Termite is best described as a wood destroying insect. They are mistakenly referred to as white ants sometimes, but they are very different from them. There are basically three broad classes of termite named, damp wood, dry wood, and subterranean.
Damp wood termites generally tend to live in areas that are heavily forested, whereas dry wood termites live in really dry wood and are much rare in the United States.
Subterranean are the most destructive species of the termites and they require a moist environment and are usually found living in the soil. These trouble creators cause an average damage of 5 billion dollars annually in the United States alone.
Therefore, termite infestation should be seriously taken and these should be controlled at the earliest. They are usually seen during the spring.
It is advisable to take a look at the wings and antennae if you think there’s a termite in your house. Before taking the decision of treating termites, it is very important to know their type and identify them so that the best treatment can be provided.
Different species of termites are found in different parts of the country. For instance, in the southern part of the United States, subterranean termites are most commonly found.
Drywood termites live in dry wood and do not need any moisture from the ground to survive. Drywood Termites are most common in areas near the Gulf Coast and in Southern California.
Drywood termites require a different treatment than subterranean termites, so it is important, if you live in these areas, to determine what species you are dealing with.
You can have both subterranean termites and drywood termites at the same time, and it would require 2 different treatments to control them.
Take a look at the color using a magnifying glass. Subterranean termites are solid black, drywood termites are solid red and those ants usually are red and black or dark brown in color.
Carpenter ants and termites are often confused because of fact that both of them have wings in their reproductive stages.
Some of the distinguishing features between Termites and Carpenter Ants:
- Waist: Termites have a straight waist, while ants have a pinched waist.
- Antennae: The termites have straight antennae while ants have bent ones.
- Wing Length: Both the wings of termites are of the same length while ants have wings of different lengths.
Subterranean termites generally begin the feeding process from the ground to enter into a building. Those houses having crawling spaces are at great risk. It is here where you should really start looking out for evidence of damaged wood and mud tubes.
The wood damaged by this particular specie develops hollow tunnels known as galleries, which run along the grain of the wood. Drywood termites enter structures near the roof line or other exposed wood to begin building a colony.
Inspect your attic for evidence of damaged wood. Look for tiny holes in the wood with evidence of frass collecting nearby. Probing the wood can also expose galleries as well.
Types of Termites
1. Subterranean Termites
These belong to the family of Rhinotermitidae. These termites live in the soil and build the largest nests of any insect. These nests are connected via mud tubes to food sources, such as trees, fence posts etc.
2. Drywood Termites
These termites belong to the family Kalotermitidae and usually live in wood, such as dead trees, structural timbers or floors. They don’t require contact with soil.
The colonies of these termites tend to be smaller than that of the subterranean termites; they do cause a lot of damage but at a slower rate.
These are found in Arizona, California, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama etc.
3. Dampwood Termites
These belong to the family Klotermitidae and live in wood with high moisture content. A majority of these species require no contact with soil to survive and feed themselves.
These are rarely found in homes or other man-made structures because of the fact that wood doesn’t have high moisture content.
These are mainly found in Texas, Arizona, Florida, New Mexico and California.
4. Formosan Termite
These termite forms large colonies of several millions and can damage a house in months. They make nests underground, but also build satellite nests in trees and houses.
These are mainly found in southeast, South California and Hawaii.
There are three major varieties of termites in the U.S. namely the subterranean, drywood and dampwood.
Termites start new colonies from existing nests. Here’s how it happens:
- Established, successful termite colonies start producing winged, sexually mature adults called alates after a few years.
- The alates fly off to create their own nests during the spring when the temperature is mild and the air is humid.
- Nests release all their alates one time in swarms that disperse quickly. If you detect the presence of multiple winged termites inside your house, there’s a good chance there’s a termite nest nearby using the wood in your home as a food source.
- Check your window sills. Alates will try to get outside, so you may find them clustered around closed windows or doors.
Signs of Termite Infestation
The process of identifying the signs of termite infestation requires patience and determination because of the fact that these termites prefer to reside in the dark, damp and warm areas of the house.
If the signs are not taken care of, it can affect the structure of the entire building. Here are some signs of the termites’ presence:-
1. Termite Shelter Tubes
Most of the termites mainly originate from the ground crossing barriers. These tubes play a crucial role in protecting the termites from predators, maintains a dark and humid environment for their food storage and their development.
The termites are unique creatures and construct the structures at night when they are less likely to dry, in most cases the structure is clay like in texture , brown or dark brown in color.
Some are narrow while others are wider, if they are narrow like, 10 millimeters they contain soldiers and workers foraging for food.
On the other hand, if they are wider like 50 millimeters then they consist of large numbers of workers and soldiers transporting food and in this stage, these tend to be most destructive.
Since they come in large numbers, they can cause immense damage on the wood or carvings they locate themselves.
2. Subterranean Tunnels
These species, namely the subterranean termites, on the other hand, are not involved in the creation of shelter tubes but however, make subterranean tunnels to search and transport their food. These tunnels can be deep down the soil with radius of up to 50 meters.
3. Blowholes in Trees
This is for both termite species but the most visible is the subterranean species, which forms their colonies in tree root crown and trunks.
When an enemy infests the termites or predator the termites cut a longitudinal slit on the trunk to exit, however then the fight is completed the worker termite seal the hole and in most cases the tree produces callus in response to injuries. In wood a hollow sound maybe heard if termites have infested.
4. Termites Noises and Wood Excavation
Termites often hollow out the wood leaving behind a thin layer where excavation depends on the termite species. Audible tapping is heard at the places which are seriously affected by the termite infestation.
This is the sound from the soldier termites that bang their heads to give an indication of the presence of danger to all other termites with in a colony.
The continuous transfer of the signal to the rest of the termite population often increases the sound, and that’s the reason why it can be heard.
5. Earthen Packing
Termites working inside a wood often produce a mud like earthen packing on the surface and this is mostly visible on the foundation walls or at the joints.
In most cases, these termites can do serious damage to the wall foundations and joints. The earthen Packing is the most crucial sign of termites.
6. Piles of termite frass in or around the home
Frass is the term which is used for the termite droppings. These droppings are found mostly near the entry of termites. In case, you found a pile of dropping inside or outside your home, it is a clear indication of the termite infestation.
7. Presence of Wings
Reproductive termites are termed as swarmers and often take flights to expand the present colonies or create new ones. These are often termed as flying termites as well.
8. Sagging Floors and Hollow Wood
Termites burrow into the wood in a honeycomb pattern without coming closer to the surface; this is one of the problems why early detection is difficult.
As they continue to burrow they make the wood significantly weaker and results in hollow sound and sagging floors. As a precautionary measure, one should walk around the wooden floors or walls while tapping them to identify the hollowness or termite infestation.
9. Head Banging
One of the visible sign of the presence of these termites is the quiet clicking sounds coming off the wall. The termites called the Soldier termites bang their heads against the wood or shake their bodies when the colony is disturbed to signal danger to the other termites.
The worker termites, the ones who enjoy eating your wood, to be precise damaging them, make noisy sounds while doing the same. If you put your ear close to any wood infested by termites you can hear them munching away.
A little known fact is that the termites enjoy the presence of rock music. A recently carried out study proves that these trouble creators speed up when exposed to the rock music. Therefore, rock music is the key to hear them.
When a selection of termites was subjected to a rock track they ate wood two times faster. These are little, sensible creature and can easily detect the vibrations and noises using several organs which are found at the base of their antennae.
10. Blistered Wood
Termites chewing into dry wood usually leave a thin surface, which may appear blistered or dark and breaks through easily when pressed.
How to Prevent Termites?
Learning the steps to be taken to prevent termites can help you save your money after termite infestation takes place.
- After putting up proactive preventions such as screens, sand, and removing termite feeding sources, it is important to make sure a home’s plumbing is performing properly. These pests feed on cellulose materials, but they also need to have water. Without water present, there won’t be termites.
- While not always applicable, the best termite prevention starts during the planning stages and continues throughout construction. A basaltic termite barrier is made of rock particles packed so tightly beneath a house that termites are unable to get through it. Termite mesh can also be used, which is a stainless steel screen with holes so small, termites cannot pass through, and perfect for problem areas such as cold joints in concrete. Poured concrete foundations are hardest for termites to invade, but only if there are no cracks. Brick and block foundations develop cracks as they age, so they should have a capping of 4 inches of solid concrete to make it harder for termites to get inside. Using steel frames, pressure treated wood or termite resistant heartwood during construction is also highly recommended to prevent termites.
- Their prevention in existing homes is possible as well. Just initiate with reducing all Soil-to-wood contacts in your house. Remove all lumber, wood, plants, mulch, paper, cardboard, etc., from around the foundation. Create a 4-inch barrier between mulch and your home. If possible, only the concrete foundation should touch the soil, with siding starting at least 6 inches above the soil. Keep plants a few feet away from your home for the best termite prevention. Fix leaky faucets and eliminate other sources of excess moisture, as that creates perfect conditions for termite invasions.
Some of the following steps could also be followed to avoid their presence:
- Keep all bushes near your home trimmed, allowing at least 12 inches between the bushes and the exterior of your home. This would create a nice air flow and hence locating the termite tubes would be an easier task.
- It is advisable to use pine needles instead of mulch. Pine needles are less appetizing to subterranean termites and will also help minimize the environment that other insects such as ants like to nest in as well. If pine needles aren’t available in your area, consider pea gravel or other non-organic material as a barrier between your house and mulch.
- If your home has a crawl space underneath it, make sure it has proper ventilation and a good vapor barrier to help minimize moisture from reaching the floor joints and subfloor. Moisture not only can be there favorable condition under your home, it can also cause wood destroying fungus to grow. Moisture in a crawl space can also lead to unpleasant odors inside the house and in the right conditions create an environment for certain kinds of wood destroying beetles to infest the wooden members under your home.
Preventative maintenance goes a long way. By properly maintaining the exterior of your home such as wooden siding or windows, it will decrease the likelihood of water leaking behind your wall and creating an ideal environment for subterranean termites.
How to get rid of Termites?
Before killing termites, it is very important to remove any easy food sources for them. For the homeowners, this means moving the firewood pile from the house.
Any wood, lumber, or even paper fragment that is near a home’s foundation can become a home for a colony of termites to begin. Make sure to grind out or pull out any stumps that are near the home and any other plant-based fragment that is present as well.
Termites also need an entry point into the home to infest the interior of it. Make sure that there are screens in place, on every outside vent to prevent these pests from moving in. Regularly inspect any decking, fencing, and other wood components of the home and take action to remove the pests immediately if they are found.
There are DIY, chemical and non-chemical solutions that will remove a colony of termites. The most common non-chemical solution is to install a barrier around the home.
This typically happens at the time of the foundation of the house. A new barrier could also be installed in a similar fashion. Termites also struggle to move through sandy soil. Installing a barrier around your foundation, could slow these pests down.
Combined with steel mesh on any vent, this can be an effective solution. Certain fungi and nematodes have also been shown as being effective at eliminating a termite colony.
Certain chemical solutions are also approved by the approval agencies and they may be available through an online store or through a professional pest eliminator or any other mode.
The most common type of chemical solution to remove termites is through the use of bait. The bait is set out around the area of the colony, it feeds off of it, and eventually it dies off. There are three other common chemical solutions that are also approved for use.
- Liquid Pesticides which are exclusively deigned for the termites and applied to the soil.
- Building materials infused directly with the termite’s colony.
- Wood treatment chemical solutions which are applied as directed.
Always apply these chemical solutions as directed. There could be very dangerous consequences if you don’t follow the instructions. There is a possibility of these getting into the water system and surrounding wells.
This would affect your health by water contamination. When this happens, the treatment is generally not effective against the pest. That’s why having some proven DIY methods of termite pest control can be extremely helpful to eliminate stubborn colonies.
Natural Termite Control
There is a fair possibility of you not liking the idea of exposing yourself to chemical methods to control the termites. If this is the case, it is advisable to follow the other methods described above. If also followed the above methods, follow the following natural termite control steps to accomplish the same.
Use a wet cardboard trap
Presence of some of the used boxes in your garage guarantees you with a perfect termite natural trap. Completely submerge the trap in the water and that take it out. Once done with this, just place it where you suspect their presence. Once you see the pests feeding off of the cellulose in the box, you can remove it and burn it.
Sunlight can kill the termites
If you expose a colony to bright sunlight during the day, it will die. Place infested furniture in the sunlight outside to promote termite death. If the sunlight isn’t an option, UV lights that replicate sunlight may also work. You may need to clear away brush, roots, and landscaping items to expose the colony to light.
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