Termites are the major wood-destroying structural pests in the southern United States. According to some estimates, over $2 billion are spent annually in the U.S. controlling or preventing termite infestations. In North Carolina, our main problem is with subterranean termites, i.e., termites that normally live below ground and may move up into a structure where they cause damage.
Termites are “social insects”; they live in a nest or colony which is typically found underground, often near a tree, stump, wood pile or other source of ‘food’. Each colony contains a king and queen who are brown in color. The queen is able to lay thousands of eggs each year. There are also soldier termites which have large heads equipped with large mandibles (“jaws”). The soldiers protect the colony from invaders (such as ants). The majority of the colony consists of thousands of whitish workers who have various jobs within the colony. Some workers take care of the queen and the newly hatching immatures (sometimes called “larvae”). Other workers forage (search) for food. The foraging workers are the ones that we find infesting wood. As the colony grows, the workers expand the nest and their feeding area. A mature colony will contain 200,000 to 2,000,000 workers, although many colonies contain as few as 50,000-60,000. Studies have also shown that termites from a single colony may forage across an area of one-third acre and travel over 200 feet from their nest. One acre of land may support several termite colonies (although this doesn’t mean that all of them are invading your home!). A large termite colony does not usually occupy a single underground nest. As the foraging area expands the colony actually splits to form several smaller “nesting sites”.
Signs of Activity
Without a periodic inspection of your home, termite activity can remain undetected for years. Some signs of their activity show up unexpectedly, while others are discovered by accident or during renovations. Here are some key signs of a termite infestation:
A termite colony matures in 3-5 years and begins to produce swarmers (winged adults). In North Carolina, we have at least three species of termites that begin swarming in late winter and continue into September or October. Swarming usually occurs during the day, particularly on warm days following rain. Swarmers found outdoors near tree stumps, landscape timbers, etc., are not an indication that your house is infested, but they serve as a reminder that termites live around us. When swarming occurs indoors, it usually means that you have an infestation somewhere within your house. Several species of ants also swarm at the same times of the year as termites. Winged termites and ants look somewhat similar, but you can tell them apart by certain features. If you’re not sure whether you have termites or ants, show them to a pest control professional or bring specimens to your county Cooperative Extension Center for identification.
Unlike ants, termites do not roam around out in the open. They will either tunnel through wood (or other material) or else travel inside pencil-size (or larger) mud tubes that they build from soil, wood particles and other materials. You will find these tubes on foundation walls, floor joists or other parts of the house. Tubes may also hang from the floor system or may be found protruding from cracks betweenboards and beams and even through holes termites may chew through sheet rock on walls and ceilings. Break open the tubes to see if termites are still active. An empty tube doesn’t necessarily mean that termites are gone; they may have simply abandoned this particular tunnel. Termites often rebuild damaged tubes, which is another indication of current activity. ‘Old’ tubes are dry and crumble easily, leaving behind “etching” on the surface that may be visible for years (an indication that a house had termite activity at some time). Without knowing the inspection history of the house, it is impossible to tell or guess at the age of tunnels or etching.
Tubes that are found on ceilings or on the second floor of buildings may indicate that you have a “secondary” or aboveground (“aerial”) infestation, i.e., the termite colony actually lives in the building and the termites are traveling up from the soil. Mud tubes built by an aboveground colony usually contain materials other than soil, e.g., wood and sheet rock or whatever the termites are feeding on. Secondary infestations occur when there is a serious moisture problem or leak somewhere within the structure. In such situations, a thorough inspection may require removal of siding or interior wallboards, etc. More importantly for you, secondary infestations cannot be controlled with the usual soil treatment. Finding and correcting the moisture problem is the first step to eliminating the termites.
We also treat for other wood destroying insects:
- Carpenter Bees
- Carpenter Ants
- Powder Post Beetles
- Wood Destroying Organisms/Fungus
The initial termite inspection is always free. Advance Pest Control offers home owners a choice of full house treatments or spot treatments of any infested area. When your house is termite free we offer our Termite Protection Plan. This plan includes:
Regular inspections at least once annually
Recommendations on keeping your home termite free
Termite damage repair coverage
Any retreatments found necessarty at no additional cost
Queen termite with workers and soldiers