Facts about Termites; How to Identify, Prevent and Control Them
Termites are also known as the silent destroyers since it is their habit to hide secretly in your or home without showing any signs of damage. All termites eat cellulose-based plants and unfortunately every home regardless of the nature of construction can provide termites with this type of food.
Termites come in three different types, the subterranean, dampwood, and drywood. All of them belong to the phylum Arthropoda, class Insecta and order Isoptera. They have over two thousand species which have distinct scientific names. The main species that attack homes are Eastern subterranean, southern drywood termites and Pacific dampwood termites. The scientific names are:
- Eastern subterranean – Reticulitermes flavipes
- Southern drywood – incisitermes snyderi
- Pacific dampwood – Zootermopsis angusticollis
The termites’ size ranges from1/4 to 1/2 an inch long. The kings and queens are much bigger, and they can reach an inch long. The workers’ bodies are soft and are pale colored. The flying termites which are also known as the reproductives have two pairs of large wings.
Termites are said to be detritus feeders. They love feeding on dead plants and trees. They get their nutrients from cellulose which is an organic fiber from wood and plant matter. Wood makes up the most diets for pest although termites can feed on other materials like plastic, paper, and drywall. Most of the termite species prefer dead wood, but others consume living plants.
Every type of termite has different diet preference. The subterranean termites love softwoods, but they can also invade other types of wood. Dampwood love staying close to the ground and consume the moist and decaying plants. Drywood termites are mostly found in attics and love woods with little moisture.
The termites’ mouth can tear any wood material. This ability makes them love to attack in human dwellings. Although the workers are tiny in size, their eating habits can cause extensive damage to homes. Furniture, shelves, books and house foundations are all at a high risk as they are the feeding sites for termites.
Termites majorly live in wooden structures, fallen timber, soil and decayed trees. Their habitats vary from one species to another as different types of termites require different amounts of moisture. The pests are mostly found in tropical regions where their living conditions are optimum. The subterranean species can be seen in any part of United States, but the dampwood and drywood are found in the Southern states.
Subterranean termites create their homes mostly in the soil within the mounds; they build tunnels and mud tunnels from which they access their food from above-ground. Drywood builds homes within the food they consume and often infest walls and furniture. When a colony of termites has matured, swarming termites can be seen around doors and windows. They like being near the sources of light and are mostly active during springtime. After mating the termites locate a new breeding site and create another colony. With this, infestation gets bigger as the colonies spread to multiple locations
During the summer months, reproductive termites leave their territory to go and mate and pair off. After mating, the couples will lose their wings, and then they are known as kings and queens, and they create a new colony. The immature termites develop to fill the roles left by the mated couple that is reproductive, workers, and soldiers. Some queens in some species may lay millions of eggs in a year.
Worker termites are responsible for searching for food and feeding the colony members, caring for young and maintaining the nest. Soldiers play the role of protecting the termite colony by use of their big mandibles to chase predators. Reproductives are the sexually mature members of the colony after queens and kings.
Protecting your home from termites
Termites pose a threat to homes, and you need to take preventive measures to keep them away. The steps below will make your home safe and a less attractive target for termites thus keeping them away.
- Eliminate any moisture in your compound. Moisture attracts termite, and you should ensure there are no water leakages. Repair the leaking water pipes and faucets, keep gutters clean, eliminate the stationary water on roofs, divert water from the foundation, keep all vents clean and seal all entry points around water lines and pipes.
- Get rid of their food sources. Wood is their primary source thus keep firewood and papers away from crawl space, get rid of stumps and debris, place screens on the outside vents, check the wooden fences for damages and ensure that no wood is in contact with soil.
Warning signs of termites
If there is a termite infestation in your home, you are likely to witness the following;
- Discarded wings all over your home that might have come from the swarming termites
- Mud tunnels on the exterior walls or in crawl space
- Wood that sounds hollow if tapped
Preventive measures are vital, but once an infestation is already there, it is hard to control. It is best if you contact a specialist to assess the damage and let them do the control work for you.