What Do Household Termites Look Like?

By Lizard

When you think of home invaders, termites might not be the first thing that comes to mind, but they are among the most destructive. These silent destroyers cause billions of dollars in structural damage globally every year, often going unnoticed until significant damage has occurred. 


Understanding how to identify termites is essential, as early detection can prevent costly repairs and maintain your home’s integrity. So, what do household termites look like? 


In this blog, we’ll teach you more about household termites, what they look like, the types you’ll find indoors, and how to tell them apart from other pests. 

Why are Termites Destructive?

These insects thrive on cellulose found extensively in plant material. In forests and jungles, their role is beneficial, clearing away dead wood and contributing to the nutrient cycle. However, their appetite for cellulose becomes a significant issue when they turn their attention toward our homes. 


Termites feast on the wood, making up the bones of your home, often without any immediate signs of their presence. By the time you notice them, termites may have already caused irreparable structural damage. Their ability to remain hidden while steadily undermining the integrity of a building makes them one of the most feared pests in any household.

What Do Household Termites Look Like?

Here’s a closer look at three primary types of termites found across proof.’s service areas: Subterranean, Drywood, and Dampwood termites.

Subterranean Termites

Subterranean termites are typically 1/8 to 3/8 inches long. Workers are usually light-colored and nearly translucent, which helps them move undetected through the soil. Soldiers are slightly larger and have darker heads with strong mandibles used for defense. 


The reproductive members of the colony, known as swarmers, have a dark brown to black coloration and are distinguished by their two pairs of wings of equal size, which they shed after finding a place to start a new colony.


Subterranean termites typically live underground in moist, secluded areas. They construct distinctive tunnels known as “mud tubes” to access food sources above ground while protecting themselves from the open air. 


These tubes, about the width of a pencil, often run up walls, across floor joists, and along foundations. Signs of an infestation include the visible presence of these mud tubes, swarms of winged termites appearing (particularly after rainfall), and areas of wood in the house that feel soft and sound hollow when tapped. 


Because these termites thrive in moist conditions, their presence frequently indicates a moisture problem within the structure.

Drywood Termites

Drywood termites are larger than their subterranean counterparts, with adults typically measuring up to 1/2 inch in length. They are light brown, and like subterranean swarmers, the reproductive drywood termites have wings. 


Drywood termites are unique because they infest dry wood and do not require contact with the soil. They are frequently found in attics, where they can infest structural timbers and furniture. 


Unlike subterranean termites, drywood termites don’t build mud tubes. Instead, they eject their feces through small holes near the entrances to their nests. These feces are distinctive, hard, pellet-like, wood-colored droppings. Signs of a drywood termite infestation include piles of these fecal pellets, wood that sounds hollow when tapped, and sightings of termite swarms inside the home.

Dampwood Termites

Dampwood termites are among the largest termites, with some reaching up to 1 inch long, including the wings. They are typically dark brown and have a more robust and cylindrical body shape than other termites.


As their name implies, dampwood termites prefer wood with a high moisture content and are commonly found near water leaks, such as around sinks, bathtubs, leaky roofs, and poorly ventilated crawl spaces. 


They do not require soil contact but need significant moisture to survive. Signs of a dampwood termite infestation include wood that looks swollen or water-damaged and the presence of fecal matter that resembles the texture and color of sawdust.

Termites vs. Other Household Pests

So, what do household termites look like compared to other household pests? Identifying whether you’re dealing with termites or other household pests like ants can help determine the next steps in your pest control plan. Here are some key differences to help you tell these insects apart and recognize signs of termite damage.

Comparison with Ants

Ants and termites might seem similar at first glance, but we’re here to help you tell them apart. Here are some key physical differences that make it easy to distinguish between the two:


  • Body Shape: Termites have a uniform, rectangular body with no visible narrowing at the waist, giving them a more block-like appearance. In contrast, ants have a pronounced pinch at the waist that separates their thorax and abdomen.
  • Antennae: Termites’ antennae are almost straight and composed of tiny, bead-like segments. Ants, however, have distinctly bent antennae that clearly angle, much like an elbow.
  • Waist: Termites have a broad, straight waist, unlike ants, which have a noticeably slender waist.

Identifying Termites Based on Common Signs

The damage termites cause is also distinct and can help you determine if they are the culprits. Here is a better look at some typical signs you could see: 


  • Wood Damage: Termites eat wood from the inside out, often leaving just a thin layer of timber or paint. If wood sounds hollow when tapped, it may signify termites. 
  • Mud Tubes: Unique to subterranean termites, these are made from soil and termite droppings, creating protective tunnels for movement that are often visible along the foundation of a house.
  • Frass: This termite fecal matter appears as small, pellet-like droppings and is often found near affected wood.

Prevention Tips

Now that you know what termites look like, you’ll know when to contact us at the first sign of an infestation. For extra protection, consider implementing a few preventative measures to reduce the likelihood of these pests. 


  • Eliminate Moisture: Since termites thrive in moist environments, eliminate any sources of excess moisture around your home. Repair leaky faucets and water pipes, ensure that gutters and downspouts are functioning properly to direct water away from your foundation, and use dehumidifiers in damp areas of your home, like basements and crawl spaces.
  • Maintain a Clear Foundation Area: Keep the area around your home’s foundation clear of plant debris, mulch, and stored firewood or lumber. These can provide ideal conditions for termites and even act as a bridge to your home’s structure. Try to maintain an 18-inch gap between the soil and any wood portions of your home.
  • Regular Inspections: With a pest professional, regularly inspect your home’s foundation, crawl spaces, and attic for signs of termite activity. Look for mud tubes, changes in wood conditions, and unusual patterns of damage. Early detection can prevent widespread damage and costly repairs.
  • Ventilate Spaces: Keep crawl spaces, attics, and basements well-ventilated. Proper airflow can help keep these areas dry and less attractive to termites.
  • Treat Wood: Treat susceptible wood with termite-resistant finishes or sealants. These can deter termites from chewing through the wood. Consider using treated wood that resists termite damage for new constructions or renovations.
  • Remove Food Sources: Eliminate potential termite food sources near your home, including dead trees, stumps, wood scraps, and old form boards. 
  • Landscape Wisely: Be mindful of how you use landscaping materials. Avoid direct contact of wood with the ground and use termite-resistant plants and mulches in garden areas close to your home.


For regular inspections and monitoring, contact us here at proof. Pest Control. We know how important your home is to you—that’s why we’ll treat it as if it were our own. When you need help against termites, give us a call!

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Call proof. pest control at 888-291-5333, or send us a message online.