Termites can be transported to from one house to another hidden in wooden objects already infested with termites, according to "The Inspector's Guide: Prepare Your House or Sale." Termites live in colonies where there is only one egg layer -- the queen. It is quite rare for a termite queen to be transported from one home to another. Usually, newly hatched termite queens fly from one home to another.
How Termites Spread
Newly hatched queen and male or king termites, properly called winged alates, emerge in swarms from termite colonies, mate, drop their wings and begin new colonies. But winged alates are poor fliers and make easy targets for bats, birds and other insect-eating predators. They also dehydrate quickly. It is theoretically possible that a pair of winged alates could successfully fly from one home to another, but the homes would have to be very close together. Alates fly strongly only over short distances.
Drywood termites infest homes less often than subterranean termites or termites live underground. But drywood termite alates fly much better than subterranean termite alates. Drywood termite alates fly up to 250 feet away from their home colony, according to the University of Florida.,They fly slowly, and cannot dodge objects or predators, but any home 250 feet away or less could become home to a new drywood termite colony.
Formosan termites, a type of subterranean termite from Asia and now entrenched in the United States, can inadvertently move from one place to another if the wood they live in is transported to another place. Reclaimed wood from old houses or dead trees, if the piece is large enough, may contain a termite queen and enough workers to continue a colony. ABC notes that wood from houses demolished in natural disasters such as hurricanes is often picked up for scrap, firewood or DIY projects. This wood could contain Formosan termites.
Other Transportation Sources
Formosan termites also infest railroad ties and wooden telephone poles. If these are dug up and moved to a garden, the termites go right along with them. Those that make their colonies underground can be transported to other places if their ground is dug up and placed elsewhere, which can happen for gardening or landscaping projects, according to entomologist Dr. Xing Ping Hu.
- “The Inspector’s Guide: Prepare Your House or Sale”; Bob Reemsnyder
- Ohio State University: Biology of Subterranean Termites in the Eastern United States; Daniel R. Suiter; et al.
- Univeristy of Florida: Western Drywood Termite; B.J. Cabrera and R.H. Scheffrahn; December 2005
- ABC News: Termites Could Spread and Boom After Hurricane; Amanda Onion; October 20, 2005
- University of California Davis; Termites; May 2001
- University of Massachusetts; Formosan Termite; Robert D. Childs
- Mississppi State Extension: Formosan termites spread in crossties; Chance McDavid; Oct. 6, 2001
Rena Sherwood is a writer and Peter Gabriel fan who has lived in America and England. She has studied animals most of her life through direct observation and maintaining a personal library about pets. She has earned an associate degree in liberal arts from Delaware County Community College and a bachelor's degree in English from Millersville University.