Termites are often called the “silent destroyer” because they may be secretly hiding and thriving in your home or yard without any immediate signs of damage. All termites consume cellulose-based plant materials. Unfortunately, all homes, regardless of their construction type, can provide cellulose food for termite infestation.
Termites are detritivores, or detritus feeders. They feed on dead plants and trees as well as dead parts of living trees, including wood and wood in the soil. A termite’s mouth is capable of tearing pieces of woody material. This ability is what causes concern in human dwellings: while termite workers only measure approximately 1 cm to a few millimetres in length, their feeding habits are capable of causing costly damage to property. House foundations, furniture, shelves and even books are all possible feeding sites for termites.
Subterranean termite homes are usually formed in soil. Within these mounds, termites build elaborate tunnel systems and mud tunnels through which they access above-ground food sources. Drywood termites live within the wood they consume and oftentimes infest walls and furniture.
When a colony has matured, winged, swarming termites can be seen around windows and doors. Winged termites are highly attracted to sources of light and are most active in springtime. After mating, these termites locate a new breeding site and create another colony, spreading infestations throughout multiple locations in the case of drywood termites.
These numerous species are broken down into subterranean termites, dampwood termites and drywood termites. If you are trying to classify a specific termite colony into a group, you need to look at the soldiers and the alates, the winged, unmated reproductive caste, because worker termites across groups tend to look the same. Also important is the appearance of the damage wood they consume. The three types of termites differ in colony-building habits and preferred climate. Subterranean termites build large colonies underground, which are composed of elaborate tunnels and chambers. Worker termites then construct protective tunnels made of mud and saliva in order to reach above-ground wood. When subterranean termites eat wood, they fill it with soil to help maintain the humidity. If mud tunnels are visible on the walls or foundation of your home, it is highly likely that you are experiencing a subterranean termite infestation.
A subterranean termite infestation begins when warm temperatures and heavy rainfall trigger an established colony to send out a swarm of winged termites. Swarms consist of winged reproductive males and females. Subterranean termite colonies are usually active for three to five years before winged reproductives appear. Winged, reproductive termites are frequently mistaken for flying ants, but are smaller than ants and have straight, rather than bent, antennae. Termite swarmers have four wings that are all the same size. Ant swarmers have two large wings in front and two smaller wings behind. After mating, swarmer termites land and shed their wings, leaving them in piles that resemble fish scales. If there are piles of wings on windowsills of your home, check to see if they are all the same size. They could be termite wings especially if they are all the same size.
If you are constructing a new home, especially in a high-risk area, it is advisable that you obtain estimates from reliable professionals for termite-proofing your home. Pest control professionals are best equipped to take preventive measures, which could save homeowners from severe loss. Pest control experts will also be able to make recommendations that can help to prevent termite infestation.
Alternatively, drywood termites make their nests within cellulose-based materials such as lumber, siding and wooden trim. They require no soil contact and get their moisture from the wood. They also attack floors, furniture and books. Drywood termites can be more difficult to detect and aren’t typically noticeable until small piles of pellets (their feces) collect.
Dampwood termites locate their colonies in wood that is wet and even decaying. Wood that is in contact with the soil or wood that is constantly wet are ideal nesting sites for these termites. If your home has leaky pipes or other moisture situations, it may be attractive to dampwood termites.
Subterranean termite control is labor intensive and exacting. Always contact your pest management professional to identify whether you have a termite problem and, if so, what termite species has invaded your property. If you need termite control for your home, your pest management professional will recommend the products, methods and techniques that will be most effective and efficient. In addition, your pest management professional will suggest that your termite control program also include an annual termite inspection. Finally, a good inspector will help you locate and become familiar with the following common signs indicating a termite problem:
Finding shed swarmer wings or winged swarmers around windows, patio doors or other sources of light.
The presence of mud tubes.
Wood material in the home that appears to be soft, easily penetrated, rippled, peeling or bubbled.