Termites: they’re those pesky insects that chew apart buildings and turn wood piles into sawdust. But how much do you really know about these destructive creatures? “Termite” is actually quite a general term, as there are more than 3,000 species of termite on the earth and about 50 living in North America.
Luckily, North American termites can be classified into three basic groups. Knowing the basics about these three types of termites will help you protect your home from these destructive wood munchers.
When you think of termites, this species is the type that most likely comes to mind since subterranean termites are the most common variety in the US. They can be found in every contiguous state, including Illinois.
Subterranean termites, as their name suggests, live beneath the ground where they build complex networks of tunnels. Each colony of termites contains a king, a queen, and numerous workers who collect wood material to feed the colony. There are also soldiers who guard the colony with their large, sharp jaws.
Subterranean worker termites are about 1/8 inch long and have soft bodies. They’re cream or white in color and have no wings. In the spring after a rainstorm, however, you may see a winged caste of subterranean termites emerge from a colony. These insects are known as swarmers, and they are essentially the scouts of the termite colony. They fly through the air, land somewhere else, shed their wings, and begin a new termite colony.
Signs of an Infestation
Subterranean termites attack a structure from below the ground, entering buildings through cracks in concrete or faulty plumbing. They prefer moist wood. If they are to blame for the wood damage to your home, you’ll notice little mud trails on the ground around your home that stretch across the wood they’ve attacked.
You can also identify subterranean termites by their excrement, which looks like chewed up cardboard. Subterranean termites only chew the softest part of the wood between the grains, so the holes they leave in wood seem to follow the grain.
If you think you may have subterranean termites on your property, do not disturb them. Disrupting their colony may cause them to move and damage another part of the building. A licensed pest control company can fight the infestation by carefully baiting and trapping the insects. The soil around the perimeter of your home may also be treated to eradicate termites as they seek entry into your structure.
Dampwood termites are not very common in Illinois. They are mostly found along the Pacific Coast and in Florida. Still, some less-damaging species do pop up in the Midwest from time to time, so it’s important to know about them.
Dampwood termites often access a home through the ground, but they set up their colony within the wood itself. Their colonies stay quite small compared to other termites, but a mature colony can still house several thousand insects. Dampwood termites are named such because they only feed on and live in moist wood.
As with subterranean termites, there are several castes of insects within each colony. The workers are soft and cream colored, and the soldiers are brown with large, sharp mouthparts. In the reproductive stage, dampwood termites reach about 3/4 inches long and develop dark brown wings. You may see them swarming in the summer or early fall.
Signs of an Infestation
Dampwood termites plug the holes they make in wood with their fecal material, so it’s unlikely you’ll see the wood damage until it is very severe. However, you may see the discarded wings of swarmers around your wood structure. You may also see piles of these moist feces on the floor. Note that dampwood termites are often found in basements and near the ground. They don’t travel very far up and they will not bother dry wood.
Treating a dampwood termite infestation requires you to dry out your home. Your pest control team may need to partner with a contractor to correct issues like leaky pipes or a cracked foundation. Once the wood is dried out, the termites will typically die off. Sometimes, your wood may also be treated with insecticides to accelerate the eradication process.
Drywood termites are mostly found in California and Arizona, and they cause terrible destruction to both homes and forests.
This type of termite establishes its colony directly inside dry wood. Many colonies live inside dead trees and brush, and then when the land is cleared and homes are built, the insects invade those homes. They can enter a home from the attic, through a roof vent, or through any little crack.
Drywood termites are about a 1/2 inch long, including their wings. They’re light to dark brown in color and often have reddish brown heads with white spots. Unlike the other types of termites, which only swarm for a few weeks, dry wood termites swarm throughout the spring and summer.
Signs of an Infestation
When you have drywood termites in your home, you typically see the termites themselves as they tend to enter from obvious access points like windows and roof vents. The damage they cause to wood is extensive—you’ll see wide, gaping tunnels build through it. These galleries within the wood look smooth and sculpted, not rough and frayed like the damage caused by dampwood or subterranean termites.
Chemical insecticides are generally the go-to remedy for a dry wood termite infestation. The pest control company will also need to seal off any access points to prevent more termites from entering the home.
Termites of all varieties can cause serious damage to a home. If you think a colony of termites may be chewing away at your home, don’t try to remedy the situation yourself. Contact a pest control company like Chem-Wise. We’ll inspect your home and recommend the best course of treatment based on our findings.