Prorhinoterminae

The Prorhinoterminae are subterranean termites in the family Rhinotermitidae. There are about 20 species in the genus Prorhinotermes. They live in tropical climates. Most of these termites are found in Southeast Asia, but they are also found in Australia and the Pacific Islands.

Three species of Prorhinoterminae are found in the New World. One of them, the Cuban subterranean termite, has been the cause of some confusion.

Its scientific name is Prorhinotermes simplex (Hagen). It was known as the Florida dampwood termite for many years. Florida is home to several other dampwood termites. Since P. simplex makes its nest in the ground, scientists re–named it the Cuban subterranean termite.

This termite has been found in Southern Florida in several locations. Most of the colonies of P. simplex have been found very near the coast. However, some colonies have been found near streams, canals, and other bodies of water.

These termites are not considered to be serious structural pests. They attack wood that is damp and wood that is touching the ground. They are found in urban settings and in forests.

The colonies produce swarmers during the fall. In Florida, the swarms, or mating flights take place between September and February. The flights happen in the evening or at night. The winged termites can be nuisances because they are attracted to lights.

The workers often build dirt tunnels for the swarmers to use when they fly out of the colony. In homes, these flight tubes sometimes extend up into the sheetrock of the wall or along a doorframe.

Many people mistake these termites for Formosan subterranean termites because of the shape of the soldiers’ heads. The soldiers of P. simplex are slightly more slender than the Formosan termite soldiers.

The soldiers of both species can emit a defensive liquid from an opening on the head. The openings are positioned differently and scientists can distinguish the two. The soldiers of P. simplex emit a liquid that is toxic to ants.

When Cuban subterranean termites are found in logs and stumps, the hollowed-out wood is often filled with a "carton" nest. The termite workers construct the carton from chewed wood, soil particles, and their own droppings. The termites cement the material together with their saliva.

Because Prorhinotermes simplex does not seem to forage very aggressively, scientists believe it can be controlled in a structure with conventional termite control products. Homeowners can have periodic termite inspections. Termite control professionals can recognize the signs of termite activity.