Desert termites, also called long-jawed desert termites or desert subterranean termites, are a major pest in the southwestern United States. Here are four things you need to know about desert termites.

What do desert termites look like?

Desert termites range in size from 0.25 to 0.5 inches. Their coloring depends on their caste. Workers have white or light yellow bodies, while reproductives have dark bodies. Desert termites have ant-like bodies and may be mistaken for ants if you don't know what you're looking for. The easiest way to tell them apart from ants is to look at their waists: desert termites have broad waists, while ants have slim waists.

Where are desert termites found?

Studies have found that the only parts of the desert where these termites don't live are areas that flood for at least one month per year, like ephemeral lake basins. Throughout the rest of the desert, including in upgraded areas like suburbs, these termites are equally abundant.

Outdoors, they live in underground colonies beneath wood or rock. If they're living in your backyard, you'll see tubes made of earth over top of wood and other obstacles. The termites use these tubes to travel around without needing to leave their colonies. Dead cactuses are another favorite location for these pests. These pests will usually forage over an area of nearly one acre, so a colony in your yard can easily move into your home.

Indoors, they can be found living within the wooden frame of your home. Damaged wood tends to look like honeycomb, and the combs contain soil. You'll also see mud tubes on your walls or ceilings; the termites use these tunnels to get around your house.

How do desert termites differ from other types?

Desert termites are able to survive and forage in very dry conditions, while other types of termites require a wetter environment. Other types of termites prefer to live in moist soil or moist, damaged wood, but since desert termites don't need as much moisture, they can live in dry, undamaged wood. This means that even new houses are at risk of desert termite infestations.

How can you control desert termites?

If desert termites are living in your yard, but haven't yet invaded your home, liquid termiticides can be used to keep them at bay. These chemicals are applied around the perimeter of your house to keep desert termites from being able to get inside. If the termites are indoors, bait stations can be used to kill them. These bait stations can be placed over top of the mud tubes the termites use or placed directly inside infested wood.

If you think your home or yard is infested with desert termites, contact a pest control company, such as Aloha Termite Kauai Inc.