc.) that feed on them. Subterranean termites excavate narrow tunnels through the soil, creating a network through which they can travel very long distances to reach food. They also transport soil above ground to construct mud tubes and to line their feeding galleries in wood.
Subterranean termites are social insects that live in nests or colonies in the soil. Termite colonies are organized into castes depending on tasks - workers, soldiers, and reproductive (swarmers). The characteristics of a subterranean termite are dependent on the termite's role in the colony. Cream-colored worker subterranean termites are flattened, relatively small (1/8 to 3/8 inch in length), coal black to pale yellow-brown in color, and have pale or smoke-gray to brown wings. Soldier subterranean termites have cream-colored bodies, brown heads, are of a similar body length, but are distinguished by their powerful jaws. Swarmers have straight, bead-like antennae, a thick waist and a pair of long, equal-length wings that break off easily.