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Types of Termites and How to Get Rid of Them

By Pestech Pest Solutions
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Types of Termites and How to Get Rid of Them

No one wants to find termites around their property. These insects reproduce quickly and chew up wood, actually eating the inside of your home or business. Because they live inside the walls and floor, termites can cause significant structural damage before they’re discovered.

Thankfully, treatment options are available so you can rescue your property from these hungry insects. Keep reading to learn more about the types of termites you may encounter, how to look for signs of an infestation and what to do if you suspect you have a termite problem.

The Impact of Termites on Your Home

Termite damage is serious because it can cause structural issues that affect a building’s safety. To gain energy, termites eat through wood, creating passages that weaken the wood’s integrity.

While searching for wood they can eat, termites may also chew through electrical wires, drywall and other interior components. Well-established colonies will send winged termites to create new colonies elsewhere, further spreading damage. The longer termites work uninhibited, the more expensive it will be to repair the damage to a building.

Which Termites Do the Most Damage?

You’ll find many different species of termites, and some do more damage than others. For example, Formosan termites reproduce very quickly and can weaken structures much faster than other species.

The termites that do the most damage are the ones you don’t find — those that live inside your walls for years, silently eroding the building’s structure until it has extensive deterioration. To protect yourself from these insects, be aware of which termites live in your area and have a preventive treatment plan in place.

Signs of a Termite Infestation

Termites are similar to mice — if you see one, it probably means you have a bad infestation. Since termites live inside a structure, locating them before they’re well-established can be challenging. Several warning signs can tip you off:

  • Mud tubes: Most termite species are subterranean, which means they need access to the ground to stay hydrated. Termites will build mud tunnels to travel between the ground — their home — and wood in your building — their food source. You can find mud tunnels up the sides of the foundation, in the basement and in crawl spaces. When you break a tube open, you’ll likely see termite soldiers and workers inside.
  • Frass: Some termite species, like drywood termites, create frass, or piles of tiny pellets. The termites push frass out of small exit holes made in your walls. Frass is often compared to piles of sawdust.
  • Flying termites: When colonies are ready to spread, they send out swarmer termites with wings to look for a new place to colonize. Although these insects look similar to flying ants, they have two parts to their bodies instead of three.
  • Spongy wood: If termites are active in your home or building, the damage will eventually start to show. You may notice that wood in the walls or floors feels spongy. You likely won’t see the full extent of the damage until you open up an affected wall.

Because most termites are subterranean, their damage starts from the ground up. Checking out the basement and ground floor for signs of mud tubes, frass or softened wood can help you determine if you have a problem. However, termites are notoriously difficult to catch early because they can keep their presence hidden for so long.

All About Termites

To protect your home from termites, you must know how they function. The more knowledge you have about their lifecycle, food sources and habits, the better prepared you’ll be to notice signs of termite damage and know when to call a professional for help.

Understanding Termite Colony Structure

Understanding Termite Colony Structure

Like ants, termites operate as a colony. With several different kinds of termites, each one has a different role to play in the colony’s survival:

  • Workers: These termites dig tunnels, care for the queen and feed the other types of termites.
  • Soldiers: Soldier termites have larger mandibles and protect the colony from threats like ant invasions.
  • Swarmers: When a colony is ready to expand, swarmer termites with wings explore for a new place to live.
  • Queens: Queen termites develop very large abdomens, so they can lay many eggs quickly. They control the castes — the other types of termites — in a colony with pheromones.
  • Kings: Kings mate with queens to create new termites, and they also help regulate castes with pheromone production.

With the right conditions, all worker termites could become kings and queens. If a colony loses its king or queen, it will adapt and replace these roles while allowing new termites to develop. Termite size can vary, with workers typically being the smallest members and the queen growing into the largest.

The life span of a termite depends on its species and job in the colony. Queens can live longest, over a decade or even two, depending on the species. Kings can live for several years in good conditions. Due to their different role and chemical makeup, worker termites have the shortest life span and may only live between one and two years.

Where Do Termites Come From?

Most termites are very sensitive to dryness and need constant moisture to survive. For that reason, many species come into your home through the ground. When workers eat the wood in your house, they may carry the nutrients back to the rest of the colony in the ground nearby.

Termites may also create more favorable conditions in your home or building by creating cartons, or nests, in the walls using soil and chewed wood. Dampwood termites are known to plug the holes they chew to increase moisture retention so they can safely live inside the structure.

Although most termites access buildings through the ground, drywood termites can fly. They enter through cracks in your walls or around windows and doors. Sometimes, mulch can introduce termites to your yard.

What Do Termites Eat?

Termites eat cellulose, a component of wood and other plant-based materials. Since they’re sensitive to moisture, termites tend to stay inside walls and chew on wooden support beams. Termites may also eat:

  • Insulation
  • Fabric
  • Carpet
  • Books
  • Cardboard

After termites chew up material with cellulose, the microbes in their guts break down cellulose to make nutrients available. This symbiotic relationship benefits both termites and the microbiome in their gut, since the actions of each help the other survive.

Identifying Types of Termites

Depending on where you live, you may have a sizable number of termite species to compare. Different species tend to prefer different climates. While East Coasters might only find one of two or three species, dry climates in the South can cause more types of termites to take up residence.

You may also need to distinguish between termites and ants, especially when both can have wings. If you see a reddish body, kinked antennae, a pinched waist and brown wings, you likely have a flying ant.

Here are some common types of termites you might find in a home in the United States:

Subterranean Termites

Subterranean Termites

Subterranean termites are one of the most common types of termites in North America. There are several different species of subterranean termites, including the Eastern subterranean termite and the Formosan termite. They all require a connection to the ground to survive. For that reason, mud tubes are a telltale sign of subterranean termites. Thankfully, it also makes them one of the easiest to treat since they must frequently cross between your home and the ground.

In an Eastern subterranean termite colony, soldiers have a yellowish rectangular-shaped head that separates them from other species. Worker termites are usually a creamy white color but hard to find. Kings and queens are dark brown or black with two pairs of translucent wings. These wings break off after swarming, and they might be your only sign of a termite infestation.

If you find termites in New York, they likely belong to this species.

Formosan Termites

A type of subterranean termite, the Formosan termite, has a slightly rounder head and mandibles that cross in front. These termites are much more difficult to treat because they build cartons inside homes that allow them to live inside without a continuous connection to the ground.

Formosan termites reproduce faster than other types and can destroy buildings more quickly because their colonies are so large. However, this species prefers the South because of its hot, humid climate. Although some populations have been found in the North, this species is less prevalent there.

Drywood Termites

These termites are different from subterranean species because they don’t need a sustained connection to the ground. Drywood termites primarily live in the deep South and along the West Coast.

This type of termite flies to a home and enters through crevices in its exterior. Once inside, they will tunnel into walls to eat wood and other cellulose-rich materials. As they go along, they dig small holes called kick-out holes, from which they eject frass.

Dampwood Termites

Like drywood termites, dampwood termites don’t need to stay connected to the ground. They live in damp or decayed wood in your home, like the wood near a plumbing leak. As their name suggests, dampwood termites prefer constant moisture for their nest.

This species lives along the West Coast of the U.S., in states where they can find wet wood year-round. Discovering dampwood termites can be challenging because they actually plug the holes they create to keep their environment damp.

Conehead Termites

This termite species is mainly found in southern Florida. Like the name suggests, the soldier termite’s head is shaped like a cone with a sharp point on the end. These termites build nests above the ground, often in trees. Their nests are round and dark brown.

Conehead termites have many more soldiers in their colonies than subterranean and other species. They also build wider and longer mud tubes than other species. While they share some similarities with subterranean termites, the cone-shaped head separates this species.

Best Termite Treatment Methods

Best Termite Treatment Methods

What should you do if you suspect termites in your home? Several successful treatment methods can remove termites, but the right one depends on the kind of termite you’re dealing with. Subterranean termites are the easiest to treat because they commute between the home and their nests. Termite colonies that never leave your home are harder to handle.

If you’ve had termites for a while, identifying and treating all the nests and termite colonies in your home or building can take some time. However, with patience and determination, you can protect your home from these pests and repair any damage they may have caused.

If you have a termite problem, call for professional help right away. The longer you wait to exterminate termites, the more damage they will do to your home or commercial property. Extremely mild termite problems might benefit from natural methods like applying diatomaceous earth, but always have a professional inspect the building to gauge the extent of the problem.

Chemical Treatments: A Professional Approach

While chemicals for termite control may seem daunting to put in your home, proper application from experienced professionals can help keep your family and pets safe.

Some common chemicals used to treat termites include:

  • Permethrin
  • Imidacloprid
  • Bifenthrin
  • Fipronil

You can purchase some chemical treatments to apply yourself, but others are only accessible to professional pest technicians. These restrictions support safe and effective application, efficiently ending your termite problem.

If you suspect you’re dealing with a large termite colony, call a professional immediately. Getting a pest technician to analyze and treat your termite problem can reduce overall damage and help you quickly rid your home of these pests.

Termite Damage Repair and Recovery

After your home is termite-free, you must assess any structural damage and make the necessary repairs. In worst-case scenarios, you may have to rip down and replace entire walls to ensure your home remains structurally stable.

You likely won’t know the extent of the damage until you open up the walls. Even checking for termite damage can require renovations, since you may need to look inside your home’s structure to find these insects. However, the faster you take action, the more of your home you can save from termite damage.

If you live in an area prone to termites, it’s a good idea to implement preventive pest control on a seasonal basis. This approach can protect you from extensive termite damage and can bring you peace of mind about your property.

Choose Pestech Pest Solutions for Termite Control

Looking for termite treatment services near you? Pestech started serving customers in 1989 and now has locations throughout the Hudson Valley area and Central New York. We aim to equip our customers to live healthy, happy lives — pest-free, of course!

If left unchecked, termites can do extensive damage to your property. With the right approach, you can stop termites in their tracks and protect your home or building from sustained damage. We have experience treating termites and many other pests local to the area. If you suspect you might have a termite problem, don’t wait — reach out to us or schedule an appointment online so we can check out your home or business.

Choose Pestech Pest Solutions for Termite Control