Termites are among the most reviled pests. Not only do they destroy structural components in buildings but also they worsen indoor air quality so that people with asthma, allergies and other respiratory concerns may notice that their symptoms increase.
Eastern subterranean termites such as those that are common in Bristol spend almost their entire life cycle underground. When workers are not underground, it is because they are feeding on items like fences, decks and support joists. Much of this damage is caused below the surface of the item, which means that the infestation is not readily apparent to the untrained eye.
Because of their tendency to stay in underground nests or in places like attics, basements and crawl spaces, most property owners do not become aware of a termite infestation until it is already well underway. Unfortunately, this means that damage to structures may be substantial, requiring hundreds or thousands of dollars in repairs.
Property owners who suspect a termite infestation are encouraged to seek professional pest management services. By also making repairs that discourage termite activity, the probability of a reoccurrence is low.
Termite colonies may have thousands of members, and each individual has a specific role. Workers are the colony members that are most likely to be found outside of the nest because of their food-foraging responsibility. They are tiny at 1/8" long and are a creamy-white color. The larger soldiers are about twice the size of the workers. While their bodies are white like the workers', soldiers have yellow heads and a distinctively larger jaw that is designed for biting.
A mature termite colony also will produce "swarmers" in the spring. Capable of reproduction, these winged termites typically are black or brown and may measure from 3/8" to 1/2". Their activity is highly visible, and it is often the first sign property owners have of an infestation.
Most people know that termites eat wood, but this is not the exclusive component of their diet. Actually, termites forage for cellulose, which is a basic building block of all plants and trees. This means that any item that contains cellulose may be vulnerable to the termite appetite. Cellulose is widely used in construction components as well as common household items. While termites may feed on the wooden frame and support joists of a building, they further may eat shingles, siding, sheetrock, clothing, linens, wallpaper, furniture, curtain rods and numerous other everyday objects.
The termite colony builds and maintains an underground nest that provides shelter from predators and the elements. Termites are not designed to be exposed to open air and wind, which dry them out. This makes underground nests essential. Additionally, termites construct mud tunnels that the workers use to travel from the nest to a food source.
Appropriate nesting sites for termites include forests and fields where there are fallen or decaying trees and stumps. Nests may be located close to these food sources. Unfortunately, sometimes the conditions in and around human habitations are attractive to termites. Wood that is untreated, damp or rotting acts like an invitation to workers and the swarmers that are responsible for establishing new nests. These conditions may encourage termites to establish a nearby nest so they can exploit the food source.
PROBLEMS WITH TERMITES
Termite colonies, especially those that are successful and of long standing, can have multiple thousands of members. Feeding all of those individuals is a non-stop task. Accordingly, workers forage around the clock, supplying not only themselves with food but also the colony members that never or rarely leave the nest.
This voracious appetite wreaks havoc in basements, crawlspaces, attics and wall voids. Termites also may infest sheds and other outbuildings, fences, decks and furniture. Wherever they are, destruction follows as the workers gnaw their way through all cellulose-containing items. The result is severe damage to the frame of the building as well as walls, floors and ceilings. A termite infestation can easily lead to thousands of dollars in repairs that make it difficult or impossible to occupy the building until they are complete.
Much of termite behavior is geared toward survival. For them, this means escaping the notice of people and other predators. Their underground nests ably serve this purpose, as do the mud tunnels that worker termites construct to get from the nest to the food source. When a building has a termite infestation, it may be possible to see these mud tunnels on the foundation.
Soldiers rarely leave the nest as it is their duty to protect it and the other colony members. Their behavior can be aggressive if they believe the nest is being attacked. Someone who accidentally stumbles across a nest may be bitten several times with the soldiers' oversized jaws.
However, people are far more likely to see swarmers as they emerge in the spring to mate and establish new colonies. Thousands of these colony members may fly into the air at once, causing a commotion that cannot be ignored. Such swarms, and the piles of shed wings that they leave behind, frequently are the first sign of an infestation.
Termites are not known to transmit any diseases to people. Nonetheless, people who have respiratory concerns may be particularly troubled by a termite infestation. The relentless burrowing and chewing of the termite colony releases tiny particles into the air, inhibiting air quality and causing people with allergies and asthma to suffer increased symptoms. Even people who do not have these conditions may experience respiratory problems in a large infestation.
SIGNS OF A TERMITE INFESTATION
Signs of a termite infestation include:
• Wood-like pellets that are termite droppings
• Ceilings or floors that buckle
• Paint bubbling up on walls
• An increase in respiratory ailments
• Mud tunnels on building foundations
• Small piles of sawdust around structures
To help prevent issues with termites the following measures should be taken:
• Use only treated, painted or stained wood on the property
• Store yard debris piles and woodpiles several feet away from structures
• Do not allow siding on buildings to contact soil
• Repair water leaks when they are discovered
• Keep gardens and lawns trimmed
When termites are suspected, the best course of action is to call in the experts at SafeGuard Pest Control. Our technicians are licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and are certified Termidor exterminators.
As certified Termidor® exterminators, our technicians are skilled and trained in applying this and other products known for effective termite control, by infecting and killing termites as they come in contact with the termiticide and then spread it to other members within the colony.
For nearly 30 years, SafeGuard Pest Control, LLC has been assisting Bristol area homes and businesses with all of their termite eradication and prevention needs.