When anyone mentions the word “termite”, images of damaged homes usually come to mind. And rightly so as termites feed on wood, and wood is the number one material used to build homes in the U.S. But just what are termites, what do they do to wood, what can be done about them, and how does termite inspection help homeowners?
Meet Mr. and Ms. Termitoidae
The scientific name for a termite is termitoidae. Not every termite is bad, as many feed on dead leaves and plants, soil, animal waste, and some forms of wood. But the destructive kind can cause havoc on crops, forests, trees, and significant damage to homes and buildings.
Termites are social animals that live in colonies numbering from a few hundred to a million or more. These insects live in different types of environments and form colonies underground, in large pieces of timber or wood, in mounds above ground, in trees, and in the wood of buildings.
Some species of termites are “polycalic” or form more than one nest. As a result of this behavior, termites are sometimes hard to get rid of because they form multiple nests throughout an area. One nest may be eliminated from a home, but the underground tunnels that termites form are connect to other nests and reinfect the original location.
Subterranean and dry-wood termite species are the ones responsible for damage to buildings and homes, and these pests must be detected to prevent serious long-term damage to property. They literally eat up the wood in a home and cause extensive damage by weakening and destroying the beams, walls, floors, and joists.
How Do I Detect A Termite Problem?
Termites are shy creatures and rarely make a public appearance in the open because they are usually tunneling underground or infesting the wood of buildings. Although a termite inspection by a pest control expert is the best way to find out if your home is infested, there are also some common tip-offs that may indicate there is a termite problem:
Mud tubes: These look like long quarter-inch diameter tubes running up and down outside walls, fences, floor joists, and other similar structures; they appear brown in color like mud. There are many stands of tubes, are hollow, and serve as a transportation system between underground termite nests and the upper levels where buildings are.
If a mud tube is broken, inspect the inside to see if small, cream-colored insects are there. If there are, these are worker termites.
Insect swarms: In some cases termites are mistaken for ants. During the warmer months of the year, termites swarm and can be identified by their cream-colored bodies, small wings, and narrow-long shapes.
Little holes and residue: The telltale signs that termites may be present in a building are little holes appearing in plaster or drywall. If termites are present, there will be small bits of soil that line the rim of the hole.
Wood that has been damaged by termites may appear sunken or dented and may be weak or soft when pushed upon. There may also be “sawdust” or dirt in and around wood.
Solving The Problem
If you suspect that your home has a termite infestation, the best way to approach this potential problem is to call a professional pest exterminator for a termite inspection of the premises. He or she can tell you if your home or building is infested with termites.
The solution for termite elimination are varied and can incorporate insecticides, soil treatment, fumigation of the premises, or green methods using natural oils from fruits and plants, or by using methods to disrupt the insect’s digestion through the use of certain strains of microbes. For new home builders who want to greatly reduce the risk of a termite infestation before it even happens, there are several pre-construction treatment options available.
Check with your pest control professional to see what options are available to you.
Frank Ling writes for websites and companies and thinks it is fun to learn about so many different things, while on the job. His favorite food is anchovy pizza—something that not many others seem to appreciate; but he finds that there are always more slices left for him to eat.