Some of the most vicious insect pests of wood in the world are the subterranean termites. Every year, the activities of these insects cause damages worth billions of dollars and in the home, they can mutilate some of the most valuable items. There are many subterranean species in existence today, some of which are Termitidae (agricultural), Termopsidae (damp wood), Kalotermitidae (dry wood) and Rhinotermitidae (subterranean). Most of the species of these well-known families are subtropical and tropical.
All termites typically consume grasses and the cellulose found in wood as food. In nature, subterranean produces humus by breaking down cellulose and recycling the carbon in wood. These insects are therefore beneficial in maintaining a balanced ecosystem because they add nutrients to the soil.
Issues occur when the subterranean termites infest the wooden materials and other structures in the home. Their activity is normally not noticed quickly because it is hidden behind the wood trim, siding or wallboards.
To minimize the damage caused by these insects, it is ideal to understand their life cycle, be able to identify them, know the control and preventive measure and recognize the signs of their activities.
- Alates (swarmers): black to dark-brown in color, a pair of wings almost equal in length and about ½ to ¼ inch of total body length.
- Workers: they are cream colored; possess no wings and about ¼ inch or less total body length.
- Soldiers: creamy-white body color and brownish colored head, possess large mandibles, has no wings and are the termite colony defenders.
- The appearance of damaged wood: wood that is damaged usually has a clump of mud or soil within the tunnels of the wood they are feeding on because subterranean termites build their nest underground. Subterranean only feed on softwood, this makes the damaged wood appeared layered since the workers do not feast on the hardwood portion. Furthermore, contrary to dry-wood termites who feed across the grain, subterranean termites feed with the grain.
- Location of the nest: as been suggested by their group name, the nest is often found in the soil. In some cases where there is sufficient availability of moisture, the nest may be found above the ground.
Signs of a Subterranean Termite Infestation
Normally, a subterranean termite infestation occurs when heavy rainfall and warm temperatures facilitate an established colony to release a swarm of winged termites. These swarms comprise of winged reproductive females and males. Before winged reproductive species is released, subterranean termites’ colonies may be fully active for up to three or five years.
Usually, flying ants are mistaken for winged reproductive termites, but termites are straight rather than bent antennae and are smaller than ants. These reproductive termites have four wings that are equal in size. However, ant swarms have two smaller wings behind and two larger wings in front.
Piles of Wings
After mating, subterranean termites shed their wings as they land on the ground which makes them appear like a pile which looks like fish scales. If you notice piles of wings on your doorstep, check to see if they are all equal in size. If they are all same size, they are most likely to be subterranean termite wings.
The wood damaged by subterranean termites usually has a honeycomb with a distinctive pattern, external deposits of grains and formed tunnels within the softer spring wood.
For foraging subterranean termites, brush and dead trees are an ideal source of food. Therefore, to take advantage of the dead wood falling to the ground, subterranean termites are often found in the top 3 to 5 inches of the ground. Termites usually switch to feasting on wooden components of structures when structures are built, and vegetation is leveled. Termites make their way into the house through constructing shelter tubes through or over cracks in the foundation or through the wood that is in contact with the ground. If any material containing cellulose such as grade stakes, vines or tree is in contact with the soil, it can serve as an avenue for foraging workers if not destroyed after construction.
Many problems caused by subterranean termites can be prevented through good construction sanitation, mechanical alterations, and good initial designs. The ideal way to prevent termite infestation is by denying them access to shelter, food (wood) and moisture. It is paramount to plan before construction. Modify or position the construction site so that the soil grade slopes away from the building in all direction. For already built home, drain lines may need to be created and lots of materials need to be buried or regarded. Breezeways or sidewalks, patios and soil-filled porches should be made to slope away from the building.
Often, subterranean termites attack a material from the base to the top; thus, when termiticide is applied to the soil, their attacks can be deferred for many years. A complete protection calls for a complete physical or chemical barrier between the soil and the structures. Inbuilt homes, this barrier must be situated where there is a possibility of entry of termite.
Termiticide should be applied around the utility entrances, around piers or other supports, and outside and inside foundation walls. The termiticide must be pressure-injected in brick or block concrete foundations by drilling the foundation walls.
In slap foundations also, pressure injection and extensive drilling are often required. Other areas that should also be treated include sidewalks, along with adjacent patios around fireplaces and under earth-filled porches. However, the termiticide label instructions should be strictly adhered to ensure maximum effectiveness.
If you are experiencing termite problems in your home or business, contact Alliance Pest Services today!
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