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Termites 101: What You Need to Know

Posted by Mark A. Puglisi, ACE on Wed, Apr 06, 2016 @ 08:53 AM

When you looked for a new home, you likely asked the realtor to keep a few factors in mind: overall price, square footage, and-most importantly-structural support. After you've lived in your home for some time, you hope that the price has increased and that the home is still as sturdy as when it was built.

Sometimes, however, pests can compromise the structural integrity of a building. One of those pests includes termites. In this blog, we discuss these gnawing critters so you know how to identify them and what to do if termites ever enter your home.

What Are Termites?

Simply put, termites are small insects that nest in and eat wood. However, several species of termites exist.

Drywood Termites

As the name suggests, drywood termites inhabit and consume dry woods. These insects measure about 3/8 of an inch in size, have six legs, and are long and narrow in shape. They appear light brown or tan in color and have wings and antennae.

In addition to dry wood, these termites eat plant-based products, including plastics, wallpaper, and fabrics.

Dampwood Termites

This termite's name also indicates the kind of wood it prefers. Dampwood termites typically live in and eat damp, moist wood. They range from 1/2 to 5/8 of an inch in size, have six legs, and are also long and narrow in shape. These termites look brownish orange in color, and this species also has wings and antennae.

Because these termites need damp wood to thrive, you'll usually find them inside dying or dead wood or in houses where water have moistened the wood.

Formosan Termites

Formosan termites, when found in nature, benefit the environment (which we'll discuss more below). These insects are about a 1/2 inch in length, narrow, and ovular in shape. They take on a yellowish brown color and also have antennae and wings. They live in colonies that size around 300 feet long and contain tens of thousands of termites.

These termite colonies contain three groups of insects: soldiers, reproductives, and workers. The soldiers defend the colony against predators. The reproductives only reproduce to further build the colony and provide it with additional workers, soldiers, and reproductives.

The workers build nests and tubes for the rest of the colony, and these termites maintain these areas as well. Additionally, the worker termites gather wood to feed the rest of the colony.

You can find Formosan termites in homes, boats, and other buildings. You can also find these termites in dead wood-however, these termites clear the area to make room for new plant life to grow.

Subterranean Termites

These termites also live in large colonies. In fact, subterranean termite colonies can have about two million members. The colony is also divided into the soldier, reproductive, and worker groups.

Subterranean termites grow between a 1/8 inch and one inch long. They are a creamy brown color and take on the same shape as the other classes of termites listed above. These termites also consume plant-based materials. Most commonly, they'll eat wood, but they will also eat wallpaper and similar items if they can't find a food source.

You'll usually find these termites in wet places aboveground or (as their name suggests) in wooden areas belowground.

What Attracts Termites to a Home?

In their search for food and shelter, termites can easily discover the wood that makes up your home's frame and structural support system. Because they can quickly and efficiently detect wood, termites will enter an area any way they can. Some termites will even squeeze through cracks and holes as small as a 1/32 inch big.

Typically, however, termites enter a home through foundation cracks, plumbing, expansion joints, and service entries.

How Can I Tell If There Are Termites in My Home?

If you have termites in your home, you'll notice the following signs:

  • Sagging floors and doors
  • Tiny holes in wood structures
  • Crumbling drywall
  • Wings or shed exoskeletons

Additionally, you may notice large mounds near your property that house termites. If you notice large amounts of wood damage, you could also have a termite problem.

How Can I Get Rid of Termites and Prevent a Future Infestation?

To eliminate termites from your home, get in touch with a pest control specialist. Prevent future infestations with the following tips:

  • Avoid burying, stacking, or storing wood next to your home.
  • Repair leaks as quickly as possible to keep wood dry.
  • Maintain your landscape by clearing away piles of debris, such as twigs and leaves.
  • Remove dead or dying trees from your property. Also remove decaying wood from your home. Seal any foundation cracks and holes to prevent termites from entering your home.

Think you have termites in your home? Contact your local pest control specialist to schedule a service. These professionals can inspect your home and property for termites and determine if you have an infestation or not.

Want more tips or details on how to keep your home and yard free of pests? Read through the rest of our blog, and don't forget to check back for more updates. If you have other questions or concerns, your pest control technician can answer them, so give them a call.

Tags: Termites