Termite damage is normally caused by destructive termite species. These destructive species are mainly of the drywood and subterranean termites. Coptotermes species probably ranks the highest amongst those termites capable of the most damage. In general, species from the families Kalotermitinae (drywood termites), and Rhinotermitinae (subterranean termites), are responsible for perhaps 80-90% of all termite damage worldwide, with Rhinotermitinae accounting for almost all the cases.
In many parts of the world, Coptotermes species like Coptotermes formosanus, Coptotermes acinaciformis, and Coptotermes gestroi are well known as the main species involved in most cases of termite damage. In the US, a Rhinotermitinae genus, Reticulitermes is the most common destructive genus, but Coptotermes seems to be invading as well. In Asia, most termite damage is caused by Coptotermes species.
Subterranean termites gain entry to wood by means of soil contact, but they can also construct paved tubes across concrete to reach their food source. They often don't get detected until it is too late, by which time, they would have done significant damage to wood. They also like paper and cardboard. A pile of paper or stack of books left unmoved for a long time in a termite infested building will sooner or later, turn into termite chow.
Outside buildings, some termite species are capable of attacking live trees, a process that may take a long time before the tree dies, or is so weakened as to be easily toppled during a storm. Old trees are also susceptible of developing dead inner cores (while still fully functioning), by which termites can exploit, proceeding to feed on the dead heartwood inside and eventually hollowing it out, but otherwise leaving the tree very much alive on the outside.