Top Facts About Termites
- Termites are very small insects, measuring between one-sixth and three-fifths of an inch in length.
- Termites have been around for 140 million years and live on every continent except Antarctica.
- Termite queens have the longest known lifespan of any insect on earth, averaging 17 years, though some can live to be 50 years old.
- Termites perform one of the most important roles in our ecosystem, which is to take cellulose — the most plentiful organic material found in nature — and recycle it back into the earth. Some liken termites to “soil engineers” or decomposition experts that help to influence the distribution of essential natural resources, like water and nutrients.
- When it comes to homes and other property, termites are also some of the most destructive pests. In fact, they are responsible for around $5 billion worth of damage every year.
- Termites’ closest relatives are cockroaches
- There are more than 2,900 species of termites in the world, about 47 species in the U.S.
- Termite workers and soldiers are blind.
- The biggest predators of termites are ants, and some ant species prey exclusively on termites.
- The southern U.S. and coastal areas are at the highest risk of termites. Generally speaking, the further north you live, the less risk termites pose.
- Termites will swarm in massive quantities and can be seen flying around lights in the evening.
- Termite and ant swarmers look similar, and are often confused with one another. Termites have four wings of equal lengths while ants have two sets of wings that are different lengths.
- Even though hundreds, if not thousands, of swarmers are produced in a colony, only a small percentage will successfully be able to mate and start a new colony. Many die from predation and dehydration.
Good to Know
Termites are responsible for around $5 billion worth of damage every year.
Where Do Termites Live and Eat?
Termites live in colonies that can range in size from only a few hundred to several million in the largest termite colonies. They are eusocial, which means they care for each other. Within termite colonies, individual termites are divided into distinct groups called castes. Each caste — the workers, soldiers and reproductives — has a designated role, complete with specialized tasks, all of which are essential to a well-functioning colony.
- Workers: Worker termites make up the majority of every termite colony. They are blind and sterile. Their responsibilities are all of the daily work that occurs in the colony, from gathering food to constructing mud tunnels and making any necessary tunnel repairs. It is estimated that only around 20% of the workers venture outside of the main colony foraging for food while the rest remain in the colony. For example, some workers even feed the soldier termites and care for the queen and eggs. There are even “undertakers” that remove any dead insects!
- Soldiers: Soldier termites are produced only when the colony reaches a healthy size. They have one job: to protect the colony from any outside threats. Like workers, soldiers are blind and sterile, but have large pinchers on their jaws that are attached to large, orange heads. Those heads and pinchers are so big, they can’t feed themselves and rely on the workers to feed them.
- Reproductives: These termite colony members are also known as alates, swarmers, and sometimes queens and kings. When a healthy colony is ready — usually when the season and rain quantity are ideal — the winged alates fly out of their colonies to find mates. Once they mate, their wings drop off and they begin new colonies of their own. They will never leave their nest again.
Different species construct different types of colonies. They can be elaborate, with many tunnels, galleries and chambers. Subterranean termites build their nests underground and require contact with damp soil. The main nests may be quite a ways from their food source. Estimates vary, but it is safe to say they can easily travel more than 100 ft to find food.
The invasive Formosan subterranean termites can also form “carton nests” when they have contact with suitably damp wood. These nests are made from wood fibers, saliva and fecal material — and look a bit like a stack of very wet newsprint. These are some of the most challenging colonies to find, since they are often found inside walls and can be high up in the home, sometimes in attics.
Drywood termites will nest anywhere there is wood and do not necessarily need contact with soil. Dampwood termites, on the other hand, need wood with lots of moisture.
Termites feed on dead plant material, particularly wood. While it seems as though termites are eating the wood in homes, businesses, trees, and other structures, they are actually consuming the cellulose that the wood contains. Termites have special microorganisms in their guts that break down the cellulose and allow them to absorb the nutrients. Without those microorganisms, the termites would starve to death.
Good to Know
The average cost for treating your home for termites can range between $200 and $900
How To Prevent Termites
The best prevention is to call a qualified pest control professional to inspect your home for termites. They can determine whether termites are actively infesting a structure or if they could be in the area. In addition, you should also perform regular inspections of your home, checking for gaps around water and gas lines, or any other cracks or possible entry points. Subterranean termites create mud tubes that can be seen snaking up from the foundation or up pilings from crawlspaces. Drywood termites can often be identified by the distinctive pellets (i.e., droppings) they remove from their nests.
The most effective way to stop termites once they are in your home from causing additional damage is to contact a professional as soon as possible.
Subterranean termites primarily enter homes through soil-to-wood contact. To eliminate this mode of entry into your home, eliminate any places where any wood or plant material is in direct contact with the ground. Eliminate any wood or other sources of cellulose around your house. Think of items stacked outside your home, like newspapers, wood piles and paper recycling bins. Don’t forget about crawl spaces, nearby fallen trees, even leftover wood construction material in nearby lots.
There are several effective strategies that pest care professionals employ to protect your home from termites. The majority of these methods involve erecting a liquid or bait barrier around your home to keep termites from getting into your foundation. The liquid acts as a repellent, pushing termites away from the structure when they come in contact with it. Bait treatments are picked up by workers and brought back to the colony where they are shared with their hundreds of colony friends. As the poisoned bait is shared throughout the colony, it kills it off.
Once termites are inside a structure, both liquid and bait treatments can still be used. If the issues is extensive, fumigation might be recommended. Also, when the termite infestation is solved, the home needs to be inspected for structural integrity. After all, the termites may be dead, but the damage still needs to be repaired.
Cost of Termite Treatment
The average cost for of preventive termite treatment for your home can range from $200 to more than $900. The cost of termite treatment will depend on the size and severity of your termite problem, as well as the size of your home or property, the type of foundation you have, and the type of wood or other wood sources. Most quotes are broken down by the linear feet of the space that needs to be treated. In addition, there will be a yearly re-inspection fee to make sure everything is still termite-free.
Costs are typically higher for reactive treatments, not to mention the added cost of repairing any damage. Particularly if you are in an area with subterranean termites, a preventive treatment is an insurance policy for your home. Most companies like Orkin and Terminix have specific contracts that spell out what will happen if they find termites after the initial preventive treatment. Some involve a retreatment while others may cover any repair costs as well. It is important to read and understand your termite contract, no matter which pest control company you choose.
Finding a Specialist for Termites
The prospect of finding termite damage in your home can be overwhelming. The good news is that termites can be easily controlled with help from a trained pest professional. If you are concerned about termite control for your home, please give us a call. Let At Home Pros be your personal team of experts, providing the best home service recommendations for you and your family, no matter where you live in the United States.