Termites: Do They Stay In The Same Area Or Move Around?

Close up termite soldiers are guarding the nest.

Termites are one of the most dreaded pests to have in the home. These unseen insects slowly eat away the wood in your home and often go unnoticed for years. By the time damage is noticed, it’s often too late.

Termites may stick around the same area when a food source is available. However, once that food source is depleted, they will certainly move on to somewhere else. This might just mean moving from the wall behind your bathroom to the wall behind your bedroom.

Not a huge move, but it’s enough to cause a nightmare when the damage is discovered…

Most termites must be handled professionally to get rid of them, but there are a few things you can do to make your home less appealing to these destructive insects.

Key Takeaways:

  • Termites may stay in one place if there is an ample supply of food but usually must move around to stay fed.
  • The subterranean termite is the most common species that invade homes and causes damage.
  • Termite infestations should be handled professionally, but repellent techniques can be employed to prevent further infestations.

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The Basics Of Termite Movements

Termites come in many different shapes, sizes, and species, but the most common one to invade your home is the subterranean termite. These destructive pests have three different types of termites in their colonies:

Termite TypePhysical DescriptionRole within Colony
WorkersCream-colored, soft-bodiedResponsible for foraging, feeding, and caring for the young termites.
SoldiersLarger head, powerful jawsDefend the colony against predators and other threats.
SwarmersDark-colored, long wingsReproductive individuals that leave the colony to establish new colonies.

Mississippi State University tells us that worker termites make up 90-98% of the colony. Soldiers make up around 2-4%, and swarmers make up the other small percentage.

Swarmers Move Around To Establish New Colonies

The different castes of termites are somewhat similar to ants, bees, and wasps, with a few key differences. Swarmers are the only termites to reproduce and are referred to as the king and queen. In the spring, when temperatures warm and rains come, these termites leave the colony.

As they exit the colony, swarmers search for mates. Once found, the two termites land on the ground, shed their wings and start searching for a good place to start a new colony. These new colonies start in the soil and take years to become large enough to invade buildings.

Kings and queens can live an astounding 10 to 15 years. Some colonies have secondary and tertiary reproductive pairs, but only when the colony becomes established after about five years.

You can find more information about why termites swarm here. We also give you some excellent ways to stop them!

Workers Move Around To Find Food

It may be surprising to learn that subterranean termite colonies start in the soil. The first termites to be born in a colony are workers. As soon as they’re born, they begin searching for a source of food not only for themselves but to feed the colony, too.

Workers move out in random directions through the soil from the nest. They have no eyes, and so basically move around by feel. Once they find a source of wood, they get other workers to help build a tunnel to the source of food.

When the food search is halted by an impenetrable object like a rock or your home’s foundation, termites create mud tubes to get over or around them. Occasionally, the mud tubes lead up the foundation and through small gaps and cracks, inviting termites inside.

Soldiers Move Around To Protect The Colony

The final caste of termites, the soldiers, are the protectors of the colony. When predators like ants invade the colony, soldiers set out to defend their comrades.

Soldiers also move around if part of a mud tube or tunnel is breached, such as by a predator or even by a home inspector.

Other termite species, such as drywood, dampwood, and Formosan termites, have slightly different movements but follow similar patterns. Drywood and dampwood termites do not nest in the soil but rather in wood.

Why Termites Won’t Stay In One Area

Termites feeding on decaying wood

We know that workers and soldiers move around, but do they usually stay in one area? The answer depends on how established the colony is. Well-established colonies may move around quite a bit, while newer colonies usually keep to the same areas.

Colony Nests Remain Constant

Colonies have a home base, or nest, inside the soil. Termites are super sensitive to moisture, so eventually, they always must return to the cool, humid soil to avoid drying out.

These nests typically stay in one place but expand over time, getting larger and larger as the colony grows. Head over to our article on the reasons why termites come out at night to learn more about their moisture sensitivities. The more you know about your enemy, the better you can protect your home!

New Nests May Form At Distant Food Sources

When a colony is well-established, it may contain hundreds of thousands of individual termites. To feed and take care of the colony, workers must forage far and wide for sustainable food.

If a food source is discovered far away from the nest, secondary and tertiary swarmers may form as reproductive termites and become a new king and queen in that area. As those swarmers start to reproduce, the movement of the original nest can end up quite a distance away.

This is one reason why termites may move from one house to another. For more information, check out our guide on the ways termites spread from house to house.

What’s Attracting Pesky Termites To Your Home?

We know that termites need cellulose to survive, but there must be something else attracting them to your home. Otherwise, everyone’s home would be infested with termites.

Keep in mind that food, water, and nesting are what they live to quest for. You live in a house, so eliminating all of that is impossible. If you live in a breeze block or brick house, you’ll still have wood and other things that contain cellulose.

There are things you can do to lessen the chances of infestation. There are even some natural ways to combat them. However, we strongly suggest that you address it professionally. We can’t say it enough because it’s your home and you want it to be a home for life if you should decide on that. 

Rotting Wood Can Attract Termites

Termites are naturally drawn to wood because of the cellulose content, which is what they eat. So, if you have a source of rotting wood near your home, it’s going to attract those pesky termites to your home. Rotting firewood or branches in the yard will also attract termites.

Solution: Store your firewood at least 20 feet from the house and 5 inches above the ground. We also suggest not stockpiling more than you need outside for prolonged periods. Try and gauge what you need to burn on a daily or weekly basis in the winter. 

For more information, check out our article on the places where termites live. This will give you a solid understanding of what attracts these insects and where they might be hiding.

Termites Are Attracted By Moisture

Termites are extremely sensitive to moisture. If they are left without moisture for even a short time, they will dry out. When your home has moisture issues, it can attract termites and allow them to stay in your home longer without having to return to the nest in the soil.

Solution: Inspect your home for dripping faucets, leaky pipes, and lack of ventilation that causes moisture buildup. Fix any issues as soon as possible to avoid attracting termites.

Wood Near Home Foundation

The ruins of a house which has been eaten by termites for a long time, causing damage and disintegration.

Most people will keep firewood near the foundation of the home and sometimes pile it up against the wall. This makes things too easy for dry wood and subterranean termites. Additionally, if your home is constructed of mostly wood on top of the foundation, it may be a beacon for termites to come inside.

Solution: Store your firewood away from the home. Eliminate moisture problems that can cause dampness in the wood near the foundation.

Cracks in the Foundation Can Attract Termites

Foundation cracks, fissures, and gaps in the siding of the home can cause termites to wander inside. Once they’re in, consider it a wrap. As termites travel in the soil looking for food, they will crawl up foundation and through any possible cracks and gaps.

Solution: Use caulk or foam to seal all the gaps and cracks around your home. I recommend Gorilla Waterproof Caulk & Seal because it’s waterproof and works on a variety of materials.

Head over to our guide on the simple tips to keep termites from revisiting the same spot for more information on what attracts these little buggers to the home.

Signs Of A Termite Infestation In The Home

Termite damage in the home - an obvious sign of a termite infestation

Termite infestation can be subtle. We talked here about how they move around and what attracts them to your home, but how do you know if you have them for sure? The only real way to know for sure is through a termite inspection. 

You can contact a professional through our nationwide pest control finder. That said, there are some red flags you can look for that would indicate it’s time to call in a professional.

Presence Of Swarmers Inside The Home

When termite colonies get large enough, swarmers will leave the nest and seek out a mate to start a new colony elsewhere. If you notice these adventurous termites inside the home, it’s a sure sign that they’re coming from within the walls or foundation.

You may also notice wings on the windowsills as the swarmers try to exit and get stuck inside. After a day or so they shed their wings, leaving them behind. Swarmers are often confused with ants, so check out these differences to make sure you’re dealing with a termite:

Physical DifferencesFlying TermiteFlying Carpenter Ant
Body ShapeStraight waistNarrow waist
WingsEqual in lengthFront wings longer than hind wings

If you find termite swarmers outside the house, it’s not a sure indication of an infestation. They may be coming from rotting wood or outdoor colonies. Check for other signs to be sure they came from inside.

Protection Tubes

We mentioned before that termites are very sensitive to moisture. They will dry out easily if exposed to the outside air. To protect themselves, they build protection tubes made of mud, wood, and saliva.

The tubes look like nothing more than mud spots on your siding and foundation, so make sure not to ignore this critical sign of an infestation. Check for protection tubes in these areas of your home:

  • Inner and outer foundation walls
  • Support piers
  • Near plumbing
  • Exterior walls and ceilings
  • Soffit and fascia boards
  • On interior wall coverings
  • Over/through foam insulation

Some protection tubes may even be on the outer covering of the wall, visible from inside the home. If you find any tubes, scrape them away and observe them for termites. If you don’t see termites, re-check the tubes over the next few days to see if they get repaired. This is a sign of an infestation.

Sunken Areas On Walls

If your wallpaper or or paint looks like there are sunken lines winding through it, it is a clear indication of a termite infestation. As termites travel behind your walls, they may come very close to the surface, such as on sheetrock, to consume the cardboard while leaving the outer coat of paint alone.

This activity creates the appearance of a sunken wall. If you can remove the wallpaper or strip away the paint, look for holes and tunnels that indicate the presence of termites.

Strange Mud Formations In Spring

Subterranean termites are the most common kind that invade homes, but there is another type – Formosan termites – that can also invite themselves inside.

While you’re doing your spring cleaning, you may notice strangely-shaped mud formations on the walls. These are called Formosan castles and are built in the spring in preparation for the swarming season.

Sagging Floor Or Roof

If you notice your roof or floor is beginning to sag, it could be due to a few different problems. Wood rot can cause sagging, as can water damage. Termites are another culprit of a sagging floor or roof.

As termites chew through the structural supports of your home, your house’s infrastructure is weakened. The weight of the floor above causes the ceiling to sag, and the weight of the bottom floor against broken supports causes the floor to depress.

Since this can be a sign of rotting wood and moisture buildup, it’s important to look out for other red flags to indicate a termite infestation.

Six-Sided Pellets

Dry wood termites leave behind clues of their presence. Once of these clues is six-sided pellets that can usually be found on the floor or on countertops. Unfortunately, these pellets aren’t wood, but fecal matter from the termites. Yuck!

Termites can infest homes for years before being discovered. Oftentimes, the only way they are discovered is during home renovation or repairs.

Keeping Termites Away From Your Home

A termite on decomposing wood

As sneaky as termites are, there are ways to protect your property and home from these wood-eating insects. The most important thing you can do is eliminate ways that termites can enter your building.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to see any cracks or openings beneath your home, which is why it’s important to contact a professional to do a close inspection for termites. In the meantime, here are some ways to keep termites away from the house, but just be aware this is not a fool-proof plan.

Eliminate Moisture Buildup

Dampwood termites don’t normally infest homes, but if there is a buildup of moisture in the house that causes the wood to rot, it will attract these insects.

Check your bathroom, laundry room, kitchen sink, and any other areas around the home that produce water. Make sure there are no leaks or dripping pipes. Check your ceilings for water damage, which usually looks like discolored spots on the ceiling.

Eliminate Contact With The Soil

It may not be possible to remedy contact with the soil, but in an ideal situation, you want the wood beneath your home to be at least 12 inches away from the soil. A concrete barrier between your home and the wood will further deter termites from burrowing upwards into your home.

Porch supports and outdoor structures that sit directly on the soil can attract termites as well and should be avoided when possible.

When this is unavoidable, use termite-resistant wood:

  • Pressure-treated wood
  • Heartwood
  • Redwood
  • Yellow Cedar
  • Cypress
  • Composite

You can also try using scent deterrents in combination with the suggestions above. You can read about the scents that termites hate here. Consider applying these scents around the foundation of your home to repel termites.

Remove Rotting Wood From The Property

Wood is a food source for termites, so having it on your property will certainly attract these destructive pests. Rotting wood is especially attractive to damp wood termites.

Remove fallen trees, old stumps, dead branches, and any other source of rotting wood on the property. Firewood is another attractant, so try to keep it stacked neatly and off the ground when possible.

Repair Cracks And Entrypoints Immediately

As soon as you notice cracks and gaps in your foundation or siding, repair them. This is how termites get inside your home and create infestations.

Loctite Tite Foam Gaps & Cracks Spray Foam Sealant can help seal up any openings where termites may try to sneak inside. It adheres to most building materials such as wood, stone, brick, and concrete, making it a good choice to keep termites out.

It’s impossible to see cracks and gaps behind walls or beneath the floors, but do your best to seal up all holes and openings that you can see. This will help deter termites and could prevent an invasion.

Our article on the best caulks to keep bugs and insects away from your home can help you choose the best product to seal gaps and cracks around the home.

Use Termite-Resistant Mulches

There’s really no way to tell if you have a colony of termites living in the soil of your yard. However, mulches and compost piles are usually a source of attraction for termites due to the presence of wood.

If you have a mulched flowerbed or walkway, try using termite-resistant mulches to avoid giving termites a free source of food. Some mulches come in the termite-resistant wood mentioned above, while others are synthetic and, therefore, unattractive to termites.

For a more detailed look, head over to our article on the mulches that termites hate.

That’s A Wrap!

Termites certainly do move around. The three different classes of termites all move around in their own way. To recap, here is how termites move around:

  • Swarmers: Leave the colony in the spring to establish new colonies.
  • Workers: Create tunnels, search for food, and take care of the other termites.
  • Soldiers: Defend the colony from predators and tunnel damage.

There are certain things that can attract termites to your home, such as rotting wood piles, wood that comes in contact with the soil, and cracks and gaps in the foundation. Eliminate these attractants to keep your home safe from termites.

The best thing to do when you notice the presence of termites is to contact a professional. Or, if you’re worried you may have termites, schedule an inspection. Catching these nasty insects early can save you thousands of dollars in repairs.


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