Common Pest: Termites

The name Termite is derived from the Latin word Termes, which translates to white ant or woodworm. Termites are a member of the order Isoptera and bear a strong resemblance to cockroaches with a segmented body structure. A notable difference in appearance is that termites’ abdomens are divided into ten segments rather than the cockroach’s three. Termites are also mostly blind and rely on the use of a multifunctional antennae to navigate. In addition, they have strong mouthparts giving them the ability to gnaw directly through wood.

These eusocial insects structure their colonies based on a caste system, similar to bees. The lifecycle of a termite begins as an egg and then progresses directly into the nymph stage. After molting several times as a nymph, their body will ultimately develop into one of the following four social classes:

• Queen
• King
• Worker
• Soldier

The king and queen are responsible for reproducing and typically serve no other function in the colony. They are both born with wings and, prior to mating, take flight together to choose a site for beginning a colony. Once the location has been chosen, they rip off their wings to mate and begin building their nest. After maturing, a queen can produce up to 40,000 eggs in one day and can live between 40 to 50 years. With their rapid rate of reproduction, scientists estimate termites make up over 10% of the biomass of all living animals on earth.

Workers are responsible for feeding the colony, taking care of the young, and maintaining the structure of their home. They are drawn to the cellulose found in wood and other dead or rotting objects such as decaying leaves. Worker termites are blind and do not have wings.

As their name suggests, Soldiers are defenders of the colony. They can be distinguished from workers by their larger head size in comparison to the rest of their body. Soldiers are incredibly territorial and will go to war with any neighboring colony deemed as a threat. They will fight until the death of their enemy, often leaving a pile of dead termites behind.

termites eating wood

What Attracts Termites to Your Home?

Termites are drawn to different areas based on their species. The three species most commonly encountered by homeowners are:

• Subterranean Termites
• Formosan Termites
• Dry Wood Termites

Subterranean Termites reside underground and seek warm and wet environments. They need moisture to survive and seek out wet wood in a tree, scrap wood, or wooden structure. They access their food source through a network of underground tunnels and rarely allow themselves to be exposed to open air. They often seek out wood that is in direct contact with ground soil so they can enter beneath the ground. If the wood source is above ground, subterranean termites create a series of mud tubes allowing them to travel up brick or concrete. These tubes help protect the termites while gaining access to their desired food source.

Formosan Termites are very similar to Subterranean Termites by preferring to dwell underground, forming mud tubes when necessary, and seeking out wet wood. While they can be physically distinguished by their translucent orange color, their biggest difference lies within their functionality. Subterranean Termites are forced to return to their colony often to obtain moisture for survival. In contrast, Formosan Termites have the ability to bring moisture with them. Similar to carrying a water bottle, they will craft small cartons containing moisture to carry with them while working and foraging. The ability to carry moisture on the go allows Formosan Termites to rapidly destroy a structure.

Drywood Termites thrive in warm and humid climates. The king and queen fly directly to a dry wood source in order to make it their home and mate. They do not need to be underground and can make a dead tree, wooden structure, or enclosed attic space their home. This type of termite tends to stay under the radar until its population substantially grows.

How to Get Rid of Termites?

For the sake of your home or building, once a termite is identified, it is important to immediately take action. While it is best to get professional help, there are a few things you can do to prevent the infestation of termites or get rid of a colony on your own.

Preventative Measures
Since termites can live in soil and travel underground to their food source, get rid of all unnecessary scrap wood laying around and make sure any wooden structure has a protective base between it and the soil. In addition, since termites thrive in humidity, make sure all dark and enclosed spaces, such as attics, are well-ventilated. Take care of any leaks or unnecessary water drainage to prevent moisture in enclosed places.

Chemical Barriers
Chemical barriers are applied around wooden structures and injected deep within the soil to prevent any termite burrowing. While this will not poison a current colony, it will prevent and deter future damage. Chemical barriers can also be used as a preventative measure for new builds in areas known to attract termites.

Once a colony has been located, bait stations containing a toxic termiticide substance can be applied throughout. Worker termites will be drawn to the bait and then bring it back as a food source to feed to the rest of the colony.

Termiticide also comes in the form of a spray, which can be directly applied to wooden surfaces. The toxic spray works by seeping into the wood. Worker termites will ingest the poisoned wood and bring it back as a food source causing all who eat it to slowly die.

Need Professional Help?

If you have tried these solutions and you are still unable to get rid of your termite problem, please give the number at the top of the page a call to get connected to a local pest professional in your area. We do not want your house and family to continue dealing with the current pest and want to find ways to protect your home in the future.