Termites are notorious pests that cause billions of dollars in damage each year. They build large colonies and make their way inside homes where they feast on a variety of common materials.
These social insects eat wood and cellulose, but synthetic materials are not off limits. Termites are capable of digesting swimming pool liners, pool filtration equipment, carpets, books, insulation and other household materials. Wood trim, dead stumps and landscape shrubs are prime feeding grounds for these destructive insects. Here are a few warning signs that are associated with termite infestations.
- Swarms of flying insects
- Piles of dropped wings
- Branching mud tubes on foundations and walls
- Termites crawling on foundations and decks
- Termites appearing inside
- Hollow wood
Types of Termites
Termites are specialized insects that have a highly evolved life cycle. Although there are approximately 400 types of termites that are capable of causing structural damage, four types are responsible for the vast majority of infestations in the United States.
- Subterranean termites are responsible for 95 percent of termite-related structural damage. These insects have massive underground colonies that flourish when soil conditions are warm and moist.
- Non-native Formosan termites are extremely destructive and are known for building enormous colonies. Formosan termites are a serious threat to buildings in warmer areas, such as the Gulf Coast, the South, California and Hawaii.
- Dampwood termites thrive in moist conditions and feast on damp, decaying wood. Several species of dampwood termites are found in the Pacific Northwest, the Southwest and the Southeast. Unlike other sub-types, dampwood termites do not live in the ground.
- Drywood termites prefer drier conditions and inhabit unexpected places, such as attics and interior spaces. Drywood termites do not live in the soil.
Many termite infestations are discovered between the months of March and May when colonies swarm. During this stage, winged termites known as "swarmers" appear in indoor and outdoor areas. Swarmers are sometimes mistaken for flying ants. Following the swarming and breeding period, termites drop their wings and form colonies that are active throughout the year.
Termite Treatment Options
Because termites actively seek desirable places to establish new colonies, it's important to make sure that wooden beams and structural components are not touching the ground. Swarmers may also enter homes through exposed vents that do not have protective screens. Due to their pervasive nature, termites cannot be spot treated. Professional exterminators must apply a barrier of powerful termiticides. In most cases, external barriers will kill termite colonies inside homes by preventing the insects from returning to their underground chambers.
Exterminators use a variety of specialized equipment to treat all affected areas. These tools allow exterminators to reach inaccessible spaces inside foundations and underneath concrete slabs. More information about controlling and identifying termites can be found throughout this site.