Chew on This: Termites have homes on their menu

Jul 1, 2011, 12:40 PM by User Not Found
Chew on this. Termites are chewing up homes

Sacramento Bee


Spring and summer are the most active seasons for termites, and these pests can cause big problems for homeowners.

Termites cause more than $5 billion in property damage each year, according to the National Pest Management Association.

Most homeowners don't even know they have a problem until it is time for drastic measures, so consider the following points and watch for these wood-destroying pests.

Know your enemy

There are multiple termite species in North America, but the most common are Subterranean Termites. These termites are found throughout the United States and stay below ground or at least out of direct sunlight. To travel above ground and into homes, subterranean termites build drinking-straw sized mud tubes to shelter them from predators and the elements. Mud tubes are commonly found in crawlspaces or along foundation walls.

The Formosan Termite is a non-native subterranean species that was accidentally brought to the United States on warships returning from the Pacific after World War II. Formosan termites are now found in the Southern United States, parts of California and Hawaii. Nicknamed the "super termite", this species lives in huge colonies which are capable of consuming massive amounts of wood. An established colony can consume as much as a pound a day and can cause more damage to property than any other termite species.

Drywood Termites are called by this name because they only infest dry wood. Unlike their subterranean counterparts, drywood termites build aboveground nests and get the moisture they need from the wood they consume. They can be found in attic rafters, furniture, hardwood floors, crown molding and anything else comprised of dry wood. Their colonies are much smaller than the subterraneans and they are most common in the Southeast and along the West Coast.

What's for dinner?

Termites are responsible for recycling dead wood back into the environment, putting homes high on their preferred menu items. Outdoors, termites consume wood debris and rotting trees, among other things. Once they enter a home, they can consume items like furniture, wallpaper and even books.

Mark of the Beast

Termites eat homes from the inside out and can remain concealed within wall voids or other structural elements for years before they are detected and the extent of their damage is apparent. No matter the species, the most obvious sign of any termite infestation is a swarm of winged termites. Common signs of a subterranean termite infestation include the presence of mud tubes, irregularities in interior walls and wood that's hollow when tapped. A dead giveaway of a drywood infestation is the oval-shaped fecal pellets they leave behind. These often resemble small piles of sawdust.

The Swarm!

Termites swarm each spring in an effort to find a mate and establish new colonies. These swarms can occur indoors or outdoors and can include thousands of winged termites. While swarming termites are an alarming sight, they do not damage homes. They are, however, an obvious sign that their wood-devouring nest mates are nearby.

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