Subterranean termites can seriously harm a building's structure over time. Termites are destructive and impossible to eliminate with do-it-yourself techniques. Termites cause more than $5 billion in property damage annually in the U.S.
What Are Subterranean Termites?
Of all the termite species, subterranean termites have the potential to do the most harm. To access food supplies and shield themselves from the elements, these termites create tunnels that are frequently referred to as "mud tubes." They consume wood continuously, every day of the week, by biting off tiny pieces of wood one at a time with their saw-toothed mouths. Subterranean termites can seriously harm a building's structure over time, occasionally leading to a complete collapse. Due to their presence across the U.S., other than Alaska, subterranean termites pose a serious concern to homeowners.
What Do Subterranean Termites Look Like?
Subterranean termites come in three different types, or castes, with different morphological characteristics: reproductives, workers, and soldiers.
The king, queen, and alates are reproductives. The queen is the largest termite and is crucial to the development of a colony; the king is considerably smaller. Alates, commonly referred to as swarmers, are characterized by their lengthy, dark brown to virtually black bodies and their transparent, slightly milky-colored wings. Their wings may contain a few scarcely perceptible hairs, and their bodies normally range in length from 1/4 to 1/2 inches. Workers and soldiers lack wings. Workers have bodies that are cream in color and are roughly 1/4 inch or shorter. Their tiny jaws enable them to chew through wood and move objects. The distinctive feature of soldiers is their huge mandibles. Their bodies are flat and wide, and their heads are rectangular in appearance. Unlike workers, their bodies are typically creamy white, but their heads are darker and more brownish in hue.
Subterranean Termite Infestation Warning Signs
Both the interior and exterior of the house may get infested with subterranean termites. A termite infestation can be identified by a number of indications. Mud tubes that are visible on the home's exterior are one indicator. The termites build mud tubes, which resemble long tunnels formed of earth and wood, to save themselves from drying up as they move through the environment.
Other indications of a subterranean termite infestation include soft wood in the house that sounds hollow when tapped, darkening or blistering of wood structures, uneven or bubbling paint, and tiny excrement mounds that resemble sawdust next to a termite nest. Another sign that swarmers have entered and invaded the house is the presence of discarded wings close to doors or on windowsills.
How to Get Rid of Subterranean Termites
Prevention is the best form of subterranean termite control, by far. Because these pests are drawn to moisture, try to prevent water collection near the home's foundation. Utilize splash blocks, gutters, and downspouts that are in good working order to direct water away. With the right ventilation, you can lower humidity in crawl areas. Never bury scrap wood or discarded lumber in the yard. In order to prevent termites from entering the house, make sure to plug any cracks and gaps in the foundation. Most importantly, avoid having any wood in contact with the ground and have a one-inch space between any wood and ground-contact areas of the structure.
Termites are destructive and impossible to eliminate with do-it-yourself techniques. Termites cause more than $5 billion in property damage annually in the U.S.; these costs are frequently not covered by homeowners' insurance. Make plans for yearly expert termite inspections of your house to proactively prevent these destructive critters. If you believe your house may have a termite infestation, get in touch with a qualified pest control specialist right away so they can assess the situation and create a treatment strategy that will work.
Subterranean Termite Habits
Subterranean termites are social insects that live in caste-based colonies. There are three main castes in most colonies: reproductives, workers, and soldiers. The reproductives, like the queen and king, are in charge of mating and procreating new members of the colony.
With the ability to lay up to 1,000 eggs per day, the queen termite is the biggest and most significant one in the colony. The majority of termite colonies have a big group of workers who take care of the nest, hunt for food, and groom and care for other nest members.
Soldiers protect the colony from attack by donning enormous armored heads and razor-sharp, expanded mandibles. The lifespan of the queen may be many years, compared to the one to two years of each soldier or worker.
"Swarmers" will emerge from colonies at specific times of the year. These wingless adult reproductives depart the existing colony to start a new one. They usually only produce a few eggs in their first year, but as they reach maturity, the colony's queen will start to produce 5,000–10,000 eggs annually. Before a colony reaches a mature size of at least 60,000 termites, it normally takes several years, frequently between five and 10.
Between 60,000 and two million workers can make up a normal, mature subterranean termite colony. Every day of the week, subterranean termites consume wood with their scissor-like mouths. Subterranean termites consume cellulose-containing items, like other termite species do.
In the United States, Subterranean termites normally swarm in the spring, and in Florida, they swarm in the late winter as reproductive termites depart to found new colonies. Smaller termite swarms could, however, form throughout the winter if they are housed in heated shelters. Termite swarming typically takes place throughout the day, especially in the morning of a day that has just seen warm, rainy weather.
Subterranean termites can access buildings through fissures as small as 1/16" (1-2 mm) diameter by moving through their recognizable mud tubes. Colonies can also exist above ground, though, if a consistent source of moisture, such as dripping pipes, is present. It is also known that "true aerial" colonies, which are completely airborne, do exist. There may be multiple colonies coexisting at once in any particular building with a subterranean termite infestation.
Nearly all of the states in the United States have subterranean termites. These silent destroyers may wreak havoc on homes and other structures, in particular in southern regions, thanks to the humid and warm atmosphere. Swarmers are less frequent in the far northern states and Canada.
Because termites often spread through contaminated wood and wood products like lumber and firewood, the distribution of the colonies is patchy. It's not unusual for these colonies to have between 2 and 3 million foragers. In addition to eating aggressively from structures, these enormous colonies also actively forage over larger areas in living trees and free-standing poles.
Threats from Subterranean Termites
Subterranean termites have the potential to do substantial damage. Termites can bite off incredibly small pieces of wood one at a time with the help of their strong, saw-toothed jaws, which function like shears.
Even a smaller colony of 60,000 members can consume 1/5 ounce—or 5 grams—of wood daily. At this rate, a "small" subterranean termite colony could destroy the entirety of a 2x4 timber board measuring 2.3 feet in one year. Subterranean termites have the ability to completely destroy a building over time, which could lead to a homeowner's financial devastation. Subterranean termite colonies can expand swiftly and frequently go years without being discovered, allowing them to inflict expensive and considerable damage without homeowners ever knowing about it.
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