Pest Resources

Termites in Iowa



Iowa is well known for its humid and wet summers, making Iowa ideal for termites. There are over two thousand species of wood-destroying termites in the world, and one type of termite in Iowa. The most common type of termite species in Iowa is the Eastern Subterranean termite. This termite species is active across the southern two-thirds of Iowa from Sioux City to Waterloo and from Des Moines to Davenport, Iowa.

What termites live in Iowa?

The Eastern Subterranean termite is the most common and destructive termite species. The Eastern Subterranean termites are a constant threat to most homes and businesses in the southern half of Iowa.

Drywood termites and Formosan termites are not native to Iowa. Formosan termites live in the southern U.S. Drywood termites are usually found along southern coastal areas in the U.S. Drywood termites do not cause damage as quickly as other termites.

When do termites swarm in Iowa?

Most termites swarm on a warm day after rain. Below are swarming times of the most common species of termites in Iowa.

The Eastern Subterranean termite swarms in the day from March to May.

TIP zones

The southern two-thirds of Iowa is located in TIP zone 2, which is moderate to heavy. This means the potential for termite damage is considered significant. In this TIP zone, the area requires more termite control to meet International Residential Code building standards

In the north of Iowa, termites are a slight to moderate risk in TIP zone 3, which means there is potential for damage by termite infestations.

The Eastern subterranean termites in Iowa

Eastern subterranean termites are common types of termites that invade homeowners in North America, costing property owners the most money from a termite infestation.

Eastern Subterranean termites are smaller than Drywood termites and vary in appearance depending on their caste.

Eastern Subterranean termites require contact with the soil to survive and prefer moist, humid conditions to thrive.
A common sign of Eastern Subterranean termites in Iowa is their mud tubes.

Eastern Subterranean termites prefer to eat softwood resulting in damaged wood that appears to be layered.

A Subterranean termite colony will usually be found under the ground or under the foundation of a property.

Termite damage in Iowa

Termites are beneficial in natural ecosystems because they feed and break down the wood of tree stumps and fallen trees, recycling it into nutrients. However, termites in Iowa can destroy a house or building because they will eat structures and building materials made from wood.

In time termites can eat enough wood to cause weakness in structural wood, flooring, walls, lumber, siding, moldings, paneling, and landscape timbers. Over time, they will also damage other items containing cellulose, like paper, books, paintings, insulation, and paper on drywall.

How much damage worker termites cause will depend on the wood, available moisture, and temperature. Termites in Iowa work slowly and are not very active during the winter. It could take a few years before termite activity can be seen. Unfortunately, there is not any way of testing, measuring, or calculating for how long there has been a termite infestation and presence in a building.

The termite life cycle

Termites have three simple lifecycle stages, egg, nymph, and adult. The development of termites is a little more complicated due to the castes within the termite colony.

Termite castes consist of workers, soldiers, and reproductive termites.

Soldier termites

Soldiers do not reproduce. They protect the colony from invading ants and other colonies using large, powerful mandibles.


Workers in a colony are 1/8 inch long. They have a soft creamy white body, bent antennae, and are wingless and do not reproduce. Their role is to excavate chambers, build nests, and construct tunnels and mud tubes. Worker termites forage for wood and bring it back to the nest to feed the other members of the colony; they also care for other members. Workers also cultivate fungus gardens.


A reproductive termite has wings and will swarm when the colony becomes too large. They will mate with others from different colonies and then build a new nest and colony.

What are the warning signs of termites in Iowa?

As a homeowner, you should be aware of termite infestation signs. Signs of a termite infestation, termites are rarely seen out in the open most of the time; they are in the soil or traveling through mud tubes.

Frass or termite droppings look like sawdust, and piles of it can be found near infested furniture or wooden structures.

Another sign of termite activity is Subterranean termite mud tubes or shelter tubes. They are built for Subterranean termites to travel through to a wood source, keeping the moisture levels on their bodies high.

Signs of termite damage could be blistering and peeling paint.

Piles of discarded wings that have been shed after termites swarm. Swarming termites could be a sign of a termite problem that has been around for a few years. Termites swarm when a nest matures and needs to build new colonies because it has got too big. Swarms of these pests can occur inside heated buildings, even in the winter.

Call for a professional inspection

As soon as you suspect or notice termite infestations, call your preferred pest control company.

A professional termite control company will have specialized equipment and will usually offer a termite inspection along with advice and a termite control treatment plan. The pest control expert will decide on the termite species and decide how to treat it. The expert will advise on the termite control pesticides used and details of the termite treatments for the infested area.

A professional can place bait stations to kill the entire termite colony. The termites will feed on the bait stations before touching sound wood. An insecticide barrier can be applied around the foundation of the home for protection.

Heat termite treatment for termite infestations

Heat treatment is an effective method for treating a termite problem. The building is heated with professional heaters to high temperatures until all insects are dead.

Some items may need to be removed, like make-up, paintings, and aerosols. You might need to take yourself, children, and pets, including fish, out of the home until the treatment has finished.

Effective termite prevention in your home

  • If you have cracks in the basement near the foundation of your house, get the cracks fixed to protect the foundations.

  • Ventilate your crawl spaces to reduce humidity. Use a dehumidifier in the home.

  • Point water sprinklers away from the foundation of the home. Do not use mulch near the foundation walls.

  • Remove logs, fallen trees, and wood piles away from the house.

And finally,

We presented Termites in Iowa and discussed termite treatment, termite activity, when to call a termite control company to treat Iowa termites, and how to know the signs of termite infestations. We hope you have found it helpful and informative.

Good luck!

Ronald has 25 years of pest control experience under his belt. He scrutinizes each control method, product and process to prevent infestations effectively. 

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