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Termites, Us and Them

Us and Them

Imagine one day you just finished watering your favorite garden tomatoes in your yard in Ormond Beach, Florida, and you notice there is a small leak dripping from the shut-off valve. No matter how tight you turn the handle, it still has a small drip. But it’s not that bad, so it gets put into the, “I’ll get to fixing that next week”, file. Eventually, later, it gets fixed.

Little did you know, a small amount of moisture was found by a subterranean termite scout. He sent back a complex set of pheromones signaling to the rest of his colony. “I FOUND WATER!”

The Astonishing

Three years later, on a warm spring evening, you settle into your favorite chair to enjoy some mindless television with a cold glass of sweet tea. That’s when you see them, thousands of swarming termites. They are everywhere. They’re surrounding your windows and lights. They’re in your tea. They’re in your chair. Your mind is racing with thoughts as you look at the horror-like sight of thousands of bugs swarming in your home. What can you do? Then you remember, your coworker recommended Dave’s Pest Control last week during your quarterly budget meeting. His home had a similar problem which was quickly solved. Dave’s Pest Control also provides once-a-year termite inspections going forward for your peace of mind.

The Family Ghost

Subterranean termites are an unseen menace hardwired to seek and destroy all the wood in your home. Drawn like a moth to flame, they go unnoticed, eating away at your most important asset you have, your home. Gradually, they eat away at the wooden studs within your walls. Like a ghost, they live within the walls, haunting the living. From unknown origins, they fly in your face, and die upon our feet.

From where did they come from? What can I do to get rid of them? How do I keep them from returning?

Termites need food, (cellulose such as wood) and moisture to survive. Wooden materials that we use to build our homes can offer an ideal environment for these wood destroying insects to thrive. Air conditioning units that have run-off moisture can give enough water to sustain a large subterranean termite colony. Typical subterranean termite colonies can contain between 60,000 to 1 million termites.

Damage from these pests are both expensive and extensive. Subterranean termites cause more damage to homes in the United States than storms and fires combined. Damaged wood can sometimes be so bad that a home’s structural integrity can become compromised. Damage can go unseen for years until the colony gets so large they swarm to form a new colony. Swarming termites is a sure sign you have a mature colony hidden somewhere inside your home or business.

It is estimated that 60% of homes in Florida have some evidence of termites. We see termite infestations in Daytona Beach and surrounding areas all the time. Houses between 50 and 70 years of age have the highest chance from suffering termitedamage. Almost every house built in the United States has wood construction. Wood has always been abundant and plentiful in the United States. Trees provided wood for the first settlement at Jamestown in 1607 and 90 percent of homes today are built with wood. It is faster, easier and more cost efficient then building with bricks and cement.

Termite Bug Info

The earliest termite fossil known in existence, dates back to over 130 million years ago. Preserved in tree resign called amber, entomologists have been able to gain important information regarding the relationship between protozoa and termites. Dating back to the Cretaceous period, samples of termites from 80 million-year-old amber found that oxygen levels were 35% higher than today. This supercharged oxygen content saw the emergence and evolution of giant insects.

Termites are closely related to cockroaches and are under the order Isoptera. (Greek for two pairs of straight wings.) For years, termites were known as white ants until the use of microscopes helped distinguished different features between the two. Termites like cockroaches, have survived millions of years due to their social characteristics. They can go undetected by most predators, and the division of labor is much like ants, bees, and wasps. One prominent difference, are termites can be male or female. This ability to be any caste in the colony greatly increases the chance of survival.

The Imminent Threat

Termites are social insects closely related to cockroaches. They have an incomplete metamorphosis. A typical termite colony will have eggs, larvae, workers, soldiers, and a male king and female queen. A termite colony’s life cycle will start with eggs that hatch to larvae. These nymphs will turn into workers and soldiers which feed on cellulose. Cellulose is essentially plant fiber that is extracted from wood pulp. Termites have microorganisms in their gut called protozoa which breaks down the cellulose. Reproductive adult winged termites called, “Alates”, will turn into a new king and queen. They will lay eggs start the life cycle again. This whole process can take from five to eight years. Overall swarming activity takes place in eastern Florida around late February to late May and June.

There’re two main types of termites that are the most problematic in Florida. The Eastern Subterranean Termite, and the Drywood termite. Both will swarm, and distinguishing between both is important. They’re several different treatment options available depending on what kind of termites you have.

Subterranean termite colonies live underground and can enter through plumbing pipes, cracks to your home’s foundation, and any wood to ground contact. Porch and deck supports, as well as landscaping mulch, can harbor termites. They will build mud tubes and tunnels to reach wood several feet above the ground, and will travel back and forth between the ground and the wood.

Drywood termites live within wooden structures. They tunnel out galleries inside the wood and will often “push out” a mixture of wood and feces, called frass. These holes are often called kick out holes and are sure sign drywood termites are feeding. These termites are often more difficult to get rid of and often require fumigation to control them. Drywood termites can have many colonies within a structure depending how long they have been present.

Control and Prevention:

In the United States, subterranean termites cause over 2 billion dollars in damage each year. Prevention of termites in your home can be achieved by keeping water from accumulating along your home’s foundation. Fixing plumbing leaks, and replacing wet, rotting wood. Trees on your property should also be inspected, as well as old stumps that may be present. Subterranean termites benefit the natural process of organic decay. Trees grow old and eventually die. The decomposing branches, limbs, and stumps are consumed by termites which have protozoa in their gut. Termites cannot digest cellulose without this protozoa. New born termites are fed feces from older adult termites that have protozoa.

CSI bait stations can also be used, but can be slow acting. They are non-repellent and accumulate in the colony before mortality occurs. They kill the brood first and will eliminate the colony regardless of distance from baiting.

Liquid termiticides are fast acting and can kill up to 16 feet from treatment area. Liquid termiticides can also kill by a secondary repellency and transfer of the chemical to other foragers. Full elimination of a large colony can take some time regardless of which treatment method you choose.

Termites are remarkable insects that inhabit almost every climate on earth. They provide a vast array of importance for the breakdown of organic materials in our natural world. This ongoing recycling is important for a healthier ecosystem; however, these bugs can also destroy your home or business. If you find termites in home or business, call Dave’s Pest Control.

Dan Coffey
Dcoffey@davespestcontrol.com

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