Everything to Know About Termites in Florida

aerial view of florida with overlay of termite image

Welcome to the Sunshine State, where the warm weather and lush landscapes offer more than just a paradise for us humans. If you’re a Floridian, you know that the state is also a thriving hub for some less-welcome residents — termites. Luckily, this guide will tell you everything you need to know about termites in Florida.

We’ll explore the different types of termites that call this state home, detailing how they look and the unique characteristics that set them apart. But it’s not just about knowing your enemy; we’ll also discuss the telltale signs of termite infestation and how to effectively prevent and get rid of these pests.

Are There Termites in Florida?

The short answer is a resounding yes. With its hot and humid climate, Florida is a perfect haven for termites. These conditions, especially during the warmer months, create an ideal breeding ground for these wood-feeding insects.

South Florida, in particular, bears the brunt of termite infestations. This region’s tropical climate is especially conducive to termite activity, making it a hotspot within the state. 

This scenario highlights the importance of being vigilant in this state, with regular inspections and being proactive in termite prevention and control. As a result, you can protect your home’s integrity and safety from these relentless invaders.

Types of Termites in Florida

Florida is home to a diverse range of termite species, some of which are unique to the state and not found elsewhere in the United States. Therefore, understanding the different types of termites present in Florida is crucial for effective identification and control. 

Here’s a look at some of the key species:

  • Eastern subterranean termites (Reticulitermes flavipes): One of the most common species across the U.S., the eastern subterranean termite is notorious for causing serious damage. These termites build distinctive mud tubes to travel between their nest and food sources, because they offer them protection from predators and maintain a humid environment.
  • Formosan subterranean termites (Coptotermes formosanus): Known for their aggressive nature, Formosan termites are among the most destructive species. They are capable of forming massive colonies in a short amount of time, leading to rapid and extensive damage.
  • Asian subterranean termites (Coptotermes havilandi): Similar to the Formosan variety, the Asian subterranean termite can also cause severe damage in a relatively short period, especially if the colony is mature when it invades a structure. These termites build carton nests below ground.
  • West Indian drywood termites (Cryptotermes brevis): Also referred to as the powderpost termite, this species has lower moisture requirements compared to other termites. The West Indian drywood termite can infest both new and old wood, including hardwoods and softwoods, particularly those sheltered from rainfall.
  • Florida dampwood termites (Neotermes genus): Florida hosts various species of dampwood termites. These termites require high humidity and direct contact with water. Thus, they often infest wood that is exposed to leaks or rainfall, making them a distinct problem in areas prone to moisture issues.

What Do Termites Look Like in Florida?

graphic showing caste of termite
Photo Credit: Juan Rodriguez

Termites share common characteristics that make them identifiable. All termites possess a head, thorax, and abdomen, along with six legs, as is typical for insects. They have straight antennae, and in swarmers, a pair of equal-sized wings that they shed after swarming. 

Termites are generally between 1/8 to 1/2 inch long and have a notably thick “waist.” The color of termites in Florida varies widely, ranging from white to black, with shades of brown, orange, creamy white, and tan also common.

Here is what some of the key termites in Florida look like:

Eastern Subterranean Termite

eastern subterranean termites (Reticulitermes flavipes)
Photo Credit: Jeff Weidhaas, Bruce Terminix, Bugwood.org / CC BY-NC 3.0
  • Swarmers: These are the largest members within the colony, measuring about 3/8 inch in length. They are typically dark brown to black in color and shed their wings after they establish a new colony.
  • Soldiers: Approximately 1/4 inch in size and display yellow-brown coloration. They have large jaws to defend the colony.
  • Workers: Making up the largest caste in terms of population, the workers are about 1/8 inch long and are creamy white in color.

Formosan Subterranean Termite

formosan subterranean termite (Coptotermes formosanus)
Photo Credit: Gerald J. Lenhard, Louisiana State University, Bugwood.org / CC BY 3.0 US
  • Swarmers: Notably larger than their counterparts in other species, Formosan swarmers are about half an inch in length. They have a caramel to brown-yellow coloration, with their heads being darker than the middle part of their bodies.
  • Soldiers: These termites have an orange-brown hue and secrete a glue-like substance as a defense mechanism when disturbed. Additionally, their heads are oval-shaped.
  • Workers: Similar in size to workers of other termite species, they measure about 1/8 inch long. Their coloration ranges from white to off-white.

Asian Subterranean Termite 

Asian subterranean termites on a leaf
Photo Credit: Francisco Farriols Sarabia / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 4.0
  • Swarmers: These termites are dark brown and measure 1/2 to 3/5 inch in length, including the wings. Moreover, they have two light patches on their heads, called antennal spots.
  • Soldiers: Constituting about 10-15% of the colony, Asian termite soldiers bite when challenged. Similar to Formosan termites, they exude a glue-like substance when disturbed. Their heads are oval-shaped, and they measure around 1/5 inch.
  • Workers: Typically cream or white in color, these termites are smaller than the soldiers. Moreover, they are notable for their saw-toothed jaws.

West Indian Drywood Termite

group of West Indian drywood-termite
Photo Credit: Davidmoradelpozo / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Swarmers: These termites possess iridescent wings and bodies that are darker than those of workers and soldiers. Their body length is 1/4 inch or greater, and their antennae are beaded.
  • Soldiers: Soldiers of this species have dark and wrinkled heads, but the rest of their body is white or cream in color. Their body length is roughly 1/5 inch.
  • Workers: Workers are cream-colored and smaller than the soldiers. The color is uniform throughout their body, unlike soldiers of this species.

Florida Dampwood Termites

Dampwood termites cluster together
Photo Credit: Scheffrahn RH (2018)  / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 4.0

Common species in Florida include Neotermes castaneus, Neotermes jouteli, and Neotermes luykxi.

  • Swarmers: These termites are notable for their wings, which feature five pigmented and enlarged veins, giving them a distinctive appearance. Their colors vary from reddish-brown to reddish-orange, and they range in size from 1/2 to 5/8 inch.
  • Soldiers: There is a variation in size among soldiers within the same colony, ranging from 1/3 to 1/2 inch. They have two visible teeth on their mandibles.
  • Workers: The workers are cream-colored, similarly to workers of other termite species.

Signs of Termites in Florida

Identifying termite infestations early is crucial in minimizing damage. In Florida, where termites are a common issue, it’s important to recognize the signs that indicate their presence so you can call a professional termite exterminator as soon as possible. 

Here are some key signs of a termite infestation to watch out for:

wings fallen off termites
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  • Discarded wings: Often found near windowsills or doors, discarded wings can be a telltale sign of a termite infestation. These wings can be iridescent, with noticeable veins, or other characteristics, depending on the termite species.
  • Frass: This is the term for termite droppings, which dampwood and drywood termites often leave behind. They look like small, wood-colored pellets or sawdust.
different types of termite tubes
Photo Credit: Juan Rodriguez
  • Mud tubes: Subterranean termites create mud tubes for travel and protection. These pencil-sized tubes are usually found near the foundation of a home.
  • Uneven or bubbling paint: This can indicate moisture beneath the surface, which may be caused by termites.
grayish film on a damaged wood floor
Photo Credit: Ethen Dell / Canva Pro / License
  • Sagging floors or ceilings: Termites can cause structural damage, leading to sagging in floors and ceilings.
  • Clicking sounds inside walls: Soldier termites make a clicking sound when disturbed, which can be heard within infested walls.
  • Hollow-sounding wood: When tapped, wood that has been damaged by termites will often sound hollow due to parts of it being eaten away.
termite holes on wood texture
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  • Holes in wood: Small holes in wood structures can indicate termite activity. During mating season, swarmers will use these holes to go establish another colony.
  • Visible termite galleries: Sometimes, you can see the galleries (or tunnels) termites have created in wood, often visible in exposed wood, such as in attics or basements.

When Do Termites Swarm in Florida?

Swarming is a natural phenomenon in the termite life cycle, where mature winged termites, known as termite swarmers, leave their colony to start new colonies. This event is a key indicator of a potential termite infestation and is crucial for termite reproduction. 

Termite season in Florida varies depending on the termite species:

  • Eastern subterranean termites: These termites swarm from November through May, typically during daylight hours.
  • Formosan termites: Known for their destructive capabilities, Formosan termites swarm from March through June, predominantly at night. 
  • Asian subterranean termites: Similarly to their Formosan counterparts, these termites swarm from March through May, usually at dusk or night. 
  • West Indian drywood termites: Swarming for these termites occurs from April through June, also primarily at night.
  • Florida dampwood termites: These termites have a broader swarming window, from late spring to early winter. They typically swarm at dusk or night.

How to Get Rid of Termites in Florida

Eradicating termites in Florida is a challenging task, primarily because these pests often inflict damage in hidden areas, such as inside wood structures and beneath your home’s foundation. 

Due to the complexity and potential risks associated with termite control, you should not attempt DIY solutions but enlist the services of a professional instead. 

Here are some common methods to get rid of termites that professionals use:

  1. Liquid termiticides: This method involves creating a chemical barrier around the house. Pros apply liquid termiticides in the soil around and under the structure to prevent termites from accessing the building. As a result, this barrier can repel termites, or attract them, acting as bait, depending on the type.
anti termite baiting station
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  1. Termite bait stations: Bait stations use an attractant to lure termites. These stations contain an insecticide that termites carry back to their colonies. This method is effective in gradually reducing and eventually eliminating the colony, as the poison spreads through the population.
termites tenting on a house
Photo Credit: Bill Oxford / Canva Pro / License
  1. Termite tent fumigation: Reserved for extreme infestations, tent fumigation involves covering the entire house with a tent and introducing a gas fumigant. This gas penetrates all areas of the home, eradicating even the most hidden termites. 
  1. Heat treatments: Heat treatments involve raising the temperature of the infested area to a minimum of 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This extreme heat is lethal to termites but is safe for most home structures. Thus, it’s a chemical-free and environmentally friendly option.
  1. Localized treatments: For small and localized infestations, pros might opt for the use of liquid nitrogen, injecting it into the galleries, and freezing termites. Another approach involves the use of electrocution or microwaves that overheat termites, killing them.

The choice of treatment depends on several factors, including the type of termite infestation, the extent of damage, and the specific characteristics of your home. Therefore, a professional will assess these factors to determine the most effective and safe treatment plan for your situation, sometimes using a combination of methods.

How to Prevent Termites in Florida

In Florida, where termites are a common concern, prevention is key to avoiding the costly damages these pests can cause. Hence, implementing effective preventive measures can help keep your home safe from termite infestations. Here are some essential steps to consider:

home inspector looks for termites
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  • Annual termite inspections: Have a professional conduct annual termite inspections to detect and address early signs of infestation.
  • Ensure proper ventilation: Good ventilation in crawl spaces and attics helps to reduce moisture buildup, which is attractive to termites.
repairman seals crack in the wall
Photo Credit: Kurgu128 / Canva Pro / License
  • Regular maintenance of foundation and walls: Inspect and maintain your home’s foundation and walls. Seal any cracks or breaches to prevent termites from entering.
  • Store firewood and lumber away from the House: Keep firewood away at least 20-30 feet from your home, as well as lumber and other wooden materials, to avoid attracting termites.
  • Repair leaks and improve drainage: Fix any leaks in your plumbing system promptly and ensure your property has proper drainage to minimize moisture, which termites need.
worker cleans gutters
Photo Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region / Flickr / Public Domain
  • Alter outdoor lighting: Switch to yellow bug lights for outdoor lighting to reduce the attractiveness of your home to Formosan termites, because they are drawn to light.

Termite Distribution in Florida

Florida, with its warm and humid climate, is a hotspot for a wide variety of termite species, making it one of the most termite-prone states in the U.S. This is particularly true for South Florida, where the tropical climate creates an ideal environment for these wood-destroying pests. 

Now, let’s delve into the specifics of termite distribution in various regions of Florida, according to the University of Florida:

Termites in South Florida

The distribution of different termite species across South Florida varies, each having its own preferred habitat and range. Here’s how they are spread across the region:

  • Eastern subterranean termite: This species is found throughout the entire state of Florida.
  • Formosan subterranean termite: Similar to the eastern subterranean termite, the Formosan variety is also widespread throughout the state.
  • Asian subterranean termite: Their presence mostly concentrates along the southeast coast of Florida and the Florida Keys, ranging from West Palm Beach to Key West. 
  • West Indian drywood termite: This species is prevalent throughout South Florida, including major cities such as Fort Myers, West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Miami, and the Florida Keys. 
  • Florida dampwood termites: These termites are primarily located in South Florida’s coastal areas, with a distribution pattern similar to that of the Asian subterranean termites. 

Termites in Central Florida

In Central Florida, the distribution of termites shows some variation in species presence and concentration. Here’s how they are spread across this region:

  • Eastern subterranean termite: As with other parts of Florida, this termite species is found throughout the state, including Central Florida. 
  • Formosan subterranean termite: Also present throughout the state.
  • Asian subterranean termite: There have been reports of this termite species in South Tampa.
  • West Indian drywood termite: This species is present throughout Central Florida, including major cities such as Tampa, Lakeland, and Orlando. 
  • Florida dampwood termites: Florida dampwood termites may also be found in coastal areas of Central Florida, albeit less frequently.

Termites in North Florida

North Florida doesn’t have the bad luck of having as many species of termites as Central and South Florida, but there are still some termites to look out for:

  • Eastern subterranean termite: This species is found throughout the state, including North Florida, with a significant presence in the Florida Panhandle. 
  • Formosan subterranean termite: Like the eastern subterranean termite, the Formosan variety is also present throughout Florida.
  • West Indian drywood termite: In North Florida, there have been a few confirmed sightings of this species in cities such as Tallahassee, Gainesville, and Jacksonville. 

Note: While the list provided here focuses on the most prevalent and relevant termite species in Florida, it is not exhaustive. The state is also home to other termite species, such as the conehead termite (Nasutitermes corniger), which, although less common, can still pose a threat to properties.

Cost of Termite Treatment in Florida

The cost of termite treatment in Florida can vary widely, with most homeowners spending between $275 to $863, and the average cost hovering around $558. This variation in cost is influenced by several factors, such as the size of the infestation, the type of termites present, and the chosen method of treatment.

For instance, one common and effective method for severe infestations is tenting, which involves fumigating the entire house under a sealed tent. Tenting a house for termites costs $1 to $4 per square foot, or $10 to $20 per linear foot.

FAQ About Termites in Florida

How Often Should I Get My Home Inspected for Termites in Florida?

It is recommended to have your home inspected for termites annually by a professional inspector. Due to Florida’s climate, which is conducive to termite activity, regular inspections are crucial. 

A professional inspector will thoroughly assess your home for any signs of termite activity, including those areas that might not be immediately visible to the untrained eye. Termite inspections cost between $65 and $265.

How Do You Prevent Termites When Building a New Home in Florida?

When building a new home in Florida, implement termite prevention measures during the construction phase, even before structural components are added. New construction termite treatments are an effective approach to safeguard the property from the outset. 

These treatments typically involve applying termiticides to the soil to create a chemical barrier that deters termites. Alternatively, professionals can strategically place bait stations around the construction site to control termite populations. Another option is the use of physical barriers, such as stainless steel mesh.

How Bad Are Termites in Florida?

Termites are a particularly significant problem in Florida, largely due to the state’s warm and humid climate, which creates an ideal environment for these pests to thrive. Florida is home to a diverse array of termite species, each with its own unique characteristics and level of threat to structures. 

The state’s favorable conditions for termites promote their survival and proliferation and lead to Florida having one of the highest risks of termite damage in the United States.

Calling a Termite Exterminator

The threat posed by termites in Florida is a serious concern due to the state’s climate and the presence of various termite species. 

From identifying the signs of an infestation to understanding the different types of termites and their respective treatments, homeowners in Florida need to be vigilant and proactive.

Act now to keep your Florida home termite-free by calling a professional termite exterminator near you. They’ll have the knowledge, tools, and experience to deal with your pest problem effectively.

Main Image Credit:
Background: Sean Pavone / Canva Pro / License
Termites: ApisitWilaijit / Canva Pro / License

Maria Isabela Reis

Maria Isabela Reis is a writer, Ph.D. candidate, and plant enthusiast from an area where mosquitoes are as relentless in their pursuit of blood as she is in her quest for knowledge. When she’s not swatting away these buzzing annoyances, she’s playing with her dogs and savoring a cup of tea.