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The word termite has easily become one of the most feared in the English language. It is certainly not without good cause that this is the case. When left unchecked these fiendish little predators can cause serious problems. Yearly, their damages total nearly the millions and only show a steady incline. These numbers will only continue to grow until people wise up about the threat the termite poses.
With all that in mind, the real concern is detection. In the defense of most homeowners, people are good about jumping on problems as soon as they arise. The problem with a termite infestation is detecting that there is a problem. Although they do massive damage, their presence isn’t the most obvious at first. Simply put, you likely won’t know you have a problem until you are looking at thousands in repair damages.
The best way to combat this issue is to arm yourself with knowledge. Learn to properly identify the invader, learn how and where they invade and learn to quickly identify their presence on your property. We are more than willing to share our knowledge.
What Exactly Is A Termite? The Proper Identification Of The Species
When most people think of termites, they think of wood-eating insects. This is a good start but it’s nowhere near an accurate or thorough assessment. You’ll come to understand why later. As for now, you must understand there are more than one species of termite. As a matter of fact, there are thousands located in various regions of the world.
Despite this, you’ll be relieved to know that there are only 2 main species you need to worry about in the US. These would be the subterranean and drywood termites. Not only are these two different species going to exude different characteristics, but they’ll require different solutions for elimination. Just as an example, poisonous barriers are an effective approach against subterranean termites, but such barriers won’t do anything against drywood termites.
Subterranean termites are species that can effectively establish colonies in wood, soil, and even compost piles. They are the species responsible for the more notable mud tubes. These tubes should be thought of as a termite highway, providing access in and out of wood, soil, and oftentimes your home. In terms of foundation damage, the subterranean species take the trophy.
This is likely due to their saw-toothed jaws. If provided enough time, these destructive invaders could bring an entire building down. 95% of the yearly reported home damage goes to the guys. Identifying them by locating the mud tubes they build is far more effective than trying to identify the parasite by eye. You would likely need a magnifying glass to even spot the pest, as they only measure anywhere from 1/8 inch to 3/8 inch. Their narrow build also helps conceal their identity.
The color of the wood invader depends on the caste or role of the member. Similar to the role that society, termite colonies are divided into various castes or roles. For instance, you have the queen termite, the worker, the solider, and the reproductive member. Although these invaders vary in color, it will be the color that identifies their role within the colony. Worker termites are typically creamed-colored like the workers but have brown heads.
Reproductive members of this society are either black or brown. One of the constituting reasons for their destructiveness is their sheer size. A single subterranean termite colony can consist of anywhere from 100,000 to close to a million members.
The biggest difference between the subterranean and drywood termite is their colony location. Since the invaders are so small and hard to identify with the naked eye, their colony location can help properly identify the species you are dealing with. For instance, subterranean termites require contact with soil, wheres drywood termites live exclusively in wood. Drywood species do not build mud tubes for traveling. This species is also usually only located in subtropical climates.
The drywood species does grow to be a little larger in size, but nowhere near the size that would make naked eye identification easy. Seeing as they only grown from 1/8 inch to ½ inches, it would still require a magnifying glass for proper identification. Like the subterranean species, each specific member within the caste will be colored differently. The members go do the biggest portion of wood damage are white.
Members of this species can range anywhere from yellow to tan to a light brown. Size is another big identifying factor. Drywood termite colonies grow nowhere near the size of a typical subterranean colony. A standard drywood colony would hold 2,500 members.
Recognizing A Problem
Before you can even start treating your property for termites, you must identify a problem. With that being said, there are various preemptive approaches that can be taken. Any homeowner would be wise to take advantage of these preemptive approaches, especially if the property has suffered previous infestations.
Unfortunately, determining and identifying a termite infestation isn’t as simple as keeping a keen eye on your soil and wood. If you’re lucky you may spot a colony this way, but it usually isn’t that easy. Therefore, a standard, effective investigation should be conducted once a year. Another misconception regarding termites is that they only invade during the early spring and late fall. This is not true at all. Termite infestation can develop any time of the year, although both the drywood and subterranean species are more attracted to warm and humid conditions.
That’s why you see them more in the early spring and late fall, but they can appear anytime. Simply put, you’d be wise to establish a routine of investigation. This is something we’ll be more than glad to do for you if you are unable or just want the advantage of an experienced eye. However, it is possible for any homeowner to conduct their own effective and thorough search. This is how you’ll want to start:
It might not be possible to scour your entire property, hand-checking every wooden beam or joist, but it will be essential to check the major support areas. In the crawlspaces and attics, you’ll want to pay especially close attention to wood structures that support a load. More than likely, if facing a subterranean infestation there will be mud tubes.
This might not always be the case though, so you’ll want to tap on the wood with your utensil. If a soft thud or hollow sound follows, it should be a clear indication that termites have hollowed out this piece of wood.
Speaking of mud tubes, this is the biggest and easiest identifier for the subterranean species. They typically use these tubes to create traveling highways. These tubes are constructed of wood and soil and are about the same diameter as a pencil.
If you spot a single mud tube, it’ll be definitive proof that you need to get a professional on the line. However, the absence of a mud tube does not mean that you are termite-free. You might be free of subterranean termites, but drywood termites could be lingering right around the corner.
Despite the size of termites, these little invaders can produce quite a big noise nuisance. It is not highly likely, but it is possible that you might hear them at work. When building colonies, these invaders usually work non-stop with little to no rest. This greatly increases the chances you might hear them inside your walls.
If you suspect an infestation, put your ear to the walls and see if you hear a banging or scratching noise. This noise could also be an alarm. Soldier termites will bang their heads against the wood when a threat is detected or nearby. They do this to warn the other members of the colony to be on high alert.
Both species of termites establish colonies with the intention of growing and spreading. Once their founding colony reaches an acceptable size, they will send other members off to establish new colonies. It is the reproductive members of the caste that are tasked with this role. These members grow wings that allow them to fly and scout new colony locations. More often than not, these flying members can be found around window seals.
When they find a suitable location for the colony, they drop, shed their wings, and start building and reproducing. Keeping an eye out for these wings around window seals can help identify an infestation. Despite the size and colors of these invaders, you will be able to see the shed wings if you look hard enough.
One of the easiest and most definitive ways to detect a termite infestation is by locating live termites. Despite how simple this sounds; the task might be harder than most would imagine. Even with subterranean colony numbers reaching near a million, spotting live termites in action is less likely than most would assume. Not entirely impossible but a real possibility. Just because you see a small insect crawling around on wood, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are facing a termite infestation.
When it comes right down to it, you’d be surprised at how similar a termite looks to an ant. To the untrained eye, a termite can look just like an ant. Although it might take a magnifying glass, the best way to differentiate between the two is through their abdomens, wings, and antennae. Termite’s rear wings are even in size while their abdomens are thick. They also have straight antennae and ants on the other hand are the exact opposite.
Properly Dealing With An Infestation
It is possible for homeowners to effectively eliminate a termite infestation, but it will not be an easy or inexpensive task. In all honesty, it is cheaper to just hire a professional to come in and do the job right the first time.
Proper and thorough elimination usually requires a lot of trial and error on most homeowners’ part. In addition to this, when you hire an experienced, trained, and qualified company like ours, you get follow-up visits and satisfaction guarantees. Life is already stressful enough without having to worry about spending thousands of dollars fighting termites. Let us handle the worry and problem for you.
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