All homeowners are familiar with the silent home destroyer – the termite. Termites are dangerous to all types of homes because they feed on dead trees and plants and other forms of cellulose. For many, this means that termites may target their homes. Each year, termites chew their way to billions of dollars’ worth of home damage. In many cases, homeowners may not be aware of a termite infestation until it’s too late.
There are three main types of termites: subterranean, drywood, and dampwood. Each of these main types has several more specialized species. It is important to identify which type of termite is present in the home. While all termites live in “social” colonies, different types have varying nesting, feeding, and reproductive habits that play a role in proper termite management.
Subterranean termites are the most common and destructive type of termite in the United States. These termites typically live in the soil or in moist, secluded areas above the soil. Subterranean termites are the only type of termite with a true caste system consisting of reproductive termites, workers, and soldiers. Reproductives focus on reproducing, workers focus on building shelter and finding food for the colony, and soldiers focus on defending the colony from intruders like ants and other termites.
One of the telltale signs of a subterranean termite infestation is the presence of mud tubes outside the home or on areas such as foundation slabs and crawl spaces. Mud tubes, also called shelter tubes, are built by worker termites to provide shelter as they travel back and forth outside the colony for food. These mud tubes are made of components like dirt, wood bits, termite saliva, and termite fecal matter.
As indicated by the name, drywood termites live and feed deep inside in sound, dry wood. Drywood termites are the second most common type of termite after the subterranean termite. Drywood termite colonies are typically smaller than subterranean termite colonies. A telltale sign of drywood termites is the presence of feces pellets that are discarded through “kick holes” made in a building’s wood. The pellets will collect over time, and have a distinct shape. A pest control professional can help to identify the presence of drywood termites and these characteristic feces pellets.
Dampwood termites make their home in damp and sometimes decaying wood. Unlike subterranean and drywood termites, they do not nest in soil or dry wood. These termites are significantly larger than subterranean termites. Due to the need for moist wood, it is important to help prevent dampwood termite infestation by avoiding moisture in and around the home. Roof or siding leaks, plumbing issues, and wood that touches the ground should all be tended to accordingly.
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