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Termites

Drywood Termites

drywood termites
Color: Creamy white to light brown
Shape: Long, narrow and oval
Size: 3/8 - 1 inch
Region: Primarily found coastally from South Carolina westward to Texas and up the west coast to California
Habits

Drywood termite colonies can have up to 2,500 members. All the work in the colony is done by immature termites before they reach adulthood.

Threats

Drywood termites can infest structures causing significant structural damage. They can chew through walls, floors and support beams causing expensive repairs.

Prevention

Drywood termites can be avoided by making sure firewood and scrap wood is stored at least 20 feet from the home. Drywood termites form new colonies by gaining access to wood through small holes. As a Drywood termite treatment tactic, seal all cracks and crevices in a structure.

Formosan Termites

formosan termite
Color: Creamy white to brownish
Shape: Long, narrow and oval
Size: 1/2 inch long
Region: Found in Hawaii, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, and California
Habits

Formosan termite colonies have an average of 350,000 workers, but are able to contain several million termites. They build intricate mud nests in the ground. These termites are also known to infest shrubs, trees, utility poles, timber, railroad trusses and even boats.

Threats

A mature colony can cause severe structural damage to a home in as little as six months.

Prevention

Reduce humidity in basements, attics and crawl spaces with proper ventilation. Use gutters, downspouts and splash blocks to divert water away from you home are foundation. Keep mulch at least 15 inches from the foundation. Store firewood 5 inches off the ground and at least 20 feet away from the house.

Subterranean Termites

subterranean termite
Color: Creamy white to dark brown/ black
Shape: Long, narrow and oval
Size: 1/8 inch long
Region: Found throughout the U.S.
Habits

Subterranean termites live in underground colonies or above ground in secluded moist areas. They swarm during the spring when groups of the reproductive termites go off to start new colonies.

Threats

Subterranean termites the most destructive termite species. They can cause severe property damages by eating extremely small fragments of wood, one piece at a time.

Prevention

Reduce humidity in basements, attics and crawlspaces with proper ventilation. Use gutters, downspouts and splash blocks to divert water away from you home are foundation. Keep mulch at least 15 inches from the foundation. Store firewood 5 inches off the ground and at least 20 feet away from the house. Eliminate wood contact with the soil. with a one-inch gap between the soil and wood portions of the building.

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Frequently Asked Questions

 

What are the most common signs of termites?

The top five most common signs of termites are:

  • Swarmers or discarded wings—Swarmers are young, winged termites. In the springtime, after the last freeze, termite swarmers will emerge from their nests and seek out a new location to start a colony. Termite swarmers, or their discarded wings, are often the first and only visible signs of a termite problem.
  • Mud tubes—Subterranean termites, which are the most destructive type of termite species, build mud tubes to provide moisture while they travel between their colony and food source. Mud tubes are often found on or near a home’s foundation.
  • Wood damage—Termites typically eat wood from the inside out, which causes wood to sound hollow when tapped on.
  • Uneven or bubbling paint—Uneven paint is often often a sign of moisture buildup which can result from two causes: termites or water damage.
  • Frass—Drywood termites produce wood-colored droppings called frass that look like pellets. A small pile of these droppings inside or outside a home may signify an infestation.

 

When should I have a termite inspection done?

If you suspect a termite infestation, schedule an inspection right away. Many home buyers will schedule a termite inspection during the purchasing process to see if there is any damage present, and if so, the repairs can be negotiated with the seller prior to closing on the home. As a homeowner, consider scheduling a professional inspection at least once every 3 to 5 years, which is the recommended frequency according to the American Society of Home Inspectors.

 

How much damage can termites really do?

Termites are estimated to cause approximately $5 billion in property damages and repair costs each year. This amount totals more than annual fire, flood or tornado damage!

 

How do I know if I have winged ants or swarming termites?

Termite swarmers can be identified by their pigmented bodies with broad waists; they also have two pairs of wings that are equal in size and shape. Winged ants, in contrast, have pinched waists and two pairs of wings that differ in both size and shape, as the front pair is much larger than the back. Both types of insects will shed their wings. If you find discarded wings, collect a few and show them to your pest control technician to have them identified.

 

Do termites really eat wood?

Yes, termites actually eat wood. In nature, termites play a useful role by recycling wood into the soil as humus, an organic material that provides nutrients for plants and increases the ability of soil to retain water. Using bacteria, protozoa, and microbes that live inside their stomachs, termites are able to digest cellulose, the main constituent of wood. They are extremely well organized and persistent in their search for new food sources. They will eat anything containing cellulose including wallpaper, books, boxes, carpet backing, drywall and even furniture.

 

Can termites make their way through concrete?

Termites cannot create their own path in concrete, but they can fit through cracks that are a mere 1/32nd of an inch wide. These kinds of gaps are created when two pieces of concrete are poured separately or are poured around plumbing.

 

How long do termites live?

A worker termite typically lives about one to two years. A queen in the U.S. has a typical lifespan of 15 to17 years, but some have been recorded living up to 30 years. In some African species, a queen can even live for up to 50 years!

 

Why do winged termites lose their wings?

Termites only use their wings to fly short distances. Once they land, they break off their wings and never fly again. Instead, they burrow themselves into the soil to spend the remainder of their lives building a new colony.

 

How do termites gain access to my property?

Termites can enter a home or business through a space as small as 1/32nd of an inch. Subterranean termites usually enter buildings from the soil that borders the foundation. However, some infestations begin above ground. This occurs when a termite king and queen begin a new nest within a structure or when foraging termite workers become isolated and cannot return to the parent colony; this type of infestation is most common in high moisture areas. Buildings with flat roofs or chronic leaks are at a higher risk as they often retain enough moisture for a colony to survive, even without contact to the ground. In these cases, moisture damage is as dangerous as the termite infestation.

Common construction practices can also contribute to termite problems by creating ideal conditions for colonization. Some examples of these practices include wood-to-soil contact, form boards not being removed after construction is completed, wood refuse buried under the slab, improper drainage, and stucco built below grade. Spreading mulch adjacent to a foundation can also create conditions that allow termites to enter a building.

How can I prevent a termite infestation?

There are several steps you can take to prevent termite infestations:

  • Divert water away from your home’s foundation by installing properly functioning
    downspouts, gutters, and splash blocks
  • Reduce humidity in crawl spaces with proper ventilation
  • Trim vines, hedges, and other vegetation to prevent them from blocking vents
  • Remove old form boards, grade stakes, tree trunks, and roots near a building as they may attract termites
  • Maintain an 18-inch gap between soil and any wood portions of your home
  • Store firewood at least 20 feet away from your house and 5 inches off the ground
  • Check firewood for pests before bringing it indoors
  • Routinely inspect the foundation of your home for signs of termite damage

 

Can termites eat through plastic?

Termites do not eat through plastic. However, the aggressive Formosan termite has been known to attack plastic in search of food.

 

How long does it take for termites to damage a house?

The average colony can eat about one foot of a 2×4 in a matter of six months. When a colony invades a building, noticeable damage appears between three and eight years later.

 

Which areas in a home are most vulnerable to termite damage?

Any structure made of wood is susceptible to termite damage. Slab foundations, any wood that touches the dirt surrounding the home and inaccessible crawl spaces are especially prone to termites.

 

How many termites live in a colony?

Termite colonies vary in size but some consist of more than 15,000,000 termites.

 

Can you repair termite damage?

There are two main ways to repair wood damaged by termites:

  • The damaged wood can be removed and replaced with new wood
  • A new piece of wood can be attached to the damaged wood to provide support

Both of these methods are effective for structural and non-structural repairs. Be sure to consult a contractor to determine the best way to repair any termite damage. It is rare, but possible, for termites to damage a house beyond repair. For this to happen, the infestation must be left untreated for many years.