Termites are a common issue in many homes across the world. These insects might be small, but they can cause damage that is irreversible. These pests cost the US billions of dollars in damages every year, and the average cost for dealing with them comes to roughly $8,300 per person.
Not everyone has that kind of money just lying around, and it’s always better to prevent the issue than deal with the damages. Thankfully, if you know what to look out for in your home, you can avoid these sudden costs.
Even if you are not able to catch onto a termite infestation in its early stages, there are still things that can be done. No matter the size of the infestation, there are services you can call to deal with the issue.
It’s important to be able to identify the telltale signs of termites, so you can combat the problem at the first chance you get. Here, we will take a look at everything you need to know about termites. No one should have to deal with the awful consequences of these insects, and knowing what to look for can save you a lot of time and money in the future.
What Are Termites?
Termites are small insects that are sometimes referred to as white ants, but they are not ants. These creatures belong to a family of cellulose-eating insects known as the Termitoidae epifamily. There are close to 3,000 distinct species of termite, which can be found all over the world.
Different termite species require varying conditions, and many have been transported to countries and regions where they do not occur naturally. Because of this, these insects have become a growing concern, and are more widespread than ever. In many parts of the United States, termites have been known to flourish in most environments.
Well established colonies have been found in various places in buildings, especially where there are small leaks. These insects can be harmful to us as they feed and frequently destroy vegetable matter and wooden structures.
As they are not native in many areas, some termites will seek shelter in man-made environments like buildings, since they are not well-equipped to survive in nature. Because of this, these termites can ultimately be a danger to our lives if they are not controlled very carefully.
- Dampwood Termites – these termites typically live in damp wood, as their name suggests. They can sometimes live in colonies in decaying wood. These insects can be usually be found on the Pacific coast, the Southwest Desert, and southern Florida.
- Drywood Termites – these termites will often form colonies in dry wood where there is little moisture and can typically be found in the Southwestern, southern, and coastal states.
- Subterranean Termites – these termites live in very large underground colonies. They built extensive tunnel networks and can be found throughout the US, though they are more common in the warmer states. You are likely to find these insects in the subtropical south, in the areas between Southern California and Florida.
How Do You Identify A Termite?
Termites can look very different depending on what role they play in their colony. There is a royal pair in every colony, which is made up of a queen and king, as well as a secondary queen. You can find mandibulate and nasute soldiers, winged reproductive, and worker termites in any colony.
The worker termites are the insects responsible for the damage to structures, as these creatures collect food and feed the rest of the colony. Worker termites can be identified by their soft, pale bodies and hard mandibles. Like all insects, they have six legs.
Some termites have long wings and have a darker appearance. These insects are frequently confused with several species of ants, such as black garden ants, moisture ants, and pavement ants. However, when they take flight, they are often thought to be carpenter ants, or any other species of flying ants you likely have in your area.
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What Damage Can They Do?
As previously mentioned, termites eat cellulose, which can be found in wood. However, this can also be found in herbivore manure, paper, cotton, cardboard, leaves, and grass.
Depending on the species of termite, they may exclusively eat one food item. Some termites feed exclusively on humus, a dark organic material which can be found in soil after animal and plant matter decays.
Most termites feed on wood that is partly decayed or in good condition, which makes wooden structures a good meal and habitat for them to thrive in. Termite damage can sometimes look similar to that of water damage.
You may see wood buckling or swelling in the ceilings and floors. Although it is basically unheard of for buildings to collapse due to termite damage, extensive damage can be caused over a prolonged period of time.
Of all places in the US, New Orleans experiences the most termite damage, and at one point a building became so damaged by these pests that it almost did collapse.
When a termite colony is left alone for long enough, they can carry out extensive damage to the property. While a danger to life because of this damage is rare, it can happen if the issue is not resolved. It is not uncommon for termites to live in a building or on a property for several years before they are even noticed.
Why Termites Might Target Your Property
Termites will largely target any given property due to the wood in the area. The type of wood (damp or dry) will determine which termite is drawn to a building, as each one has their own preferences. If you have wood in your home, and the moisture is suitable, termites will see your home as theirs.
You are more likely to experience termite invasions if you live in the warmer states, and there is constant humid weather.
If you live in Alaska, you’ll be happy to know what termites will not pose any problem for you. For those who live in the south, termite infestations could be a regular occurrence. Unfortunately, it is common to inadvertently bring termites into your home when you have untreated wood and firewood coming into the house.
Any fissure or cracks in the foundations of the building can also give termites the opportunity to enter. This can happen through gaps and cracks in the sliding, and the subterranean termites will build structures to get inside. The cracks around the doors and windows can offer the same opportunity, and before long you could be facing a colony of termites in your home.
Finally, living in a house with improper drainage, leaky pipes, or poor airflow are also reasons why termites may target the area. Anything that contributes to the humidity can be something that will attract termites. Not only that, but if there is any wood that has contact with the foundations of the house could also bring termites in.
This is typically the case with subterranean termites, as they move through soil or wood to get inside houses. If there is wood that touches the foundations, these termites can easily make their way inside. This can also happen with firewood and overgrown shrubs that are too close to the house.
How To Tell if Termites Are On Your Property
Termite damage is not always obvious. Often, it can take years for the signs to become clear, which only means that significant damage has already been done. If extensive damage is done, it can render a property unlivable until repairs are carried out. It is important to see the signs before the problem gets this bad, so how do you tell if there is a termite infestation on your property?
Dampwood Termite Damage
Dampwood termite infestations can usually be seen by the fecal pellets that are left behind by the insects. Additionally, there may be dead insects, and the wood in your home may have soft spots. These pests will live inside the wood, and may create holes in the wood that they can plug with their fecal pellets in order to preserve the humidity.
Drywood Termite Damage
You can typically find drywood termites in wooden structures, where they live and feed. These insects might be found inside the walls and furniture, but can remain undetected for some time until cracks in the veneer appear. Their tunnels will expand and become visible when the wood begins to crack.
Unfortunately, this is a relatively common occurrence in pieces of antique furniture, as well as the walls and floors in houses.
Subterranean Termite Damage
The damage caused by subterranean termites can appear to be very similar to water damage. Wood might look swollen and buckle. This can happen to floor and ceilings and often comes with a scent that is similar to that of mold or mildew. The foundations of infested homes could have small tunnels in the direct area, where the termites will travel.
How To Prevent Termite Infestations
There are a number of things you can do to prevent your home being invaded by termites. Most of these points are easy to carry out and should be a part of a general maintenance to ensure that your house is in the best condition. To prevent termites from entering your home, follow the points below and frequently check your home for repairs and maintenance.
- Fix all leaks immediately – since leaks can attract termites, make a point to fix any leaks you come across as soon as you can. The longer you leave it, the more likely termites are to infest your home.
- Store and pile firewood away from the house – termites can burrow through wood that is piled up beside your home and get through the walls. Keep the firewood away from the walls of your house, or you will be making it easy for the insects to gain access.
- Keep the vents clear from any debris and blockage – having vents full of debris and plant matter will make it easy for termites to gain access to the inside of the structure.
- Ensure that vegetation is not directly beside the house – like with firewood, termites can use plants and shrubbery to burrow their way into the walls of your house. Ensure that all plants are given some space to grow, so they do not touch the exposed wood of your walls.
- Block openings to the outside – any cracks in caulk, grout, cement, or wood are easy ways for termites to gain access to your house. Seal any cracks you come across to reduce the risk of termites entering your home.
- Keep the soil by the foundation dry after construction – if you live in a new house, make sure that the soil that surrounds the foundations are kept dry, and there is proper drainage. Termites can thrive in damp soil and work their way to the house.
- Carry out house inspections frequently – inspect your house and the surrounding area periodically to ensure that everything is in good condition and there are no termite colonies establishing.
What To Do If Your Home Is Infested With Termites
Besides the termite treatments that you can hire through our services, there are a number of things you could try to get rid of termites. You can create physical barriers to stop the insects from invading the structure, including sands or steel mesh. The use of biological control agents, such as fungi and nematodes may work, but these have not been proven outside of labs, and they are not regulated.
The best thing you can do when faced with a termite infestation is get in touch with pest control professionals who can help you. Termites are not easy to get rid of on your own, and professionals will be able to deal with the issue efficiently, with minimal damage to the environment and surrounding area. If you have termites in your home, contact us to get a quote.
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