Pennsylvania is a region that is prone to termite infestation, and Philadelphia is no exception. The most common species is the subterranean termite, a creature that is responsible for thousands of dollars in damage to individual buildings each year.
Because termite activity in Philadelphia is so widespread and common, it is critical for homes to be inspected on a regular basis. This is not only essential during the process of buying a home but also throughout the occupancy of a home as a termite infestation may begin at any time.
Property owners are encouraged to act quickly if they suspect termite activity. This is because termites spend most of their lifecycle hidden underground. By the time termite damage or a swarm is observed, it is likely that the infestation is of long-standing and has caused wholesale destruction in places like attics, basements and crawl spaces.
Termite appearance differs dependent upon their role within the colony. Workers are cream-colored and only about one-quarter of an inch long. They do not have wings.
Soldiers also do not have wings, and they are a similar cream color. However, their heads may be a brownish color and their jaws are large relative to their size, an adaptation that equips them to defend the colony.
Alates, which also may be called swarmers, have two pairs of wings and may measure between one-quarter and one-half an inch. They are dark brown or black.
The cellulose that is a major component of wood and wood products is the main source of sustenance for termites. They prefer soft, damaged wood that is easier to consume. Typically, they are attracted to wood that touches the soil since it is most likely to be wet and damaged.
Termites only eat the soft wood, leaving the dry, intact and undamaged wood alone. This leads the wood to take on a layered appearance, and it is not unusual to see soil and mud accumulations inside the tunnels that termites dig in soft wood.
As their name suggests, subterranean termites establish underground nests. Their biological structure demands that they maintain at least a minimum moisture level at all times, and this means limiting their exposure to open air. This habit also protects them from predators.
Frequently, termites will establish an underground nest that is close to a home or other building. This is because the wood in the structure provides them with a reliable food source. The nest may be located directly beneath or immediately adjacent to the building. When the nest is some distance away from a food source, termite workers construct mud tunnels to conduct them to the food and back to the nest.
PROBLEMS WITH TERMITES
Subterranean termites are responsible for billions of dollars in structural damage across the country every year. Most of the damage is attributable to the colony's voracious appetite for cellulose. Taking their sustenance from support joists, siding, drywall, wooden frames and other structural elements can destabilize a building.
People may begin to notice that their floors are buckling or that some walls appear to sag. If the damage is considerable, the building may not be safe to occupy until it is repaired. Even when the damage is not so widespread, it will be expensive and time-consuming to address. Most property owners end up spending at least a few thousand dollars on repairs.
In addition to structural damage, termites are known to consume any other items that may contain cellulose. These items may include books, clothing, sheets, towels, paper products and anything that is plant-based.
Because a colony may have more than one egg-laying female, colonies can grow in leaps and bounds, multiplying the problem with rapidity.
Frequently, the first sign that property owners see of a termite infestation is a swarm. This activity is most likely to occur on a warm spring day after a rainfall. March through May are the most common months for swarming, but this behavior sometimes is observed in the winter inside a heated building.
Swarms occur when hundreds or thousands of winged reproductive termites fly up to mate. Pairs that successfully complete this task go on to establish new colonies, frequently not far from the nest they leave behind. This can mean that an infestation is able to quickly grow in a short time.
Subterranean termites typically do not emerge in the light of day outside of a swarm event. Spending their time underground and in out-of-the-way places like attics, crawl spaces, basements, sheds and garages means that they are able to escape the notice of people, sometimes for months or even years.
While it is true that termites are not known to spread diseases to people, this does not mean that they are not a health threat. Soldier termites may be capable of biting or stinging if they are handled or otherwise feel threatened. These wounds are not dangerous, but they can swell, burn and itch as well as be painful.
People with allergies and asthma are particularly susceptible to complications because of a termite infestation. The nests built by these pests release tiny particles that heating and air conditioning systems distribute throughout the house. Contact with termite droppings and saliva also may be responsible for allergic reactions in people with particular sensitivity.
It further is worth noting that contact dermatitis may ensue if human skin comes into contact with the pellets generated by termites that are known as frass. Termites also contribute to the spread of mold throughout the structure thanks to their proclivity for warm, damp environments. Symptoms of mold problems include cough, sore throat, headaches, weakness and burning eyes.
SIGNS OF A TERMITE INFESTATION
Termite control may be necessary if the following signs are present:
• Piles of shed wings
• A swarm event
• Small sawdust piles next to buildings
• Collections of frass around the property
• Bubbling paint
• Buckling of floors or ceilings
• A noticeable increase in allergy and asthma symptoms
• Mud tunnels on foundations
Termite problems may be avoided by implementing the following preventative measures:
• Ensure that no wood on the property is touching soil
• Repair all holes and cracks in concrete walls and foundations
• Do not use hollow blocks as foundations as these provide termites with access
• Paint, stain or seal all wood on the property
• Repair water leaks immediately
• Replace any damaged or rotting wood
• Keep woodpiles and yard debris piles at least 20 feet from structures
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 Philadelphia area homes and businesses with all of their termite eradication and prevention needs.