What are termites ?
Termites cost property owners more than $5 billion in treatment and repair
costs each year. There are two types of termites that can damage your
home – drywood termites and subterranean termites. Each type is different
and must be treated separately.
Drywood termites infest dry, undecayed wood, including structural
lumber as well as dead limbs of native trees and shade and orchard trees,
utility poles, posts, and lumber in storage. From these areas, winged
reproductives seasonally migrate to nearby buildings and other structures
usually on sunny days during fall months. Drywood termites are most prevalent
in southern California (including the desert areas), but also occur along
most coastal regions and in the Central Valley.
Drywood termites have a low moisture requirement and can tolerate dry
conditions for prolonged periods. They remain entirely above ground and
do not connect their nests to the soil. Piles of their fecal pellets,
which are distinctive in appearance, may be a clue to their presence.
The fecal pellets are elongate (about 3/100 inch long) with rounded ends
and have six flattened or roundly depressed surfaces separated by six
longitudinal ridges. They vary considerably in color, but appear granular
and salt and pepper-like in color and appearance.
Winged adults of western drywood termites (Incisitermes minor) are dark
brown with smoky black wings and have a reddish brown head and thorax;
wing veins are black. These insects are noticeably larger than subterranean
Subterranean termites require moist environments. To satisfy this need,
they usually nest in or near the soil and maintain some connection
with the soil through tunnels in wood or through shelter tubes they
construct. These shelter tubes are made of soil with bits of wood or
even plasterboard (drywall). Much of the damage they cause occurs in
foundation and structural support wood. Because of the moisture requirements
of subterranean termites, they are often found in wood that has wood
The western subterranean termite, Reticulitermes hesperus, is the most
destructive termite found in California. Reproductive winged forms of
subterranean termites are dark brown to brownish black, with brownish
gray wings. On warm, sunny days following fall or sometimes spring rains,
swarms of reproductives may be seen. Soldiers are wingless with white
bodies and pale yellow heads. Their long, narrow heads have no eyes.
Workers are slightly smaller than reproductives, wingless, and have a
shorter head than soldiers; their color is similar to that of soldiers.
In the desert areas of California, Heterotermes aureus, is the most destructive
species of subterranean termites. Another destructive species in this
group, the Formosan subterranean termite, Coptotermes formosanus, is
now in California but restricted to a small area near San Diego. Unlike
the western subterranean termite, Formosan subterranean termites swarm
at dusk and are attracted to lights.
we have drywood termites ?
Generally, the first indirect sign of infestation is the discovery
of fecal pellets or the presence of alates on windowsills or near lights.
Alates found inside the house (if windows and doors have been closed),
are an indication of infestation within the structure. Another indication
of infestation is the presence of discarded wings near emergence sites,
on windowsills or caught up in cobwebs. The presence of alates outdoors
is a natural phenomenon and is not an implication of home infestation.
Drywood termites spend their entire lives inside wood. They construct
round “kick holes” in infested wood, through which the fecal pellets
are eliminated from the galleries or tunnels. These pellets accumulate
in small piles below the kick holes, or will be scattered if the distance
between the kick hole and the surface below is very great. Fecal pellets
also may be found caught in spider webs.
Fecal pellets are distinctive and used for identification of drywood
termite infestation. Drywood fecal pellets are hard, elongated and less
than 1/25 inch long. They have rounded ends and six flattened or concavely
depressed sides with ridges at angles between the six surfaces. The characteristic
shape results when the termite exerts pressure on the fecal material
to extract and conserve moisture in its hindgut. Typically the pellets
are a light tan in color with some black ones mixed in.
Do we have subterranean termites?
Large numbers of winged termites swarming from wood or the soil often
are the first obvious sign of a nearby termite colony. Swarming occurs
in mature colonies that typically contain at least several thousand
termites. A "swarm" is
a group of adult male and female reproductives that leave their colony
in an attempt to pair and initiate new colonies.
emergence is stimulated when temperature and moisture conditions are
favorable, usually on warm days following rainfall. In Ohio, swarming
typically occurs during daytime in the spring (March, April, and May),
but swarms can occur indoors during other months. However, swarming
during a brief period (typically less than an hour), and alates quickly
shed their wings. Winged termites are attracted to light, and their
shed wings in window sills, cobwebs, or on other surfaces often may
only evidence that a swarm occurred indoors. The presence of winged
termites or their shed wings inside a home should be a warning of a
swarmers have straight, bead-like antennae; a thick waist; and two
pair of long, equal-length wings that break off easily. Winged
can be differentiated from winged ants, which have elbowed antennae,
a constricted waist, and two pair of unequal-length wings (forewings
are larger than hind wings) that are not easily detached. Ants also
generally are harder-bodied than termites.
Other signs of termite presence include mud tubes and mud protruding
from cracks between boards and beams. Subterranean termites transport
soil and water above ground to construct earthen runways (shelter
tubes) that allow them to tunnel across exposed areas to reach
tubes protect them from the drying effects of air and from natural
enemies, such as ants. These tubes usually are about 1/4 to 1 inch
wide, and termites
use them as passageways between the soil and wood. To determine
if an infestation is active, shelter tubes should be broken or scraped
and then monitored to determine whether the termites repair them
or construct new ones. Houses should be inspected annually for
Termite damage to the wood’s surface often is not evident because
termites excavate galleries within materials as they feed. Wood
subterranean termites generally has a honeycombed appearance because
along the grain on the softer spring growth wood. Their excavations
in wood often are packed with soil, and fecal spotting is evident.
inspecting for termites, it is useful to probe wood with a knife
or flat blade screwdriver to detect areas that have been hollowed.
wood may have a hollow sound when it is tapped. Subterranean termites
do not reduce wood to a powdery mass, and they do not create wood
particles or pellets, as do many other wood-boring insects.
Ant or termite ?
Difference Between Termites and Ants
Figure 1. Difference between termite and ant.
Flying ants and swarming termites are often difficult to recognize
apart. Termites have relatively straight, beadlike antennae while ants
have elbowed antennae (Figure 1). The termite has two pair of wings (front
and back) that are almost equal length and size. The ant also has two
pair of wings but of unequal size; the front wings are much larger than
the hind wings. The abdomen of the termite is broadly joined to the thorax
(chest) while the abdomen and thorax of the ant are joined by a narrow
waist called a petiole.
Do all houses that are sold need fumigation?
No. Fumigation is recommended when termite infestation extends
into inaccessible areas. Localized treatment can be an effective method
of treatment when termites are limited to visible and accessible areas.
Fumigation doesn't kill subterranean termites
What about orange oil?
The latest topic in drywood termite control
is orange oil. Researching orange oil and
talking to pest control operators (PCO)
who use and don’t use it can take consumers
on an endless journey in search of the facts
on the effectiveness of this pesticide.
The fact is, orange oil is another localized
treatment tool for the pest control operator
to use against the elusive drywood termite.
It is not an alternative to all-encompassing
methods of treatment. Accurate inspection and
determination of the extent of drywood termite
infestation is and will remain the essential first
step before recommending treatment options.