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Termites

FACTS & IDENTIFICATION INFORMATION

Termites are often called the “silent destroyer” because they may be secretly hiding and thriving in your home or yard without any immediate signs of damage. All termites consume cellulose-based plant materials. Unfortunately, all homes, regardless of their construction type, can provide cellulose food for termite infestation.

Termites are detritivores, or detritus feeders. They feed on dead plants and trees as well as dead parts of living trees, including wood and wood in the soil. A termite’s mouth is capable of tearing pieces of woody material. This ability is what causes concern in human dwellings: while termite workers only measure approximately 1 cm to a few millimeters in length, their feeding habits are capable of causing costly damage to property. House foundations, furniture, shelves and even books are all possible feeding sites for termites.

Subterranean termite homes are usually formed in soil. Within these mounds, termites build elaborate tunnel systems and mud tunnels through which they access above-ground food sources. Drywood termites live within the wood they consume and oftentimes infest walls and furniture.

When a colony has matured, winged, swarming termites can be seen around windows and doors. Winged termites are highly attracted to sources of light and are most active in springtime. After mating, these termites locate a new breeding site and create another colony, spreading infestations throughout multiple locations in the case of drywood termites.

What Can You Do to Help Protect Your Home?

Small steps make a big difference in termite prevention and sustaining an effective termite treatment plan. Start by eliminating moisture conditions and termite food around your home. These simple steps make your home a less attractive target, helping deter termites.

Eliminate Moisture Problems

  • Repair leaking faucets, water pipes, and A/C units
  • Divert water from foundation
  • Keep gutters and downspouts clean
  • Remove excessive plant cover and wood mulch
  • Get rid of standing water on roof
  • Keep all vents clear and open
  • Seal entry points around water and utility lines or pipes

Remove Termite Food Sources

  • Keep firewood, lumber or paper away from foundation or crawl space
  • Get rid of stumps and debris near house
  • Place screens on outside vents
  • Check decks and wooden fences for damage
  • Wood on your home shouldn’t contact the soil

Termite Warning Signs & Identification

Some indications you may have a termite infestation:

  • A temporary swarm of winged insects in your home or from the soil around your home.
  • Any cracked or bubbling paint or frass (termite droppings).
  • Wood that sounds hollow when tapped.
  • Mud tubes on exterior walls, wooden beams or in crawl spaces.
  • Discarded wings from swarmers.

TERMITE LIFE CYCLE

The life cycle of the termite begins with a mating flight, wherein swarming winged reproductive males and females leave established colonies and procreate. After fertilization, winged termites land and shed their wings, going on to form new colonies. These insects then become the king or queen termites of their newly established colonies. The queen and king termites are at the center of the termite life cycle and are responsible for reproduction.
After the fertilized queen lays her eggs, they hatch into pale white larvae. Over the course of several molts, these larvae grow to assume a role in one of the three termite colony castes: workers, soldiers and reproductive termites, also known as alates.
Each caste has a distinctly different physical appearance. Workers are responsible for constructing tunnels and chambers as well as feeding and grooming other termite castes. Soldier termites are yellow-brown in color, with dramatically enlarged heads and often large mandibles. These are useful in combat but render warriors incapable of feeding themselves. The reproductive alates are darker in color and are born with two pairs of wings.
Although it is not clear how larvae are relegated to a certain caste, some research has indicated that maturity and the overall needs of the colony may dictate caste assignment. In fact, research has indicated that castes in the termite life cycle are not rigidly set, as termites belonging to one caste may develop into another caste if the colony requires it. Thus, a soldier termite may become a worker or a reproductive termite if the colony experiences a shortage of one or the other.
Workers and soldiers live approximately one to two years. Queen termites may survive for over a decade under optimal climate conditions.
[Termite Life Cycle]
Termite Life Cycle

TERMITE QUEENS

[Termite Queen]
Termite Queen
All termite colonies are governed by a caste system. Queen termites are integral to the founding and growth of termite colonies.
Colonies are founded when a potential queen termite joins a mating swarm. Swarms are comprised of male and female reproductives from fully established termite colonies. Unlike worker and soldier termites, these reproductives are equipped with wings, and many species are dark in color. After mating, swarmers land and shed their wings.
Although reproductive termites bear a distinct resemblance to winged ants, both males and female reproductive termites survive beyond the mating swarm and go on to found colonies, whereas male winged ants die after mating. The termites become the kings and queens of their new colonies. The termite queen is responsible for maintaining and increasing the population of the colony.

SOLDIER TERMITES

Formosan Termite Soldier

Termites are social insects and live in colonies comprised of different castes. Although they vary slightly between species, there are typically three castes in a termite colony. These three castes all work to ensure the ultimate survival of the colony. Of the three castes, soldier termites are responsible for the protection of their colony.

Soldier termites often are equipped with enlarged mandibles which aid in defense against predators and other threats. The enlarged mandibles also render soldier termites incapable of feeding themselves; worker termites are responsible for feeding other termite castes.

Although termites usually do not attack without provocation, their colonies are often assaulted by natural predators such as ants. When this occurs, soldier termites sacrifice themselves by remaining outside of the breached colony while workers repair any damage.

 

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