Eastern Subterranean Termites: What You Should Know About These Hungry Pests

You work hard to keep your home clean and in good repair. You may keep a careful eye out for decay or damage, and you take the time to maintain the exterior surfaces of the house.

But while it’s easy to spot water leaks, scratches and scrapes, there is one pest that can quickly damage your home without you knowing. Eastern subterranean termites can covertly chew their way through your walls, leading to structural and other damages.

Even though they’re small, eastern subterranean termites can cause a lot of damage to a single home. Over 600,000 homes are damaged by these termites every year with total damages adding up to over $1.5 billion.

But how can you determine if termites are feeding on your walls? And what kinds of damages can you expect? Read on to learn more about these tiny pests and what you should do in the face of an infestation.

Where are Eastern Subterranean Termites in the US?

Eastern subterranean termites are the most common species of termite in the United States, and they live and thrive in more than half of the country. They are generally more common in the eastern half of the United States, especially in New Jersey.

What Kind of Damage Can Termites Do?

Termites are the most destructive pest in the nation.  Fortunately, extensive termite damage doesn’t happen overnight, but because termites work quietly, you may not notice what’s happening until it’s too late. Termites can essentially hollow out boards and other timbers, leaving only a weak shell behind. Your home, fence, deck, and other wood structures can lose their structural integrity as termites continue to tunnel their way through any wood they can find.

What Does a Termite Colony Consist Of?

Believe it or not, not all eastern subterranean termites look the same. These termites actually have three castes to keep a colony strong and still increase the termite population. The three termite castes are the reproductive, soldier, and worker castes.


In the reproductive caste, you find the queen, king, and alates. The queen and king’s roles are much like those in many other insect colonies, and they focus on growing the colony while other termites wait on them hand and foot. The queen is the largest member of the colony, and she can lay over 2,000 eggs every day for the good part of 25 years.

The alates are considered “swarmers,” and unlike the other members of the colony, they have wings. Alates fly away from their original colony to try and start their own colony. Eventually, they’ll find a place to touch down and shed their wings and find a mate. If they successfully start a colony, they become the king and queen of the new colony. However, the alates have a tough job and rarely succeed.


The soldiers do exactly what their name implies. They defend the colony from intruders, such as ants, using large, strong pincers to crush their enemies. Compared to the worker caste, there aren’t a lot of soldiers in the colony, and because they can’t feed themselves, they have to rely on the workers for any kind of sustenance.


The worker caste makes up most of the colony, and these termites have a lot of chores within the colony. Workers are expected to collect food, feed the other castes, build and repair the nest, tunnel, care for the young, and groom other termites.

How Do You Determine if You Have a Termite Infestation?

Most of the time, the human ear can’t hear termites munching through the walls. However, you may occasionally hear the sound of paper rustling when termites burrow close to the outside of the wall, and you can sometimes hear a dry rattling sound when termites bang their heads on the sides of the tunnel to communicate.

However, if you knock on the wall and it sounds hollow, it could be termites.  You’ll also want to look for dirt-colored tubes on the exterior of wood boards or structures. Termites create these tubes for extra passageways, and they can be found on woodwork, wall studs, cellar walls, or wooden posts.

Sometimes, you may spot the alates, or swarmers, around your property. If you notice several within a short period of time, you likely have a termite infestation on your hands.

How Should You Handle an Infestation?

If you suspect you have termites in your walls or other structures, call a professional pest control service, such as Cavanaugh’s Termite & Pest Services. We can carefully investigate a potential infestation and determine the best treatment for your situation. Don’t wait for termites to chew through your home; give us a call today to schedule an appointment.