Everything to Know About Termites in Texas

large group of termites

Termites are an expensive problem, costing Texans millions in property damage every year. Texas homeowners may not love the scorching summer temperatures, but the hot climate is precisely why termites love living in the Lone Star State. In this guide, we’ve compiled information on everything you need to know about termites in Texas.

We’ll explain how to deal with different termite species, what identifying signs of termites you should look out for, and how to treat a termite infestation.

What Do Termites in Texas Look Like?

Within a colony, termites fill three different roles, or castes, each of which has a distinct appearance:

graphic showing caste of termite
Photo Credit: Juan Rodriguez
  • Workers are the most common type of termites. They forage for food, build tunnels, and take care of the young.
  • Soldiers protect the workers from predators. Ants are a common threat to termites. Termites from another colony can also be a threat.
  • Swarmers are the flying termites in Texas. They are also known as alates or reproductives and are the only termites with wings. A swarmer’s job is to leave the nest during swarming season, mate, and start a new colony. Every colony has one king and one queen. 

While termites vary in appearance depending on their caste role, there are some shared physical traits that all termites have:

graphic showing anatomy of a termite
Photo Credit: Juan Rodriguez
  • 2 straight antennae
  • 6 legs
  • Bodies segmented is a head, thorax, and abdomen
  • Straight waist
  • Most termites are eyeless; only winged termites have eyes
  • Soldiers have mandibles, or sharp, protruding jaws
  • Reproductives have 2 pairs of wings (all the same size)

Knowing basic termite anatomy will help you determine whether your home is facing a termite problem. Termites can be easily mistaken for other types of insects, so be careful to properly identify termites correctly before you treat them. Choosing the right treatment depends on proper pest identification. 

Types of Termites in Texas

Everything’s bigger in Texas, including the number of termites. The hot, humid climates in Southern states provide the ideal conditions for termite colonies to thrive, making Texas a hot spot for these voracious wood-eaters. 

That means bad news for Texans. Termites live throughout the state, but they are most prevalent in the Southern states, especially in the coastal areas. The most common (and destructive) types of termites found in Texas are the subterranean and drywood species.

Subterranean Termites

Map of relative hazard of subterranean termite infestations in the US
Photo Credit: USDA Subterranean Termites — Their Prevention and Control in Buildings

Some termite species build nests high above the ground. Not subterranean termites. These tunneling termites burrow underground, building nests in the soil where they can access the moisture that the colony needs.

Even though they live in the earth, they are still a nuisance, as they create mud tubes leading straight inside your home. Subterranean termites live in the dirt outside and snack on the wood inside. 

Subterranean termites actually have a beneficial aspect to them, since they break down cellulose into nutrients that are beneficial for the environment. Even so, the downsides of subterranean termites outweigh the benefits. 

Subterranean termites on ground
Native subterranean termites (Reticulitermes virginicus)
Photo Credit: Gerald J. Lenhard, Louisiana State University, Bugwood.org / Wikipedia / CC BY-SA 3.0

Species of Subterranean Termites in Texas:

Appearance:

  • Workers are cream or white with slightly translucent skin.
  • Soldiers are a pale cream or light brown color. They are distinguishable by mandibles and large heads, which are a dark honey-brown color. 
  • Swarmer coloration is either black or dark brown. Their wings are white.

Size:

  • Workers can grow up to 1/4 inch long.
  • Soldiers are about the size of a worker, about 1/4 inch.
  • Swarmers measure 3/8 to 1/2 inch long, including the length of their wings.

Swarm Season:

  • Subterranean termites swarm in the spring.
  • They swarm South Texas during January and February.
  • In the Texas Panhandle, the swarm season runs from April to May.
  • In Austin, native subterranean termites swarm from February through March.
  • Formosan termites in Texas swarm in the evening or at night in the month of May.
  • Eastern subterranean termites swarm from February to March.

Treatment Methods:

  • Baiting systems
  • Termiticide

Drywood Termites

As the name suggests, drywood termites are attracted to dry wood. Unlike subterranean termites, drywood termites don’t need access to soil moisture to survive. They get the moisture they need from the wood they eat.

Drywood termites are one of the trickiest types of termites to detect since they can hide away in the walls without ever showing a trace that they’re there. Unlike most termite species, drywood termites don’t build mud tubes, which are easy to spot, but they do often leave piles of frass (termite droppings), which are a tell-tale sign. 

Drywood termites can be found all over the state of Texas, but they are most common in areas along the coast, according to Texas A&M.

Species of Drywood Termites in Texas:

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

Appearance: 

  • Workers are creamy or grayish white. Their heads are white or yellow. 
  • A drywood soldier’s body is also creamy white. Soldiers have squarish heads that are darker than the rest of their bodies, usually a yellowish brown color. Soldiers can be distinguished from other termites by their mandibles, which are sharp jaws used to fight predators. 
  • Swarmers have reddish, honey-colored bodies draped with colorless wings. Their wings can also be brown.

Size: 

  • Workers are 3/8 inch long.
  • Soldiers are 5/16 inch long.
  • Swarmers are 3/8 inch long, including wings.

Swarm Season:

  • Late summer to early fall.
  • Southeastern drywood termites swarm at night in the early spring.
  • Western drywood termites swarm during the day in the summertime.

Treatment Methods: 

  • Borate
  • Electrocution
  • Freezing
  • Fumigation
  • Heat treatment
  • Remove infested wood
  • Termiticide

Dampwood Termite

closeup of Dampwood termites
Pacific dampwood termite (Zootermopsis angusticollis)
Photo Credit: Judy Gallagher / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Dampwood termites are attracted to moisture and humid, wet climates. They nest in damp or rotting wood. Like drywood termites, dampwood termites don’t need contact with soil to survive. They do need a moist environment to live in, though. 

Luckily, dampwood termite colonies have smaller colony populations than other types of termites. This also means that they aren’t as destructive. It doesn’t mean they should be ignored though. Over time, dampwood termites can still cause big problems.

An interesting thing about dampwood termites is that they are bigger in size than drywood and subterranean termites.

Species of Dampwood Termites in Texas:

  • Arizona dampwood termite (Zootermopsis laticeps)

Appearance:

  • Workers are a light brown color. They have a small set of mandibles. 
  • Soldiers have light yellow-brown bodies and a honey-brown head. They prowl around with elongated black mandibles
  • Swarmers are a yellowish brown color. They have dark brown wings.

Size: 

  • Workers are 5/8 inch long
  • Soldiers are 3/4 inch long
  • A king and queen dampwood termite can measure about 1/2 to 5/8 inch long.

Swarm Season: 

  • May to September. 

Treatment Methods:

  • Eliminate sources of moisture in the yard
  • Remove infested wood
  • Termiticides

When Do Termites Swarm in Texas?

Springtime brings bluebonnets and other Texas wildflowers popping up in prairies and along highways. The bad news is that springtime also brings termites, since that’s when the termite swarming season begins.

Swarming season starts in January and goes on until April. In some cases, it can last until July. Termite activity is at its peak during the spring and summer months. Swarming typically occurs on a warm day right after a rainfall.

What Termites Eat

Termites in Texas are abundant. But these pests didn’t come for the barbeque; termites have an appetite for cellulose instead. It’s bad luck that the food sources termites often seek are the wooden components in your house. But keep in mind that termites eat any number of cellulose-containing wood or paper objects around your home:

  • Baseboards
  • Cardboard
  • Furniture
  • Paper
  • Planks of wood
  • Structural components

Signs of Termites in Texas

All homeowners are weary of finding termites in their homes, which is why it’s necessary to know what signs to look out for. 

Signs vary depending on the termite species, but there are common signs of termite infestations that Texan homeowners should be aware of:

  • Discarded termite wings: Once a pair of swarmers mate, they lose their wings. Discarded wings are commonly found near entry points, in cobwebs, or inside light fixtures. 
  • Dead swarmer termites: You might find the bodies of winged termites lying near entryways such as near a windowsill or doorway. 
  • Mud tubes: These termite tubes usually appear as thin brown ridges or streaks running along a wall or other surface. 
  • Termite droppings: Termite poop is known as frass. Some mistake it for sawdust, since the powdery substance is the color of the wood that termites eat. Termite droppings are usually found at the base of a wall, on top of baseboards, or on windowsills.
  • Clicking sounds: Termites make clicking sounds that you might hear coming from the wall. 

Don’t panic if you discover termites in your home. It takes about three to eight years for termites to wreak severe damage on a house. If you give your house a routine termite checkup, you should be able to catch a termite colony early on before they have a chance to do significant damage. 

Signs of Termite Damage

Here are a few signs that termites are doing damage in your home:

  • Peeling paint: Paint that is blistering, bubbling, or peeling might be a sign of termites.
  • Holes in wooden surfaces: Termites chew holes through wood, resulting in tiny termite pinholes in the drywall or baseboards.
  • Crumbling baseboards: When baseboards crumble to dust at the slightest touch, a likely explanation is that termites ate away at them until almost nothing was left.
  • Wood sounds hollow: If the walls sound hollow when tapped, the wood might have been eaten away.
  • Sagging floors: Termites bring moisture into the home. It might cause floors to warp or sag. Sagging drywall can also be an indication of termites.
  • Windows or doors are hard to open: Structural damage might cause doors or windows to get stuck or be challenging to operate.

Even if none of these signs appear in your home, you may still have a termite problem. Known as silent destroyers, termites are difficult to detect, so it’s necessary to get a professional termite inspection for your home once a year.

How to Get Rid of Termites in Texas

When a termite infestation is discovered in your home, you should hire a licensed professional to get rid of the termites as soon as possible. 

A termite control professional will be able to identify the type of termites species in your house. From there, a pro will advise you on what is the best method to treat the infestation in your house.

Below is a list of some of the termite control methods that homeowners can expect termite control companies to use to get rid of the pests in your home.

Baiting Stations

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

Termite bait stations are loaded with cellulose laced with insect growth regulators (IGRs). IGRs stunt the termites’ growth, which eventually kills them. Here’s how they work:

  1. Termite bait stations are set out around the property, about 10 feet apart. 
  2. Once the workers find the bait, they bring it to the nest. 
  3. The termites consume the bait, which poisons and eventually kills them. 

The downside of this treatment is that it takes no small amount of time and patience. A pest control pro will regularly check the bait stations to see how they are doing.

Borate

Borate, also known as boric acid or borax, is a chemical that kills termites through dehydration. It can be applied to the colony’s nest or to termite trouble spots. It can also be used to dust entry points where there is termite activity. 

Electrocution

Licensed professionals are trained to use special electrocution devices to send electric shocks into a termite nest. These electric shocks kill all termites within 2 feet.

Freezing

Termites aren’t much for extremes. While they can tolerate moderate temperatures, they can’t handle extreme heat or cold.

One temperature treatment method is freezing, which uses liquid nitrogen on infected areas. It exposes termites to freezing temperatures of -15 degrees Fahrenheit. The wood or other infected structures should be exposed to this temperature for at least 5 minutes. Extended exposure to such frigid temperatures will ultimately kill the termite nest and is only effective as a localized (vs. a whole structure) treatment.

Fumigation

termites tenting on a house
Photo Credit: Bill Oxford / Canva Pro / License

Fumigation is also known as termite tenting, since it involves erecting a tent around your house before pumping fumigant gas into your home.

Fumigation is the most effective termite treatment. However, it is also the most intensive and expensive method. It is a very involved process:

  1. All inhabitants inside the house must vacate the premises. House plants also need to be moved. This treatment takes three to five days.
  2. A tent is erected around the house.
  3. Fumigant gas is pumped into the home.
  4. The fumigant gas leaks into every crack and crevice. It will kill the termites behind the walls.

Once the termites are dead, the treatment is finished. Although fumigation is a very effective way to exterminate termites, it is advised to use it only as a last resort for severe infestations when no other treatment is feasible.

Heat Treatment

Heat treatments expose the walls of your home to the intense temperature of 120-140 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes or more. The extreme heat roasts the termites.

The problem is that a heat treatment exposes not just the termites but the house itself to extreme heat. Follow the pest company’s home preparation instructions to avoid harming the house or the items within.

Microwaving is another form of heat treatment. Specialized microwave tools can be used to roast termites at 700 watts. While a microwave termite treatment is eco-friendly and avoids the use of chemicals, it is not effective for severe termite infestations.

Remove Infested Wood

Termites can infest furniture or wooden objects. Drywood termites are particularly likely to hide in furniture. They hitch a ride on a new bookshelf or wooden cabinet that homeowners unwittingly carry into their home.

If furniture is how termites infiltrated your house, you need to remove any infested furniture immediately. All furniture must be treated before you take it back inside.

To avoid unintentionally bringing termites into your home, all new wooden furniture should be carefully inspected before it is brought inside. All outdoor furniture should also be made of treated wood to prevent termite infestations.

Termiticide

Termiticides are a specialized insecticide that specifically targets termites. They contain a termite-killing chemical such as chlorfenapyr, fipronil, and imidacloprid. Termiticides come in liquid, granular, or foam forms. They can be used in a variety of ways:

  • Spot treatments. Termiticides are applied to hot spots where termites travel or gather food.
  • Drilling treatments. Sometimes, drilling a hole in the wall or another structure is necessary to reach the termite population. Once a hole is drilled, termiticides can be applied directly on to the nest or infestation. 
  • Soil drenching. Drenching the soil with liquid termiticides acts as a preventive or curative chemical barrier. This termite protection is especially effective for subterranean termites, which nest in the ground.
  • Construction pre-treatments. Some homes are treated for termites before construction even begins. This involves drenching the foundation and surrounding soil of the house, creating a chemical barrier that will keep termites off of the property. 

How to Prevent Termites in Texas

termite inspections by a worker
Photo Credit: GEOLEE / Canva Pro / License

The only thing better than getting rid of termites is making sure you never get them in the first place. There are several precautions and preventative measures that homeowners can take to prevent termite damage and keep termites away from their homes. 

Get a Termite Inspection

Make sure your home gets an annual termite inspection by a certified professional. This will allow homeowners to detect signs of termites early on. Due to Texas’s high levels of moisture and humidity, it’s critical that Texans make sure their homes stay up to date on termite inspections. 

Termite inspections may seem like a hassle and an unnecessary expense, but they can save homeowners hundreds or thousands of dollars on termite damage repairs. After all, the sooner a termite infestation is detected, the less the damage there will be.

Lawn Maintenance

Mowing the lawn may not get rid of a termite colony. However, what good lawn maintenance practices can do is help with termite prevention.

Here are some lawn care tips you can follow to stop termites from getting near your home:

  • Don’t overwater the lawn. Proper watering practices and drainage is important. Any pooling water on your lawn will attract termites.
  • Fix leaky faucets. Any leaking faucets or pipes need to be repaired. Otherwise, the dripping water will draw termites to your yard.
  • Clean the gutters. Trees provide relief and shade from the hot sun, especially in Texas where the heat is unbearably hot. But they also leave a mess on your roof. Termites shelter in the leaves and debris that get stuck in the gutters, so routinely clean your gutters.
  • Mow the grass. Trim your grass to a recommended height. Regular lawn mowing keeps your grass healthy, and healthy grass reduces the chance of lawn diseases and pests.
  • Remove tree branches. Clear away sticks and tree limbs in the yard. Fallen tree branches can be a tasty source of food for the nuisance insects.
  • Don’t use wood mulch. Termites might resort to using wood mulch as a food supply. Rubber mulch or gravel both work great as alternatives to wood mulch.
  • Eliminate sources of standing water. Yards can contain many sources of water. Remove pet water bowls that are outdoors, fix leaky faucets, and resolve any drainage issues in your yard.
  • Store firewood properly. Firewood should never be in contact with soil. Store it in a container where it isn’t touching the ground at least 20-30 feet away from your house.

Seal Cracks

Termites can infiltrate even the smallest cracks and crevices, since they need an opening only as thick as the edge of a business card. Use caulk to seal up any openings. Spray foam termiticides can also be used to block cracks and stop termites from entering your home. 

Where Do Termites Live By Region in Texas?

We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but no place in Texas is fully safe from the gnawing appetites of these minuscule wood-eating pests. Termites are prevalent throughout the state.

However, Texas is a big state, and the types of termites homeowners are likely to find in their homes varies depending on the part of the state.

Termites in Central Texas

Homeowners living in Central Texas have to deal with three types of termites:

  • Drywood termites
  • Formosan subterranean termites
  • Native subterranean termites

Termites in North Texas

If you’re wondering what type of termites live in North Texas, homeowners can expect to deal with subterranean termites and especially Formosan termites, which are the most common termites in North Texas.

Here are the kind of termites found in Dallas, Texas:

  • Eastern Subterranean termites
  • Formosan subterranean termites
  • Native subterranean termites 
  • Drywood termites

Termites swarm in the spring in North Texas, particularly in February through March. In the Texas Panhandle, the swarm season lasts from April to May. When the weather starts warming up and there is a lot of rain, it’s an indication that termite swarming season is soon to follow.

Termites in South Texas

Bad news for Southern Texans: Termites love coastal areas the best. That means that cities near the Gulf of Mexico are hit the hardest by termites each year. Termites in South Texas begin swarming in early spring and the swarming season lasts until late summer.

Types of termites in San Antonio and Houston:

  • Subterranean termites are the most common in San Antonio. They swarm in February to April, whenever the weather starts warming up. Formosan termites swarm in May. 
  • Western drywood termites swarm in late spring and early summer.
  • Arizona dampwood termites swarm from May to September.

Drywood termites in Texas are most heavily concentrated along the coast. They are common in humid, coastal climates such as Houston and Corpus Christi. In South Texas, subterranean termites swarm in January through February. 

Termites in East Texas

Formosan subterranean termites are prevalent throughout East and Northeast Texas. Eastern subterranean termites are found throughout Texas, but they are the most common in East Texas. Drywood termites are also found in East Texas. 

The coastal portions of East Texas have the highest levels of termite activity, since termites love humid, hot environments with a lot of moisture. 

Termites in West Texas

Termites aren’t as prolific in West Texas as they are in the Eastern and Southern hemispheres of the state. However, subterranean, drywood, and dampwood termites are all found in the Western side of Texas. Arizona dampwood termites have been spotted in the El Paso area. 

How Much Does It Cost to Get Rid of Termites in Texas?

The cost of termite treatments varies depending on how severe the infestation is, what treatment method is used, and what type of termite is being treated. But the average cost to get rid of termites is $558, with prices ranging from $275 to $863.

Texas homeowners should also schedule an annual termite inspection to ensure there aren’t any termite infestations in their home currently. Typically, termite inspections cost $65 to $265

Just keep in mind that preventative measures are important, since termite damage repairs cost $550 to $3,000. Think your homeowners policy has you covered? Think again. In most cases, homeowners insurance won’t cover termite damage.

FAQ About Termites in Texas

What Counties in Texas Have Formosan Termites?

Formosan subterranean termites are one of the most prevalent termite species in Texas. Formosan termites are found in multiple counties in the state, including:

  • Anderson
  • Angelina
  • Aransas
  • Bexar
  • Brazoria
  • Brazos
  • Cameron
  • Chambers
  • Collin
  • Colorado
  • Comal
  • Dallas
  • Denton
  • Fort Bend
  • Galveston
  • Gregg
  • Harris San
  • Hays
  • Henderson
  • Hidalgo
  • Jefferson
  • Johnson
  • Liberty
  • Nacogdoches
  • Orange
  • Polk
  • Rockwall
  • Patricio
  • Smith 
  • Tarrant
  • Travis
  • Washington

Should You Buy a House with Termites?

It depends on the level of infestation, but don’t rule out buying a home just because it has a termite problem. Termites can be treated, so buying a home with termites may still be worth it. Just make sure you have the seller cover the expenses for the termite treatment and repairs. 

Is It Safe to Live with Termites in the House?

Yes, it is safe to live in a house with termites. Termites aren’t like bed bugs: They rarely bite people, and their mouths are so small that the bite isn’t very noticeable. Additionally, termites aren’t disease-carrying insects, so they won’t spread infectious diseases. However, they can worsen respiratory problems such as asthma or allergies.

Do Termites Go Away On Their Own?

Termites do not leave on their own. Termites stay in an area as long as there is a food supply. To get rid of termites, homeowners must take action and choose an effective termite treatment to exterminate the infestation in their home.

Treat Your Termite Problem Today

Texas is home to a lot of cool things, like the Alamo and Big Bend National Park. One not-so-great thing about Texas is the termites. Luckily, there are many different ways to treat these wood-eating pests. Now that you know everything about termites in Texas, you’ll be able to spot signs of an infestation in your home and plan out an effective termite treatment.

Whether you need to treat an active infestation or to implement preventative measures against termites, find a local termite control company today.

Main Image Credit: smuay / Canva Pro / License

Danielle Gorski

Danielle Gorski lives with her family in Texas. She has a degree in Professional Studies and a minor in marketing. Her hobbies include reading, drawing, and writing.

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