Abstract The tunneling responses of two subterranean termite species, Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki and Reticulitermes flavipes (Kollar), to the presence of sound wood in laboratory arenas were studied. Branching pattern and the speed of tunnel construction between R. flavipes and C. formosanus also were compared. Patlak’s residence index (ρ) was generated using the length, width, speed of construction, and area of the primary tunnels built by termites. In the same allotted time, C. formosanus built wider and shorter primary tunnels, whereas R. flavipes built thinner and longer primary tunnels. The presence of wood did not affect termite tunnel formation. This lack of variation in tunnel formation parameters was evidenced by the inability of the termites to locate wood sources over distance, even as short as 2.5 mm, and by the similar tunneling behaviors in areas of the arena with or without wood. Patlak’s model predicted the densities of tunnels with an error between 9 and 28%, in experiments with R. flavipes exposed to a range of 0–8,000 g of wood, and between 61 and 87% in experiments with C. formosanus. These results indicated that the residence index can provide a qualitative measure of the effect of habitat heterogeneity on the individual termite tunnels. The tunneling construction strategy of these subterranean termites is discussed.