Termites—What You Always Wanted and Didn’t Want to Know. A Primer.

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September 25, 2019

I’m sure you know that termites are a destructive force when it comes to your home, but how much do you really know about termites? Here are some facts you didn’t know (and probably didn’t care to know) about termites.

Termites—the basics

termites make a feast of wood and cellulose products, which is why they are so destructive to your home. A piece of wood that has an infestation of termites may look perfectly healthy to outward appearances, yet the inside may be hollowed out.

termites are arthropods of the class Insecta—so yes, they are insects. Insects are defined as a type of bug that has three body parts, a head, a thorax, and an abdomen. As they are arthropods, they have exoskeletons. They belong to the order Isoptera. Isoptera is an order of insects that are considered “social,” meaning they form colonies. Often, they are placed in the subclass of Exopterygota which are defined as “equal winged,” i.e. the front and rear wings are the same length. In fact, in termites, the young, like the adults, have fully developed external wings. While there are over 2,000 termites worldwide, only five types live in the United States, and only three types live in Texas. Only 2 of those live in Louisiana. Rhinotermitidae, i.e. subterranean termites encompass two genus and five species of termites that live in Texas and Louisiana while Kalotermitedae, also known as dry wood termites, include two genus and four species of termites. While not as common, in Texas you can also find damp wood termites.

termites were once known as white ants; however, they are not ants at all.

·        Where do termites live?

termites prefer a more temperate climate, thus the reason they are more commonly found in southern states where the temperature is milder. For this reason, the further north you go, the fewer worries you have when it comes to termites. Of these, Subterranean and Formosan termites are the most destructive, causing more than 5 billion dollars’ worth of property damage each year.

·        What types of termites are in a colony—the caste system

Colonies are made up of swarmers (also known as alates), soldiers, and workers. Female alates are generally destined to become “gynes” or queens, while the males usually become “kings,” or drones. These termites reproduce. Interestingly, alates do not fly well and shed their wings after mating season. Only workers keep their wings throughout their life. Soldiers are the largest termite in a colony and make up 1 to 10% of a colony. Like the name suggests, these termites are responsible for the protection of the colony from its enemies.  The most common termite in a colony is the worker. Workers are unable to fight. Their task is to look after the queen and her eggs and ensure the queen has food.

·        How do termites communicate?

As only alates, queens and kings, can see, termites must use other methods to sense danger and communicate. While they are not able to see, all termites can detect vibrations. Communication is through chemical signals that they can “smell.” As termites do primarily use their sense of smell, they are sensitive to the scent of many “baits.” The ability to smell termiticides makes many termite repellents quite ineffective—thus the reason many do-it-yourself remedies doomed to fail.

·        Are termites attracted to light?

Strangely enough, since you think of termites in dark, damp areas, termites are attracted to light. The lighter hours are when termites swarm and cause the most damage.

·        Do all termites cause damage to your home?

The primary diet of all termites is wood and cellulose. Subterranean and Formation termites, once they make a buffet of your home, can make the wooden structural elements hollow in 6 months. They can make complete rubble of your house within two years. This potential damage is especially likely with the Formation termite, which is considered the most aggressive of all termites. These termites do require contact with soil and are looking to your home as a food and water source. Dry wood termites, on the other hand, do not require contact with the ground. Damp wood termites, like wood with a higher water content, and therefore rarely inhabit homes. However, making sure you do not wind up with a higher water content in the wood in your home, such as that from water leaks and other water damage is an important preventative step to keep these termites away.

·        What is the best way to get rid of termites?

As mentioned, termites can smell many termiticides, thus making do-it-yourself treatments ineffective. A trained exterminator is the best way to ensure your home does not become rubble in the wake of a termite infestation. Generally, the exterminator will use a combination of bait, barrier and spot treatments to cure your home of this pest. Regular yearly termite inspections are the best prevention from extensive structural damage to your home. Tenting is rarely needed with the current methods available. If required, tenting is not only inconvenient but costly. Catching the problem before significant infestation saves you not only tenting but fixing the damage termites can cause.

Conclusion

At Bug You Not Pest Control, we know termites. Our free termite inspections will help you catch infestations early and prevent serious structural harm. And, if we do find termites, we can rid you of this pest, thus preventing more costly problems. Call Bug You Not pest Control today at 972-835-4296 for your free termite inspection and protect your home from a severe infestation.

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