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Subterranean Termites (Family Rhinotermitidae)
Arid-Land Subterranean Termite (Reticulitermes tibialis)

Invertebrates Around Las Vegas, Wildlife Around Las Vegas
Subterranean Termite (Family Rhinotermitidae)

General: Subterranean termites, Family Rhinotermitidae (sometimes called white ants), are amazingly abundant in the desert, although we almost never see them. Subterranean termites are small, and most are white and eyeless.

Like true ants, subterranean termites live underground in colonies of countless individuals. Occasionally, however, termites will come aboveground and cover dead sticks and dead shrubs with mud to form shelter tubes. They completely encrust the wood, then come up and eat it.

Subterranean Termite (Family Rhinotermitidae)

Termites live in a caste society, with different castes relegated to certain functions in the colony. For example, there are workers, soldiers, reproductive castes.

Learn more about desert termites.

Desert Subterranean Termite (Heterotermes aureus) make round shelter tubes. These termites occur in the Colorado and Gila deserts (southern California and Arizona).

Arid-Land Subterranean Termite (Reticulitermes tibialis). These termites occur in deserts across the southwest where they eat creosote bush and greasewood, buildings, and other wooden structures. The heads of soldiers are short, broad, and yellow.

Subterranean Termite (Family Rhinotermitidae)

(photo) Termites in underground nest chamber (the holes were covered by a flat rock). The yellow masses are eggs (see close-up photo above). The termites scrambled around while I took photos, then abandoned the eggs and disappeared down the right-most hole.


Termites covered the stems of this low-growing shrub (few inches high) with mud to form shelter tubes. Shelter tubes protect the termites from direct sun, dehydration, and predators while they eat the stems. Shelter tubes are built using soil particles, saliva, and feces.


Close-up of mud-covered sticks (shelter tubes).

Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 081226

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