They Will Eat You out of House and Home – Literally!

Termites Eating

Termites would be a natural on Facebook, seeing how they are very social insects.  They are not loners and where you find one, you will often find a large colony.  These creatures are comfortable in areas such as dead wood and brush.  Termites have six legs and a body that has three parts:  a head, a thorax and an abdomen.  They are white in color, similar to a maggot, but they have legs.  Because termites are sensitive creatures, when the right environment is not available, they will be glad to relocate to any place that provides them with their favorite treat, cellulose.  Cellulose is derived from any wood or wood based product, which is why homes are very susceptible to termite infestation.

Since termites try to avoid light and open air spaces, they keep themselves out of sight so you may seldom actually see a termite in your home.  Tunnels give them the ability to go virtually undetected while reaching their food source, wood.  If you can’t see the termite, chances are great that you won’t see how they destroy your wood.  It is estimated that there is annually approximately $750,000,000 in property damage.  That means that over 2 million homes are being damaged by termites in one year.

Termites will infiltrate a home through wood that is in direct contact with the soil, through cracks and joints in and under the homes foundation, debris that is left unattended beneath the house, drainage problems, unprotected joints between porches and the foundation and by openings around pipes and the insulation around them.

The soil is the preferred location of termite nests, but they are looking for food wherever they can find it.  A colony can be a small group (in the beginning) or a nest of up to several thousand insects in one place.   The colony lives in a caste system similar to that of bees.  There are worker termites, soldiers, winged reproductive termites, a queen termite, and a king termite.

The worker termites are the largest group in the colony.  They care for the eggs, construct and maintain tunnels, look for food and feed and take care of the other members of the colony.  They are usually white in color and without wings.

The soldier’s job is  It protects the colony from predators.  They are also white, but they have large jaws that are used as weapons when protecting their fellow termites.

Winged reproductive termites are the producer of the offspring and are the ones that swarm at certain times of the year, mainly January through April.  The swarming usually takes place during the daylight and often you will find them swarming following a rain.  They can be wingless, so they are often mislabeled.  The primary reproductives are the queen termite and the king termite, of which there is only one of each.  There are hundreds of other reproductive termites who help with the laying of eggs within the colony; however, the king and queen are responsible for the initial creation of the colony.  The queen can live for ten years and produce hundreds of offspring each year.  That’s a lot of potential wood damage!

One thing that helps a colony maintain its quantity is the ability to change caste type, depending on what the colony needs.  This change will occur during the termite’s immature stage.

Drywood Termite Frass
Drywood termites occupy dry, sound wood.  They produce six-sided frass (waste) which is evidence of their infestation.  These pellets are pushed through holes that are the size of a pencil and look like coffee grounds.  The damage that is caused by drywood termites appear along and across the wood grain.  You can usually locate this type of destruction by tapping along the wood and listening for a hollow sound.

Drywood termites occupy dry, sound wood.  They produce six-sided frass (waste) which is evidence of their infestation.  These pellets are pushed through holes that are the size of a pencil and look like coffee grounds.  The damage that is caused by drywood termites appear along and across the wood grain.  You can usually locate this type of destruction by tapping along the wood and listening for a hollow sound.

Termite Tubes

The ground termite requires food, a consistent source of moisture and a tropical environment to survive.  The frass is sticky and is made into tubes.  The damage is usually with the grain of the wood.  Because the ground termite requires moisture, it generally resides in the ground (hence the name), but they can produce nests above the ground if there is a consistent moisture source, such as roof leaks, plumbing leaks, leaky showers and tubs, toilet leaks, etc.  Tubes enable these creatures to go to and from their moisture source and protect them from predators and dehydration.  When leaks are fixed, this often will speed their demise due to the lack of moisture available.

A good way to prevent termite activity is to use treated lumber during construction.  Additionally, any end cut wood that is untreated and exposed should be coated with a termiticide.  It goes without saying that sealing cracks and crevices with caulking will help to ensure a termite-free environment.  Be sure that all leaks are fixed quickly and any wood damage is taken care of soon after detection.  Also, don’t depend on a swarm to indicate infestation.  Be alert to any holes or unusual debris around wood structures.  If you have any questions about whether it is termite related, please call someone to have them identify the findings.  It may save your house from structural damage you can’t really afford.

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