Termites

photo-wood-eating-termiteTermites are some of the most destructive insects alive. House structural termite damage left unchecked can mean thousands of dollars in repairs. Unfortunately, most homeowner insurance coverage does not include termite damage repair.

Although termites are sometimes referred to as a white ant, they are more closely related to cockroaches and the praying mantis. Their primary food source is wood.

 

Subterranean Termite

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Photo: USDA-Scott Bauer

Subterranean termites can cause serious termite damage to buildings, crops, and forests. They form colonies that consist of a king and queen, reigning over worker and soldier termites.

  • Termite Identification – the worker and subterranean worker termite grow 1/8 to 1/4 – inch in length. Winged termite swarmers(primary and supplementary reproductive colony members) grow to 1-inch. Workers and soldiers are light colored; soldiers have brownish heads. Swarmers are dark brown or black. Two sets of temporary wings are shed once a nest site is found.
  • Termite life cycle – the termite insect life cycle begins with a queen termite laying eggs. Instead of insect metamorphosis, once a termite egg hatches, a tiny termite emerges. A primary reproductive queen can lay thousands of eggs daily.
  • Termite behavior pattern – termites generally swarm late spring to early summer; smaller flights occur any time. When searching for termite habitat, 3 essential requirements are sought: food (wood and cellulose – a natural polymer found in wood and other plant material), moisture, and protective shelter. Unfortunately for some homeowners, their homes often possess all three elements.
  • Additional Information – Subterranean termites must have contact with the soil. They often build vertical tunnels in the ground that run through cracks in concrete, up into the structure of wooden homes. Termite infestation can quickly get out of hand. Colonies can consist of 1,000,000 members – making home termite control efforts difficult for the homeowner.

Termite Prevention

The best termite control measures a homeowner can take to reduce the risk of infestation or help termite control services provide effective termite protection include:

  • Storing firewood away from the house
  • Having at least 4-inches of foundation visible, all around the house
  • Ensuring water drains away from house foundation
  • Ensuring rain gutter downspouts direct water away from the house
  • Prompt repair of roof and plumbing leaks
  • Covering house wood with new paint every 5 years; filling cracks and crevices with putty before painting
  • Use of commercial pressure-treated wood

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