Around 45 termite species have been documented as inhabiting the United States, and until somewhat recently, Arizona was home to the greatest amount of termite species when compared to all the other 49 states. However, during the last three decades, Florida has been invaded by six non-native termite species that have established a permanent invasive population within the state. The addition of these six invasive termites increased the number of Florida’s termite species to 21, making the Florida the most species-rich state in the US when it comes to termites. All of these invasive termite species, with the exception of the Formosan subterranean termite, are native to tropical regions, and their habitat in Florida is limited to the southern coastal region of the state. That being said, Arizona is still home to the greatest number of “native” termite species when compared to all other states, as 18 termite species have been documented within the state. Nearly all 18 of these species’ habitats overlap within southern Arizona, and 16 species can be found within a 25 mile radius of Tucson.
While Arizona is home to many invasive pest species of economic and medical importance, such as the Asian tiger mosquito, the Africanized honey bee and the European paper wasp, the state remains free of invasive termite species. In fact, Arizona’s extreme climatic conditions would quickly dry out and kill the vast majority of the world’s 3,000 documented termite species, as termites generally require copious amounts of water and high-moisture living conditions within soil and wood in order to survive. With the exception of the Formosan subterranean termite, which was successfully eradicated from Arizona after the species’ brief appearance in the state several years ago, not a single non-native termite species has ever established an invasive habitat within Arizona. Even termite species that are native to the US would not be able to withstand the extreme heat and dry desert soil in the state. For example, the native eastern subterranean termite is the most widely distributed and most damaging termite species in the country, but Arizona happens to be one of the few states where this species would be unable to survive. This illustrates how unique Arizona’s ecosystem is relative the rest of the United States, as eastern subterranean termites can survive hot and humid coastal conditions in New Orleans, as well as cold conditions in Ontario.
The most destructive termite species in Arizona is the desert subterranean termite, as this species forages constantly during both nighttime and daytime hours within exceptionally dry soil at low elevations where temperatures become too hot for most humans. The second most destructive termite species in the state, the arid-land subterranean termite, can also be found throughout southern Arizona, but their population is not as widely distributed as the former. Drywood termites are not considered a significant threat to structures in the country as a whole, but in the desert southwest environment, two drywood termite species inflict significant damage to structures each year. These drywood species are commonly known as the dark western drywood termite and the light western drywood termite. Many of Arizona’s most significant termite pest species have adapted to desert climates, and are not found in most other states.
Have you ever known anyone who experienced a drywood or dampwood termite infestation within their home?