Everything to Know About Termites in Arizona

group of termites on soil

Termites are among the most widespread and important urban pests in Arizona. Three types of termites inhabit the state: subterranean, drywood, and dampwood. In this article, we’ll detail everything you need to know about termites in Arizona, including photos, the seven most important termite species in the state, and how to prevent and fight against them.

Are Termites Common in Arizona?

Termites are not only common in Arizona, but subterranean termites are the most common urban pest in the state. There are 18 termite species currently found in Arizona, but only seven are economically significant. 

Types of Termites in Arizona

The three main types of termites in Arizona are subterranean, drywood, and dampwood termites. Now, let’s talk about the seven species that fall under these three termite types.

Subterranean Termites

graphic showing Subterranean Termites in a house
Photo Credit: Juan Rodriguez

Subterranean termites live underground and rely on the soil to provide the moisture they need to survive. To reach a food source above ground (also known as your house), they construct mud tubes. Four subterranean termite species can infest homes in Arizona:

Arid-Land Subterranean Termites on sand
Photo Credit: Andrey Zharkikh / Flickr / CC BY 2.0
  • Arid-land subterranean termite (Reticulitermes tibialis)
  • Desert subterranean termite (Heterotermes aureus)
  • Wheeler’s desert termite (Amitermes wheeleri)
  • Tube-building desert termite (Gnathamitermes perplexus)

Out of the four, the desert subterranean termite (Heterotermes aureus) is considered the most destructive and is the number one urban pest in Arizona. Arid-land subterranean termites can also cause structural problems, while Wheeler’s termites and tube-building desert termites are not considered economically significant pests.

Drywood Termites

Drywood termites closeup
Western drywood termite (Incisitermes minor)
Photo Credit: Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

Drywood termites nest in dry wood that is not in contact with soil. Their presence is often hard to notice because they don’t build mud tubes. Two drywood termite species are important pests in Arizona:

  • Dark western drywood termite (Incisitermes minor)
  • Light western drywood termite (Marginitermes hubbardi

Dampwood Termites

Dampwood termites also nest in soil but prefer to feed on dead, moist wood. The desert dampwood termite (Paraneotermes simplicicornis) is the only one in its group considered a pest in Arizona, but only in certain situations. In general, dampwood termites are not a cause of concern in the state but can infest lumber exposed to rain or in contact with damp soil.

A curious note: The desert dampwood termite is actually in the family Kalotermitidae, the family of drywood termites. So, technically, the desert dampwood is a drywood termite that lives underground and loves moist wood.

What Do Termites Look Like in Arizona?

illustration showing termite and ant illustration
Photo Credit: Juan Rodriguez

Often called “white ants,” termites are easily confused with ants. But there are some key differences one can notice when looking at ants or termites. Here’s what you can notice in the swarmers (or winged adults):

  • The antennae: Termites have two straight antennae, while ants have an “elbow” in their antennae.
  • The wings: Termites’ wings are about the same size, while ants have large front wings and short hind wings.
  • The waist: Termites have a broad waist, while ants have a “pinched” waist.

Identifying termites among species by visual characteristics is difficult even for specialists. But looking at the swarmers (also called alates) and soldiers can help differentiate one type of termite from another:

  • Subterranean termites: Subterranean alates are smaller in size than other termite types in Arizona, reaching about 3/4 inch in length without wings and up to 1 inch with wings. The tube-building desert alates reach 3/4  inch in length with wings. 

    The desert subterranean termite alate is yellowish and the arid-land subterranean alates range from dark brown to black. Mud tubes are a tell-tale sign that subterranean termites are around.
  • Drywood termites: Drywood termites are smaller than dampwood termites and larger than subterranean termites, with alates reaching 1 inch in length with wings and 1/2 inch without wings. 

    The dark western termite alates have a characteristic reddish head and dark, smoky wings. Their soldiers are even larger than the alates and have large, orange-to-brown heads with visible mandibles. The light western drywood termite presents a lighter color and can tolerate higher temperatures and drier conditions.
  • Dampwood termites: Swarmers of the desert dampwood termites have dark brown wings and bodies. Soldiers are yellowish-brown, have flat heads, and are approximately 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch in length.

A complementary way to identify termite types is by looking at the signs of their activity, which we’ll discuss in the following section.

Signs of Termites in Arizona

side by side image of some termite holes and peeling paint by termites
Photo Credits
Termite Holes: ogichobanov / Canva Pro / License
Peeling Paint: Whiteway / Canva Pro / License

Detecting early signs of termite activity can be decisive when it comes to termite control. Be attentive to these signs if you suspect termites are in your home: 

  • Holes in wood
  • Hollow-sounding wood
  • Peeling paint 
  • Warped floorboards 
  • Swarming termites coming from inside your home
  • Piles of disposed wings on the floor or in windowsills

Identifying the type of termites infesting your home is equally important, as the treatment options will depend on the termite species. Try to notice these tell-tale signs:

  • Subterranean termites construct mud tubes running up walls or coming out of the ceiling (the latter are called drop tubes).
  • Drywood termites leave behind frass or fecal pellets that resemble sawdust or ground pepper. They usually leave their droppings near the “kick-out” holes they make on infested wood to dispose of their waste.

How to Prevent Termites in Arizona

side by side images of a man doing termite inspection and a man fixing leaking pipes
Photo Credits:
Termite Inspection: GEOLEE / Canva Pro / License
Fixing Pipes Leakage: Alexander’s Images / Canva Pro / License

As the popular saying teaches: It is better to be safe than sorry. When it comes to termite control, nothing could be more accurate, as the most important step in termite management is prevention. 

To prevent termites and subsequent termite damage, the University of Arizona recommends homeowners follow these guidelines:

  • Inspect your home for termites twice a year. Contact a pest management company to perform a termite inspection for you once or twice a year, depending on how severe are termites in your area. 
  • Prevent moisture inside the home structure. Fix any leakages or drainage problems.
  • Keep your home’s foundation dry. The attic also needs to be well-ventilated.
  • Screen attic vents with fine mesh and seal any cracks to prevent swarmers from entering your home.
  • Remove or protect wood from direct contact with soil. 
  • Remove tree stumps and keep plants at least two feet away from the outside walls of the house. Install irrigation systems at a good distance from your home’s structure.

How to Treat Termites in Arizona

a man installing termite bait station
Photo Credit: Business / Canva Pro / License

Even after taking every step to prevent termites, nothing guarantees you won’t fall victim to a termite infestation. If you detect signs of termite infestation in your home, your first option should be to contact a trusted pro

Here are some of the ways professional termite control services can help you get rid of termites in Arizona:

  • Drywood termites are treated in Arizona, as well as other parts of the U.S., with fumigation (for large or whole-structure infestations). With small infestations, removing the infested item is also possible. This could be an option if termites infest a piece of furniture, for example. Wood injections, heat treatments, or surface electrocution are other methods used against drywood termites.
  • Subterranean termites are commonly controlled with liquid barrier treatments, spot control, or bait stations. Bait stations are effective in reducing the foraging termite workers, but some say they will not necessarily eliminate the entire colony on their own. 

    However, termite baits are overall regarded as a good termite control method and can be especially helpful when combined with liquid treatments.

    Since some termite baits are commercially available, baiting stations can be a less expensive way to treat subterranean termites in Arizona. However, DIY termite control is not recommended. Whether using liquid treatments or termite baits, it is always best to count on a pro with the required knowledge.
  • Dampwood termites rarely infest homes in Arizona but can become a problem occasionally. They are primarily treated by controlling moisture sources (such as leaking pipes), injecting infested wood with liquid termiticides, or removing the infested piece of wood and replacing it with a new one. 

And how often should you treat your home for termites? Well, it depends on how severe your infestation is. Once the treatment is done, the ideal is to keep taking preventive measures and using preventive treatments against termites as needed. You can also invest in a termite bond, which guarantees yearly inspections and curative treatments if a colony is found.

Areas Affected by Termites in Arizona

Termites live throughout Arizona, but their distribution can vary according to their habitat preferences:


Two termite species are found statewide in Arizona: 

  • The arid land subterranean termite is found statewide, from Yuma to Page. They are the most common pests in Flagstaff and Northern Arizona.
  • The tube-building desert termite is also found throughout the state but is extremely common in the Sonoran desert.

Southern Arizona

And what types of termites live in the southern portion of Arizona? Well, at least six termite species can be found in Southern Arizona:

  • The desert dampwood termites and the dark western drywood termites are distributed throughout the desert southwest of Arizona.
  • The Wheeler’s termite and the light western drywood termites are also found in southern Arizona.
  • The desert subterranean termites and tube-building desert termites are most likely to be found in the Sonoran desert region.

Central Arizona

Three termite species are common in Central Arizona: 

  • The arid land subterranean termite and the tube-building desert termite are found statewide (which includes Central Arizona).
  • The light western drywood termites are distributed in desert areas of Central and Southern Arizona, at latitudes below 4,000 feet, from Phoenix to Tucson.

When are Termites Most Active in Arizona?

Termites are active almost all year round in Arizona but tend to increase in activity during the warmer months. Residents are bothered the most by the flying termites in Arizona during their swarming season. 

And when is the swarming season for termites in Arizona? Well, it depends on the species:

  • Dampwood termites swarm from late May through September, usually at dusk.
  • Drywood termites swarm from June through September, typically during daylight hours.
  • Arid land subterranean termites have two flight seasons: one during winter, and the other during summer. At altitudes above 4,000 feet, they will swarm in the summer, in June and July. In the hot and arid areas below 4,000 feet, they swarm in fewer numbers, from late winter to spring (from January to March).
  • Desert subterranean termites swarm at dusk during the monsoon season, from July to September.

FAQ About Termites in Arizona

Why are Termites so Bad in the Arizona Desert?

Termites are abundant in the Arizona desert because they feed on cellulose materials, and the desert offers them an easy dinner. Shrubs, grasses, trees, cactus skeletons — all of these are primary food sources for the termites in the Sonoran desert area. 

Because they are responsible for breaking down most of the plant material in the desert, termites are considered to play a vital role in this ecosystem.

How Deep Do Termites Tunnel in Arizona?

Subterranean termites can tunnel 18 to 20 feet deep in the ground, where they build their nests. Drywood termites can tunnel across the wood grain, establishing themselves deep inside wood structures. 

How to Treat Mesquite Trees for Termites in Arizona?

Desert subterranean termites love feeding on mesquite trees, and so does the tube-building desert termite (although the damage caused by the latter is mostly cosmetic). Ideally, call a pro to correctly identify the termites infesting the tree. Tube-building termites are not considered pests and should not be treated unless they are found inside your home.

A pro can take the following steps to treat a termite-infested tree:

  • Prune dead branches
  • Set bait stations near the tree.
  • Spray the trunk and base or inject the tree with liquid insecticides.

Find a Pro Near You

Got termites? Don’t panic. Pest Gnome connects you with the best termite control pros in Arizona. Get in touch today and schedule a visit so a competent pro can help keep your home safe from termite infestations. 

Main Image Credit: VincentEOS / Canva Pro / License

Teresa Joaquim

Teresa is a creative writer who holds a Master's degree in Psychology. Despite being a nature lover, she is terrified of cockroaches. As a native of the tropics, she is used to dealing with mosquitoes, although they still manage to bother her. Her favorite things are art, music, and playing with her two cats.