WHAT ARE TERMITES ?

Damaged floors, sagging walls, traces of dust around wooden items, piles of small wings, difficult to open windows or doors, if you are familiar with any of the above damages, know that your house is under the vicious attack of tiny bugs called termites. Termites are small, pale and soft bodied insects which are predominantly found in tropical regions. A termite has a thick waist and straight antennae. Termites typically feed on wood and dead parts of trees. Their mouth is well capable of tearing woody material. This causes huge damage to property including the foundations of a house, furniture, shelves and even books. Infact, when given the opportunity, termites can even damage leather, bone, and plastic cables. Termites are called silent destroyers because they secretly damage their hosts without showing any immediate signs of damage. Often called white ants, termites live in colonies consisting of hundreds or even thousands of individuals.

TYPES OF TERMITES

Termites are broadly divided into three types:-

  • Drywood termites
  • Deadwood termites
  • Subterranean termites

Drywood termites

Drywood termites are long, narrow, oval and light brown in colour. They have six legs, wings and antennae. As the name implies, drywood termites are found in dry wood which is above the ground level. They build colonies in wooden items, furniture, mouldings, doors and window frames, etc. These termites tunnel their way across the wood's grain which tends to weaken the internal structure of the wood and it eventually falls. They live deep inside wood except during periods when they swarm or when repair work is being done on an infested home. They do not require moisture as they can create moisture from dry wood on their own. They spend their entire lifetime in dry wood which makes them very difficult to get detected. Drywood termites usually enter homes at the time of spring or fall in swarms. An existing colony sends out winged reproductive males and females. These mating termites result in new young termites which then start establishing new colonies.
Drywood termites live within their food, i.e., wood, so they eliminate their faecal pellets through small holes made in the wood. There are piles of these pellets accumulated around these holes, which eventually becomes a reason for their detection.

Damage Caused


Drywood termites usually feed on dead trees, branches and wooden items. Usually when a new construction begins, a termite attack may take place. They enter structures through gaps and vents, natural cracks, window and door frames. However they can even penetrate flat wood surfaces. A drywood termite attack may even cause large buildings to lean or fall.


Infestation


The very first sign of drywood termite infestation is small piles of fecal pellets which surround their habitats. Another sign is the presence of alates near window sills and lights. One more sign of their infestation is the presence of their discarded winds near window sills or caught up in cobwebs


Dampwood termites

Dampwood termites are normally larger in size than other termite species. They have a large head and a narrow brownish body. They have six legs, wings and antennae. Dampwood termites feed on very moist wood. Hence they are usually found in damp and deteriorating wood found on the ground. Infact any condition which leads to moisture build-up in wood like leaky plumbing or poor gutters, welcomes dampwood termites. They make a numb of chambers or galleries which are connected by smooth tunnels. Dampwood termites are hard to spot because they usually hide themselves to prevent moisture loss. Their fecal pellets are found in their infested structures or around the sides of the galleries, forming clumps due to presence of moisture. Dampwood termites may also affect dry wood which is adjacent to damp wood.



Damage Caused


The damage caused by dampwood termites is than that of drywood termites. It is usually not noticed because the wood that they damage looks clean and smooth. They damage the wood which is in contact with soil, or exposed to roof leaks and rainfall. But once the source of moisture is removed, they decline.


Infestation


Small swarms of flying termites and fecal pellets are a proof of dampwood termite infestation. They leave behind small mounds of fecal pellets, which are moist and ill-defined.


Subterranean Termites


These are creamy white to dark brown or black in colour with a long and narrow body. They dig colonies in the ground because they must have moisture in their habitat and soil serves them the best. In order to get their food i.e. wood, they dig up tunnels, called mud tubes, up to reach house foundations, or walls. These tubes are built from soil particles that are held together by salivary secretions and fecal matter. They protect themselves from air as they have very less resistance to dehydration and moisture is life for them. Subterranean termites derive their nutrition from wood and other material containing cellulose.

Damage Caused


The damage caused by subterranean termites appears similar to water damage. Some signs of the damage are buckling wood, swollen floors, puffed ceilings, and visible mazes on walls and furniture. The worst affected areas give away a pungent smell.


Infestation


The first and the most obvious sign of subterranean termite infestation is the presence of mud tubes. These mud tubes are flattened and muddy looking about the width of a pencil. Another sign of their being is the presence of dark areas or blisters in wooden floors. The damaged wood sounds hollow and can be easily broken into galleries


Caste system of Termites


Termites have classified themselves into different castes and each category performs a different task. The major categories are worker castes, soldier castes, and the reproductive caste.

Worker

The worker caste is the largest group. It consists of immature termites both male and female. These are responsible for the most difficult tasks in the colony. They are the ones who clean maintain and repair the nest. They get water and food for the young and reconstruct the nest if the size of the colony increases.

Soldiers

These are fewer in number than the workers. They are wingless, have large heads and powerful jaws. They are the guardians who protect the nest from any invasions. Soldiers have a large gland in the head which shoots defensive chemicals. Soldiers are not capable of caring for themselves; so the worker group grooms and takes care of them.

Reproductive caste

The reproductive caste consists of a king and a queen, who are the founders of the whole colony. The queen lays a large number of eggs which develop into more and more workers and soldiers. They are usually hidden in a special chamber in the nest and are very unusual to see.

Pest Control

Termite Pest Control