Termites 101

Termites attack all types of structures, causing billions of dollars in damage and treatment yearly. While they eat other materials like plastic and paper, wood makes up the majority of their diet. However, they don’t eat the actual wood. Instead, they ingest cellulose, an organic fiber found in the wood.

Termites usually live in decayed trees, soil, and wooden structures. One of the most common ways they get inside homes is through wood-to-ground contact. Keep a close eye on your porch steps and deck posts. Termites don’t hurt homeowners physically but can destroy properties, and cause expensive repairs.

termites in mound up close

The Life Cycle Of A Termite

Mating Flight

This pests’ life cycle starts with reproductive females and males leaving colonies to procreate. Winged termites land and shed their wings after fertilization to form new colonies.

Eggs

The eggs the queen termite lays hatch into white larvae.

Molting Period

Nymphs are young termites that go through several molts to become reproductive.

Larvae

The young insects finally reach the final stage of growth. It’s time for them to develop into workers, soldiers, or reproductive termites.

Different Kinds Of Termites

Drywood Termites

Drywood termites have straight antennae, short legs, and thick waists. Their size ranges from 1/4 inch to 3/8 inch long. They vary in color, depending on their role in the colony. Soldiers are brownish cream, while workers are just cream in color. Meanwhile, reproductives are typically black or brown. Drywood termites move slower than subterranean termites. This means that it takes around five years for an entire colony to mature. 

These termites create colonies in structures that don’t necessarily have contact with the ground. They eat dry wood and need very little moisture. Moreover, since they are so small, they can infest smaller items such as picture frames, cabinets, and headboards. 

Dampwood Termites

Dampwood termites are much bigger than subterranean termites. Soldiers and immature ones are around 20mm long, while winged termites can be as long as 25 mm. They are generally brown in color yet can range from light to dark. 

These termites are attracted to water-damaged wood, as well as fallen logs and tree branches that have direct contact with the ground. To stay hidden, they cover up entry holes with their own feces. 

In contrast with their Drywood termite cousins, they need constant contact with high humidity and water to survive. Since wood infested by dampwood termites has a high moisture content, it can also get damaged by fungus and mold. 

Formosan termites

Formosan termites live in vast underground colonies with around 350,000 workers. Its soldiers’ bodies are cream in color, with oval-shaped, orange-brown heads. Workers are also cream, while winged reproductives are yellowish-brown. They are about 1/2 inch in size, with elongated abdomens. 

These types of termites live in “carton nests” made from excrement, chewed wood, and saliva. The nests are built within structures that they have used as food sources or hollowed out. 

Formosan termites infest utility poles, living trees, and even boats. They are also said to chew through electric and telephone cable insulation, leading to power outages.

Subterranean termites

Subterranean termites make up around 90% of the termite infestations in the United States. For them to survive, they need darkness and soil. The main portion of their nest is underground, and they dig tunnels in between their food and nests. 

Subterranean worker termites have small jaws, and cream bodies that measure around ¼ to ½ inch. Soldiers, on the other hand, are distinguished by their big mandibles. Although their bodies are typically creamy white, their heads are darker. 

It takes many months or years of feeding for subterranean termites to create notable damages. They intentionally hide within the infested wood, making it hard to locate damaged structures. In severely infested areas, only the hard grain and thin outer shell remain. They eat the soft part of the wood, in layers, between the grains.

The Termite Colony

Queen Termites

The queen termite is responsible for laying eggs to sustain the survival and growth of the colony.

King Termites

The king is the second most important member when it comes to keeping the nest well populated. They spend most of their lives underground, mating with the queen.

Soldier

Soldier termites defend the entire colony. They bite when attacking ants and other pests that try to invade their nest.

Termite Alates

An alate pertains to the termite colony’s winged reproductive caste. Female and male winged reproductives pair during a flight, get rid of their wings and then begin a new colony. Usually, it takes 4 years for a colony to start producing swarmers.

Worker Termites

Worker termites search and collect food for the whole colony. It’s also their job to build and maintain mud tubes and nests.

Reproductive Termites

The termite queen and king are the colony’s primary reproductives. In case one of them dies, it will be replaced by many supplementary reproductives. These secondary reproductives have shorter wing pads and reduced compound eyes.

How Grave Is A Termite Issue?

Termites are called silent destroyers due to their nature of eating wood without making noises. You’ll only realize that your property’s infested if you tap your wooden structure and hear a hollow-sounding tone or you physically see the termites and their signs. 

These pests are known to infest wooden support structures of a residential property’s foundation. The damage is often severe enough to cause cracks even in cement. Since termites prefer damp, dark areas, they normally choose basements and home foundations as nesting places. They build mud tubes or pathways to reach food sources and move up to the drywall. This may cause your walls and floors to buckle in the long run.

A single colony of silent destroyers can devastate your home’s foundation in a few weeks. Termite activities usually remain undetected for a longer period of time. Before you know it, practically all wall and floor joists can be eaten away.

Signs of Infestation

General Evidence May Include:

    • Presence of termite swarmers
    • Overly squeaky floorboards
    • Discolored or drooping drywall
    • Termite droppings near your foundation or basement
    • Visible mazes within walls or furniture
    • Tight-fitting doors and hard-to-open windows
    • Cracked or bubbling paint
    • Discarded wings

Problems Caused

  • Foundation damage
  • Structural damage
  • Wall damage
  • Flooring damage
  • Ceiling damage
  • Mold Spores

Why Do I Have Termites?

Structures get infested by termites in many ways. If you live near fallen trees, stumps, or rotten wood, they will consider your property as a potential food source. It’s also possible that you have gotten them during the swarming season, or through small cracks within your foundation.

Ways to Prevent Termites

How do you make sure that your home won’t get infested by termites? First, avoid any wood contact with the soil, as well as moisture and water accumulation. Then, see to it that discarded firewood and other types of wood are stocked not less than 20 feet from your property. As much as possible, use a 20-mesh screen on all windows and doors, and for ventilation openings in attics and crawl spaces. 

Apart from consistent cautiousness, you need the help of reliable specialists to prevent more serious problems. Fortunately, our team can help termite-proof your property. Contact us now for an inspection or to schedule a treatment.

Did You Know?

  • During summer, reproductive flying termites abandon their mature colonies to look for a pair and mate.
  • Some termite queen species can lay over a million eggs in their lifetime.
  • The most common, home-infesting termites are Pacific, Southern Drywood, and Eastern subterranean termites. 
  • The roles of workers, soldiers, or reproductives are usually filled in by immature termites. 
  • On average, termite damages cost more than a billion each year in the United States alone. The sad part is that most insurance plans don’t pay for these damages.