Termites are related to cockroaches biologically, yet they behave remarkably different. Termites are a social insect, meaning that there is a hierarchy of social structure including in the case of termites, a king, queen, workers, and soldiers.

The most common type of termite in North America is the subterranean termite. These termites are native to underground areas as they are sensitive to heat and low humidity. Soil offers protection from heat and low humidity. Termites are found in most of the United States and Mexico, but are not very common in Canada. Subterranean termites will readily enter structures but must normally protect themselves from predators, heat, and low humidity. In order to do this, they build mud tubes or shelter tubes, composed of soil material and water to protect the sensitive workers from adverse conditions. The most common types of subterranean termites are the native subterranean termite and the Formosan termite, Coptotermes formosanus.

The native subterranean termite is indigenous to the continent and is the most common type of termite found in North America. The population of these termites in a particular colony can exceed a million insects. The Formosan termite, imported accidentally from Asia in the 1900s, can have larger populations, and is more voracious in terms of wood damage. Termites cause over five billion dollars in damage each year and the Formosan termite has wreaked havoc on the French Quarter in New Orleans, preferring tropical and subtropical climates.

Drywood termites are typical of very warm climates and do not need soil contact. These termites are commonly found in south Florida, southern California, and Hawaii.

Control for termites can be accomplished by soil treatments, wood treatment,  and baits for subterranean termites, as well as fumigation and wood treatments for drywood termites.