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Termites tend not to make themselves felt in a house until the problem has already reached an advanced stage.

FAQs

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
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 termites.

Subterranean Termites
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 rot.

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.

Do 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?

Winged 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.

Alate 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 occurs 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 be the 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 termite infestation.

Termite swarmers have straight, bead-like antennae; a thick waist; and two pair of long, equal-length wings that break off easily. Winged termites 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.

Mud Tubes
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 wood. Shelter 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 away and then monitored to determine whether the termites repair them or construct new ones. Houses should be inspected annually for mud tubes.

Wood Damage
Termite damage to the wood’s surface often is not evident because termites excavate galleries within materials as they feed. Wood attacked by subterranean termites generally has a honeycombed appearance because termites feed along the grain on the softer spring growth wood. Their excavations in wood often are packed with soil, and fecal spotting is evident. When inspecting for termites, it is useful to probe wood with a knife or flat blade screwdriver to detect areas that have been hollowed. Severely damaged 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.

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