Strength in Numbers: Meet the Termite

May 12, 2014


What has been around since dinosaurs roamed the Earth, are harmless when considered individually, but as a species cause approximately five billion U.S. dollars in property damage every year? If you guessed termites, then you are correct. An individual termite is practically harmless, but together with their extended family (which can number anywhere from a few hundred to thousands) termites can eat the value right out of your home. Literally! Termites may be small in size, but this species (which weighs more collectively than the entire human race) can infest your home and multiply so fast they make rabbits look like Shakers. In the blink of an eye, your home can go from infested to condemned if the infestation is not caught early and eliminated.

termite infestation on wood trim of window

Termites Eat Wood, and They Don’t Ask First

Cellulose, especially the cellulose found in wood, is a termite's primary and most available food source. Fortunately for them, and unfortunately for you, wood rich in cellulose was most likely used in abundance to create the homes where you live. Termites love to make themselves at home in the well-stocked pantry that is your place of residence. In addition to the wood in the structure itself, there is the added bonus of wooden furniture and paper books to enjoy if they wish (and they do). 

Termites are not all that bad. After all, they break down detritus which adds nutrients to the soil, and… well, they do that. Unfortunately, termites apply their voracious appetites for cellulose indiscriminately, turning helpful feeding behavior into behavior that can totally destroy your home. While termites might find the wood in your home's structure to be a bountiful source of nutrients, the strength and safety of your home can quickly be compromised by their dining activities. Termite damage can be so significant as to render your home uninhabitable until necessary (and expensive) repairs have been completed.

Is Your Home Not Made of Wood? The Termite Doesn’t Mind

While homes primarily constructed out of wood would certainly be the ideal smorgasbord for a termite colony, homes made from other materials are also at risk for termite infestations, as termites are able and willing to travel through plaster, metal siding, and more to get to their next meal. Termites are more than happy to feast on cabinets, ceilings, floors, and wooden furniture when structural wood is not available.

Taking care of termites is not really a do-it-yourself project. Significant damage to the home has often occurred before the termites are initially discovered. Homeowners who discover a termite infestation are advised to contact a pest control professional instead of attempting to correct the issue on their own. An inspection conducted by professionals is necessary to discover the extent of the infestation before possible termite treatment options can be discussed with the homeowners.

A Tale of Two Termites: Drywood vs. Subterranean

Drywood termites like to make their homes within wooden structures on which they feed. Drywood termites can be found inside walls or furniture. Furniture infested by drywood termites may go undiscovered until the veneer cracks and the maze-like termite tunnels become visible. Antique furniture pieces have often been ruined by termite damage in this manner. Infestation of furniture, floors, and walls by drywood termites is a serious matter. Contact a local pest control professional immediately to discuss the severity of your infestation and your extermination options.

An underground colony in damp, loose soil is the favorite dwelling of the subterranean termite. There are species of subterranean termites in Africa that are well known for the visible mounds above their colonies; however, within the United States, subterranean termites are much more discreet.

Interior damage caused by subterranean termites may not be discovered until the infestation is widespread. Damage from termites is occasionally mistaken for water damage. Symptoms of a termite infestation include wood that is buckled, swollen ceilings and floors, the appearance of slight water damage, and visible mazes within furniture or walls. Termite infestations are often accompanied by a mold or mildew scent.

Subterranean termites also have the charming ability to create tunnels out of feces, mud, and saliva, through which they can access any above-ground food sources (and I’ve heard they don’t wipe their feet). These tunnels can be found near the foundation of infested structures.

Reversing the Damage

Before seeking professional repair to reverse termite damage to your home, you should first ensure all termites have been exterminated and take measures to protect the home against future infestations. An ounce of prevention is worth not having pounds and pounds of the little uninvited dinner guests returning.

An inspection of the home should be scheduled with a professional termite inspector. In addition to inspecting for the termites, the termite inspector can set up preventative measures as well as deal with active infestations.

Once your home has been declared termite-free and is protected against future infestations, the existing damage to your home can be repaired. It is recommended that you contact several local contractors for estimates before hiring a professional to repair your termite damage.

Before Buying a Home with Termite Damage

There are very few bigger decisions in an average person’s life than whether to invest in a new home. Whether buying new construction or purchasing a pre-existing home, a good quality home, which is well maintained, is always a sound investment.

The following two steps are recommended (in addition to hiring an expert home inspector) before purchasing a home. These steps must be taken during the due diligence period of your transaction:

  • Has the home inspected by a licensed termite inspector from a reputable pest control company for signs of past and present termite infestations?
  • Insist the seller include the transfer of the existing termite prevention and control contract (termite bond) in your contract. Plan to purchase your own bond if there is no existing agreement.

For all your termite problems, termite monitoring, and bait station programs, and termite damage repairs, contact us at Alliance Pest Services today.

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