Termites are notorious structural pests. There are about 2,700 species of these wood-munching insects in the world, 45 of which can be found in the United States. In the wild, termites help with the decomposition of dead trees into rich soil, but in your home, they can cause serious damage. There are three types of termites that can infest homes: subterranean, drywood and dampwood.
Termite damage is responsible for billions of dollars annually in the United States. The damage itself can usually lead to identifying what group of termites you might be dealing with.
Most of their damage is done from in the ground, hence the name. They are also very difficult to find. They chew distinctive “honeycomb” patterns inside wood, and usually won’t touch the exterior with their tunnels.
Drywood Termite Damage
Drywood termite colonies are usually smaller in size than their subterranean relatives. Their damage accumulates at a typically slower rate and is less severe. Look for piles of fecal pellets and mud throughout the wood, as drywood termites digest the wood they eat.
Dampwood Termite Damage
Dampwood termites aren’t known for attacking buildings or homes. They stick primarily to moist or rotted wood in and around your yard. If you have constant moisture around your house, they could easily mistake it for a rotten tree log.
Termites build their colonies in areas where there is moisture and wood. Prime real estate includes dead trees, wood that has been damaged by excess moisture and, in the case of drywood termites, areas of exposed wood such as trim, window and door frames and the attic. They munch along the wood grain, building tunnels and chambers for their nest. Termites survive off the cellulose found in plant fibers and deposit everything else in tiny fecal pellets.
During certain times of the year, the winged reproductives will leave the nest in a swarm to mate. Homeowners are most likely to notice termites while they are “swarming.” Swarms are attracted to lights and are often found clustered on windows or around exterior lighting. Eventually the reproductives will land, shed their wings and search for a place to start a new colony.
Signs of an infestation in your home might include swarms of winged termites clustered around window or door frames (the most obvious sign of a termite infestation). Look for small piles of fecal pellets that resemble sawdust or piles of shed wings.
You might also see tiny holes in the wood used by termites to get rid of fecal pellets with the small piles of the sawdust-like fecal matter below. “Blisters” or bubbles on the wood’s surface created by termite tunnels built close to the surface of the wood might appear as well.
Mud-like tubes or imperfections in wood or sheetrock are also signs of a termite infestation. If found, seek a professional pest management company’s help immediately.
Types of Termites
The size of an adult termite ranges from ½ inch to about an inch. All termite colonies have a social caste system made up of workers, soldiers and reproductives (also known as swarmers or alates). Workers are a milky white color with a dark head and no wings. Soldiers are a similar color but have large mandibles to help defend the nest. Reproductives can range from tan to reddish brown to almost black depending on the species. They have two pairs of wings and a pair of bead-like antennae.
Swarming termites are often misidentified as winged ants. There are a couple of key differences between these two insects that homeowners should know when determining a pest problem. Termites have two pairs of wings that are the same size while ant wings are unequal. Ants also have a tiny “pinched” waist while termites have a broad waist that hardly tapers.
Termites In The House & The Garden
These pests like two things: moisture and wood. Look for areas with excess moisture in your home that may have been damaged by leaky pipes, air conditioning units and places where water is not properly draining away from the house’s foundation. Also check cracks in the foundation and woodpiles stacked near your home.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you prevent termites?
Keeping termites out of your home begins with maintaining the exterior of your house. Remove wet or rotted wood near the house and trim back shrubs and bushes that have grown too close to the foundation. Avoid having areas with excess moisture by fixing leaky water hoses and making sure that water slopes away from the house. Store firewood away from the home. Seal cracks and crevices in your foundation with silicone. Create an 18-inch wide border of stones or gravel, beginning at the base of the foundation, to separate landscaping from the house and help prevent these pests from getting inside. All of these practices will help eliminate shelter for termites.
Benefits of Professional Termite Pest Control
A subterranean termite problem is best addressed by a pest management professional who has the education, equipment and skills needed. Finding and treating the subterranean termites can be difficult, especially hidden inside the wood of your home. A pest management professional provides the expertise to identify the pest problem and determine the best possible solution to resolve the termite infestation.