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Termite Identification

What Do Termites Look Like?

Subterranean Termites

Subterranean termites are the most destructive insect pests of wood in the United States. They cause more than $2 billion in damage each year, more property damage than that caused by fire and windstorm combined.

In nature, subterranean termites are beneficial. They break down many dead trees and other wood materials that would otherwise accumulate. The biomass of this breakdown process is recycled to the soil as humus.termite swarmers eastern subs dr potter

Problems occur when termites attack the wooden elements of human structures -- homes, businesses and warehouses. Their presence is not readily noticed because they hide their activity behind wallboards, siding or wood trim.

Homeowners in all areas of Louisiana should watch for subterranean termites and take precautions to prevent infestations. To minimize damage from termites, it is helpful to know the description, life cycle and infestation signs of termites as well as preventive and control measures. Identification

Subterranean termites are social insects that live in nests or colonies in the soil, hence their name "subterranean". These colonies contain three forms or castes: reproductives, workers and soldiers.

Subterranean Termite Damage

Dead trees and brush are the original food source of subterranean termites. When land is cleared of this material and houses are built on these sites, termites attack the structures. Termites can enter buildings through wood in direct contact with the soil, by building shelter tubes over or through foundations, or by entering directly through cracks or joints in and under foundations.

Any material in direct contact with the soil -- such as trees, vines or plumbing fixtures -- serves as an avenue of infestation. Subterranean termite swarmers may also be blown into or on structures and then start a new colony.

Drywood Termites

The western drywood termite, Incisitermes minor, is California's second most important termite pest after the western subterranean termite. It is a native insect that has been here millions of years, mostly attacking trees along river washes and arroyos. In California drywood termites are most prevalent in southern California and the Central Valley but also can be found infesting wood along the coast, in bay areas south of San Francisco, and in the southern California desert.

Because of the difficulty in detecting drywood termites and determining the extent of the damage done, do-it-yourself treatments are not recommended; consult a pest control professional. Over-the-counter products with drywood termites on the label for do-it-yourself enthusiasts do not exist. Except for wood removal, homeowners should seek help from pest control professionals. This publication is intended to provide homeowners with sufficient background information so that they can better discuss treatment options with pest control professionals; it is not intended as a treatment guide.

Drywood Termite Identification

Drywood termites are secretive insects and are difficult to detect. They live deep inside wood and, except during periods when they swarm or when repair work is being done on infested homes, they are seldom seen. Colonies are small (usually fewer than 1,000 individuals), can be widely dispersed, and take years to mature. While a homeowner may initially detect the presence of termites when they swarm or if fecal pellets are discovered, inspecting for drywood termites and determining the extent of an infestation require experience.

During a visual inspection for drywood termites, inspectors look for feeding damage, shed wings, termite fecal pellets, and kickout holes, which are small holes the size of BB shot through which termites push fecal pellets out of the wood. Fecal pellets, hexagonal in shape, are diagnostic for drywood termites. However, whether the infestation is currently active or what the extent of the infestation is cannot be determined from pellets alone. Cleaning up the fecal pellets around a kickout hole and checking a few days later to see if new pellets have appeared can help to determine if an infestation is active. (Building vibrations/movements may cause some pellets to appear.) If an active infestation of drywood termites is found in your structure, you should have it treated.

Other detection methods include the use of dogs, odor detectors, and feeding-sensitive (acoustic emission) devices, but these are infrequently used. Fiber optics, borescopes, and movement-sensitive devices using microwaves have also been tried, but their reliability has not yet been scientifically tested on drywood termites.

Drywood Termite Damage

Whole-structure treatments have an advantage over spot treatments in that they can eliminate all infestations, even hidden ones. With the uncertainty of current detection methods, particularly when drywall or other wall coverings conceal infestations, there is always some doubt as to the extent of dry-wood termite colony boundaries within homes.

Formosan Termites

Formosans termites are a Subterranean species that build earthen-shelter tubes to protect themselves from low humidity and predators. Formosan termites are among the most aggressive species in attacking wood.Swarmers Formosan and Eastern Subs Dr Potter
Formosan Termite Identification

They build earthen-shelter tubes to protect themselves from low humidity and predators. The tubes are usually ¼ to 1 inch wide and can be found in crawl spaces and inside and outside slab foundations. Cracks in concrete foundations and open voids in concrete block foundations are hidden avenues of entry for Formosan
Formosan Termite Damage

Formosans termites cause damage by boring holes and tunnels throughout wood. Most species of termites have microscopic, one-celled animals called protozoa within their intestines that help to convert wood into food for the colony. Often, wood must be removed to see the damage; however, galleries can be detected by tapping the wood every few inches with a screwdriver handle. Damaged wood sounds hollow, and the screwdriver may break through the wood if termites are present.

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