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Even with limited knowledge of termites, most people know enough to fear them. Easily known as one of the most destructive insects in the world, this little industrious creepy crawler has worked hard to earn and maintain its notorious reputation. Despite their well-earned reputation, you’d be surprised at all the disinformation surrounding these invaders. Unfortunately, such disinformation is a big contributing factor to their ever-evolving presence. This is where we come in!
We’re here to help homeowners grasp a better understanding of these invaders. Learn how to fight termites the right way.
How Do You Know If You Have Termites?
Most homeowners never even realize they have a termite problem until the infestation is so large and destructive that it’s likely already caused untold amounts of damage. Disinformation and undereducation are two of the biggest reasons for this. Most people associate termites with wood. Sure, termites do eat wood, but it is not the wood itself they are after.
It is the cellulose within the wood they are attracted to. Cellulose can be found in a whole handful of common products and materials. Everything from newspapers to cardboard boxes contains this tasty ingredient. That established you can’t fend off any invading force without knowing when, where, and how they might attack. When it comes to termites, there is no such thing as overpreparation.
After termites have successfully moved onto a property, they rarely leave the soil, mud tubes, or food sources through which they are tunneling. This is another big contributor to why people let infestations drag on and accumulate in repair costs. They simply don’t know what’s going on. Keeping a watchful eye on your property is the best way to stay ahead of the game. Always be alert and armed with the right information.
An Exploration Of Termite Species
Termite species are another misleading aspect of the community. Most people don’t realize there are over thousands of varying termite species. Despite this, there are only two types that you must worry about invading your property. And knowing the type you are dealing with will play a major factor in your end objective.
To grasp a better understanding of the whole situation, you need to learn more about the two potential species you might end up warring with. The two primary termite species that invade properties are the Subterranean termites and the Drywood termites.
Although similar in a lot of aspects, dealing with these invaders will require different approaches. Just as a quick example, poisonous barriers are a good approach for subterranean termites, but are utterly useless against dry-wood termites. Drywood species are better tackled with fumigation.
Subterranean Termites – Most people are probably more familiar with the subterranean species, although they don’t know it. These are the termites that take up residence in your wood, soil, and compost piles. They build mud tubes or tunnels through wood and soil to create highways for traveling. These termites are far more destructive than their counterparts and possess the power to level an entire building when given the opportunity. They appear in narrow shapes and grow from 1/8 to 3/8 inches long. Their color will depend upon their role in the community. They are relentless reproducers that usually grow anywhere from 100,000 to a million members before branching off and starting new colonies.
Drywood Termites – Although not quite as destructive as their counterparts, they are still a major threat that needs to be taken extremely seriously. The biggest downfall this species faces is its reliance on the soil. They can live exclusively in wood but require almost constant contact with the soil to survive. You’ll only need to worry about these invaders if you live in a warm coastal region. They do not build mud tubes but grow anywhere from 1/8 to 1/2 inches. Their communities don’t reach nearly the size of the subterranean termites, as they only grow to about 2,500 members. Their colors will also vary depending on their roles within the community.
Roles Within The Community
Whether it be a massive or small termite community, each one requires various members to perform various tasks. Much like that of most species, their survival depends on cooperation. Therefore, various members are assigned different tasks upon birth. You’ve probably heard talk about soldier termites and worker termites. You might have even heard of the king and queen, similar to the queen bee. The most important thing here is to understand these different members and what their specific roles are within the community.
The Queen And King – The king and queen are the great overseers of the community. The queen is more so than the king, as she is the primary reproducer of the community. This king is simply there to assist her with this task. Her size defines her vast importance, as she can grow to nearly 4 inches long. She grows to such a size that when she needs relocating, it takes hundreds of worker termites to accomplish the task. The queen will continue with reproduction throughout the growth of the civilization until the nymphs are ready to take over.
The Worker – The worker termite honestly is the lifeblood of the community. While the queen might be the overseer, it is the workers that make everything come together. They are entirely responsible for everything from tending to the eggs to foraging for feed, constructing tunnels, and feeding and grooming other members. Similar to the process of a mother bird feeding her young, a worker termite is tasked with feeding the other members. They stay so busy building, repairing, foraging, and maintaining that you’ll never spot them out of the tunneling systems. They are 10 millimeters in length and appear light-colored.
The Soldier – Soldiers are the members of the community tasked with defense. They are what the Navy and Army would be to the United States. They are white, soft-bodied, and wingless. Ants are the biggest threat to any community, and it is the soldier’s long head and two powerful jaws that enable him to fend against threatening invaders. They place themselves at the entrances and exits of their tunnel system and serve as a sort of cork, preventing anything and everything from entering.
Winged Reproductive – Both male and female members of the community can grow into reproductive members. From their namesake, you can likely determine that this class is tasked with reproduction. They are also the members that grow wings, fly to new sites, and start new communities. Every termite community will only contain 1 king and 1 queen, but there can be hundreds of reproductive members, as reproduction is of keen importance.
Know When To Call In The Pros
Termites are persistent if nothing else. Given the time, they will bring down an entire building. The trick, as with most complicated tasks in life, is the jump right on the problem as soon as you recognize it. Unfortunately, that’s where things get a bit more complicated with termites. As has been stated multiple times, most homeowners don’t even know they have a problem until they’ve already racked up hundreds of dollars in repair damages.
Learning to spot and notice the early warning signs is the best approach. What are the early warning signs?
Termite Wings – Reproductive members of the colony grow wings, enabling them to fly away from the colony, find a suitable building and breeding ground, and start the entire reproductive cycle anew. When these members find suitable building ground, they drop and shed their wings. As small as they might be, these wings can commonly be found discarded around the perimeter of the home. Look around screened windows and doors.
Sawdust – Got a mountain of sawdust building in the crawlspace or basement, but no one has been doing any cutting or sawing? This could very well be your friendly termite. Termite species burrow into wood, building complex tunneling systems in which they will travel and live. The bits that are not consumed for the cellulose must go somewhere, and it usually goes in a discarded pile near their work area. Some species might even later access the discarded piles to build tubes.
Shelter Tubes – Speak of tubes, this is certainly something no one wants to come across. However, doing so will be a surefire indication of an infestation. Subterranean termites are the tube builders of the species and need a steady, constant supply of moisture. They are more attracted to tiny spaces and build complicated networks of mud tubes.
Hollowed Wood – Even though you’ve learned that termites do not technically eat wood as you thought, there is a reason for their vast association with the material. They do consume the cellulose in it and commonly build and live in such structures. Therefore, hollowed wood would almost always indicate a potent infestation. If you happen to stumble across unexplained sawdust piles, take a screwdriver or simply use your knuckles and rap on nearby wooden structures. If you are met with a hollow sound, there’s a good chance an infestation is active, has been there at some point, or will soon be back to resume work.
An Actual Termite – Although not typical, it is possible to spot one or many of these invaders while active. They might almost look like a common maggot at first, so their presence is not something that will do unnoticed. With their yellow and white bodies, many of the vast species share common characteristics. It will be in damp and highly wooded areas will you likely uncover their presence.
At any point, if you uncover these signs and symptoms on, in, or around your property, you’ll want to get a professional on the phone immediately. Even if you don’t suspect an infestation, you can give us a call and we’ll help you formulate a preemptive attack, so you don’t have to worry about getting invaded in the first place.