For many insects, wood is a source of nourishment, home for their colonies and the perfect place for their reproductive cycle. Unfortunately, some insects choose our homes for this purpose, turning our precious floors and furniture into something that requires termite control.
Termites at a glance
Termites are social insects, similar to ants. They live in highly organized collectives, relying on sophisticated hierarchy. Aside from the king and queen (the initial termite pair that starts the colony), the societal structure also includes workers, soldiers and reproductives. Each of these groups gives a specific contribution to the development and survival of the colony.
Based on their different characteristics, habits and climate preferences, termites can be divided into 3 broad categories: subterranean, drywood and dampwood.
It’s important to be familiar with the appearance and behavior of these pests so you can nip the infestation in the bud. Waiting for a visible structural damage before you take action can prove to be a big and costly mistake.
If you are unsure what to do, it’s best to leave the matter to professionals. Whatever your needs are, the best pest and termite control Orange County company is always at your beck and call.
Termite characteristics – appearance and behavior
Since worker termites show insignificant physical differences between species, professionals mainly focus on the appearance of the reproductive forms (alates) and the soldiers, in order to identify the termite type.
Alates are also called swarmers. They cannot bite or chew and don’t cause damage themselves. Their purpose is to fly out and start new colonies in and around your home, when the first colony matures.
Alates have two sets of wings which they discard soon after swarming. As a result, almost all dead alates you will see are wingless. In contrast, dead subterranean swarmers consist of insects with and without attached wings.
People tend to confuse swarmers with ants, as both species often swarm around the same time. Unlike ants, termites have straight antennae, non-constricted waist and equally sized forewings and hindwings which are longer than their bodies.
Termite soldiers have large mouths with teeth capable of tearing pieces of wooden materials. They can infest anything from the foundation, furniture, shelves and even books, causing extensive damage.
Subterranean termites are the most problematic structural pests. As the names implies, they need contact with soil in order to thrive. Within their subterranean homes, they build complex tunnel systems and mud tubes. These structures are used as access points to the food sources located above the surface.
Subterranean termites chew along the grain of the wood, feeding primarily on the soft spring wood.
Drywood termites prefer to live above ground, in solid, dry wood, and often infest walls and furniture. They don’t require soil or moisture and don’t build mud tunnels. Drywood termites are considered less damaging, mainly because their colonies are smaller and develop at a relatively slow pace.
Nonetheless, drywood termites are quite capable of inflicting serious damage to buildings and woodwork.
Drywood termites tend to chew their way through wood grain, thus destroying both the soft spring wood and the harder summer growth.
Are termites pests by default?
Like all other living creatures, termites also have a role in nature. As detritophages, they feed on decomposing plants, animal tissue and feces. They also consume dead parts of living trees, including wood in the soil.
By breaking down these dead materials, termites prevent their accumulation and release the “captured” nutrients and minerals back into the soil. This natural affinity for dead wood often uncontrollably extends to human dwellings.
Approximately 5-10% of all termite species are economically significant in terms of their potential to inflict structural damage to people’s homes.
When do you need termite control?
Termites are often referred to as silent destroyers for a very good reason. They eat 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They can quietly devour your woodwork, going for years without any obvious signs of damage.
To keep these wood-munching pests at bay, you’re best advised to get your home inspected by a professional termite control company about once a year.
It is also a good idea to perform a thorough inspection when buying a house, so you can avoid unpleasant surprises.
There are several ways to check for termite presence:
Look for the insects
Of course, the easiest way to know you have termites is to actually see them. Search the humid parts of your home, especially those around wood. Subterranean termites like dark, humid environments.
Look for swarmers
When the nest is well-established and mature, the colony produces swarmers – winged adult termites – which leave the nest to create new colonies. Swarming usually occurs during daytime.
If you spot swarmers outdoors, the nest is probably in your yard, near a wooden structure. If most of the termites swarm indoors, the infestation is probably inside/under your home.
In case of subterranean termites, swarming doesn’t indicate a recent infestation. Rather, it means they have already been there for about 3 to 5 years. This is because it takes a colony 3 years to reach maturity.
Termite droppings (frass)
As drywood termites eat their way through wood, they produce specific pellet droppings. These droppings are then pushed out of the tunnel-like galleries through tiny kick-out holes. Piles of frass found beneath these holes serve as a major indicator of termite infestation.
Check for mud tunnels in your wood beams and foundation. Subterranean termites create mud tunnels as a “bypass” solution when they hit an object they cannot consume, like concrete. The tunnels, which are about the size of a pencil in width, indicate a termite problem.
Look for wood damage
This can be a bit difficult, as termites devour the inner parts of the wood with no visible markings on the outside. If wood damage is severe, it may start to show visible signs on the outside, like discoloration or blistering.
Aside from visual inspection of the wood, you can try poking the wood with a sharp object to see if it crumbles.
You can also “sound” the wood by tapping on the suspicious areas. If you hear a hollow sound, there is a good chance termites have invaded your home.
A termite infestation can be successfully eradicated by several professional termite control methods. Whatever your problem may be, don’t despair. Aside from handling pests & termites, we also have the best rodent control orange county can offer. Our service is just a phone call away.