Termites - Meet the Culprits



Termites Termites Termites Termites

More than 2 million homes require termite treatment each year. You typically can't see them, you can't hear them and frequently only a trained inspector can find signs of infestation. Treatment by the homeowner for the control of termites is virtually impossible. Termites feed on cellulose, a complex chemical in plant cell walls, and they are very important in the natural decomposition of fallen trees, leaves and other plant products.


  • Termites build their colonies in the soil or in trees or poles, and rely mainly on the soil for moisture
  • A termite colony is large (60,000 to 1.5 million termites)
  • They are made up of several "castes", each with distinct functions and behaviors. These include reproductive (the queen, king, and winged swarmers), soldiers, and workers


  • Pencil-sized diameter, or larger, mud tubes running across bare concrete or masonry between the soil and any wooden part of a building
  • Thin, small, papery wings, all the same size and shape, 3/8-1/2 inches long, on your windows sill, counter top or floor
  • Thin, bubbled or distorted areas of paint on wooden surfaces which feel cool to the touch

Property owners seldom see the worker or soldier termites, but in the spring or fall they may see swarming "winged reproductives." This form of termite can easily be confused with a winged ant. After a termite colony reaches a certain population level, winged reproductive "swarmers" are produced and leave the colony in a "swarm". This is usually triggered by a rain, in the Spring and occurs usually around dusk or dawn.

Termites live mainly in the ground, searching for wood (food) farther and farther from their center of their colony areas as their numbers grow. Foragers may make underground tunnels or above-ground "shelter tubes" of mud, feces and debris used to search for new food sources and to connect their feeding sites to the soil. They can enter a building without direct wood contact with the soil through such tubes. Termites can enter buildings through cracks, expansion joints, foam insulation below ground, hollow bricks or concrete blocks, or through spaces around plumbing through openings as narrow as 1/32nd of an inch.


You can do several things as a homeowner to help prevent termite infestations including:

  • Stack all firewood, lumber or other wooden items, several feet away from your building
  • Keep all wood supports of porches, patios, decks or separate buildings more than one foot from contact with your home's foundation
  • Use only pressure-treated wood for all construction which contacts the ground
  • Move all wood-containing mulch and even decorative wood chips at least one foot away from your foundation
  • Repair any leaking water lines or fixtures, especially if they wet any wooden parts of your house
  • Repair any eaves, downspouts, gables or shingles, which allow wooden parts of your house to get wet even occasionally
  • Monitor moisture levels and take steps to reduce moisture build-up in any crawl spaces
  • Change your outdoor lights from "white" bulbs to a yellow or pale amber, especially during the Spring, to reduce attraction of any night-swarming termites near your house

The most important step in protecting your property is a thorough inspection by a termite control specialist. If a termite infestation is found, the specialist can design a treatment plan for your property that will control a current infestation and establish a chemical barrier, or baiting system, around the structure to take care of future termite infestations.


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