Termites are one of the most common and yet damaging pests that commercial and residential properties might encounter. Termites are small, wood-eating pests which are descended from the same ancestor as cockroaches. They are sometimes called white ants, but the term is a misnomer. Although there are many different roles for termites in the colony, exterminators look at the swarmers, the workers, and the soldiers to determine what type they are and where they live. It’s important to identify and remove them as soon as possible because termites cause more than $5 billion in damages each year in the United States through their ability to weaken and destroy entire structures.
Three types of termites are common in California: subterranean, drywood, and dampwood. Termite swarms are typical the day after it rains and are seen during the summer and winter months. Each region of California is considered to be part of Termite Infestation Probability Zones 1 and 2, meaning that the chance of termites roosting in commercial and residential properties are heavy to moderate or moderate to heavy. One of the best ways to avoid the trouble that comes with termites is to call a pest control professional to apply preventative treatments on and around a structure. Many preventative treatments last all year or several years and are always cheaper than trying to cover the costs of termite damages on a property.
Subterranean termites are the most prolific type of termites in California. Their main distinctive characteristic is their tendency to build underground nests. Any damage they cause to wood therefore has dirt in the tunnels and around the openings, which is caused by the termites leaving their nests to eat the wood. Subterranean termites will also eat with the grain rather than against it. This can be hard for people without carpentry experience to notice, but is almost always present. Subterranean termites have swarmers with wings and workers and soldiers that are wingless. The soldiers are the most unique-looking and possess large jaws, dark brown heads, and white bodies.
Drywood termites are the second most common type in the state. The swarmers of this kind have two pairs of wings which are typically shed shortly before death. If there are many dead termites which lack wings, they are most likely drywood termites. Their soldiers also have large mandibles and are much larger than subterranean termites. These termites often do not need to be connected to the ground or the outdoors. Their diet is almost entirely wood, and their colonies can be found away from the ground, on the upper floors of buildings or in attics. Another characteristic is their feces, which are hexagonal and roughly 1mm long. Drywood termites remove most of their water from fecal matter before expelling it, and thus leaves distinctive pellets that can be identified by a professional or someone familiar with their habits.
The last category of termites in California are dampwood termites. Unlike other types, dampwood termites do not have any workers. Instead, they have swarmers and soldiers which are much larger than other groups of termites, ranging from 20-25mm in length. The soldiers have heads which are large in relation to their bodies and also possess massive mandibles to defend the nest. Like their name indicates, dampwood termites live near the ground in moist wood that is often decaying. They can often be found near the foundations of structures or in areas where water damage is present. They eat across the wood grain and leave behind sticky fecal pellets which often stick to the entrances of their tunnels.
So, how can someone tell whether they have termites or not? Honestly, most people will not realize they have an infestation until severe destruction has already been wrought within a structure. Termites often eat and build their nests inside of wood and are not noticeable on the exterior until they have constructed many tunnels and drastically weakened their environment. Sometimes, people might see their tunnels. It is also possible for people to glimpse the swarmers as they leave the nest to reproduce in new areas. However, the easiest way to tell if there are termites is to call a team of professional exterminators who can catch termites before they cause drastic levels of damage to a home or business.
Jose D. has been providing pest control solutions to North County San Diego residents since 2000!