There are about 45 types of insects that are classified as termites in the United States. Many homeowners can’t tell the difference between these and ants that’s why it is important to identify early stages of infection like termite droppings, and this could lead to the deterioration of the home. It’s important to know that termites are usually white or pale in color and their antennas are beaded and straight.
To the average resident, termites may seem to be nothing but a nuisance, but to the knowledgeable homeowner termites are an extremely serious problem, potentially costing the homeowner hundreds of thousands, and even their very own home.
Termites love living, reproducing, and feasting on dead and decaying tree material, thus the wood used in housing construction presents a perfect home for these nasty little critters.
Termites reproduce and grow at an exponential rate, which means that a small colony can wreck utter havoc on a home in mere months. Termites, much like ants, have a queen who is responsible for laying eggs and replenishing/growing the colony.
Termite Queens are so equipped for their job that they can live for over 25 years. They are so good at their job, that they can lay a termite egg every 15 seconds! So fertile are termite populations that for every human on Earth there is half a ton of termites!
Mass propagation aside, one of the most troubling traits of termites are their ability to thrive in homes after entering cracks as thick as a few sheets of paper! This makes it nearly impossible to avoid them unless you take active measures to prevent or combat them.
If none of these facts have left an impression on you, then remember this…one colony of termites can eat well over 1,000 pounds of wood in less than a year Just imagine the damage that could do to the average home!
Dry-wood termites and Subterranean termites
Both of these types of termites excrete large loads of termite droppings, and love to wreck havoc on the wooden and organic based structures of homes.
Dry-wood termites tend to live in small colonies, however they do not require direct connection to soil, thus it is extremely easy to have them burrow into your above-ground housing structures. They are most often seen thriving in locations which have high humidity levels.
They are the source of most common termite infestation problems. Subterranean termites live in larger colonies than their counterparts, and thus tend to cause greater havoc. Unlike dry-wood termites, subterranean termites love living within the soil.
They are extremely hard to find because they work their way up through a houses foundation and into its primary structure. They too, however, can be discovered through search of termite droppings. Below we will discuss in detail how to determine where and what to look for when it comes to termite droppings.
Unfortunately, it is very difficult to pinpoint a termite infestation without tearing apart walls and crucial housing structures, however, one of the most effective alternatives is to be on the lookout for termite droppings.
Termite droppings will often appear as mysterious piles of six-sided cylinders. The color of termite dropping varies, but it is often very similar to the shade of wood being consumed by the colony. Termites use their excrement to construct tunnels, so the location of termite droppings can vary drastically, but a few good places to search would be on windowsills, near doorways, and beside significant wooden structures.
It is important to note that even a minuscule amount of termite dropping can be a sign that it is a little to late. It is vital that one takes appropriate measures once the possibility of termites has been confirmed.
When it comes to termites, you can only prevent them or combat them. In this segment we will concentrate on the former.
Signs of a Termite Infestation
Because termites can hide so easily, it’s important to recognize a sign of infestation before it’s too late. Finding a termite infestation soon helps keep the cost of termite protection lower. Here are some common signs of damage from termites:
- Distortions on wood surfaces in the home. A termite infestation often leaves signs of bubbling paint, uneven walls, or other wall ripples that weren’t there before.
- Mud tubes on parts of wood that are close to the ground. These can be about as wide as a pencil and are a sign of termite shelters/tubes.
- Pieces of shed wings or swarming. Recently shed wings are a sign of a colony that is active. Swarming termites are attracted to light and the shed wings may resemble small fish scales that are in a pile.
- Hollow wood. One can detect hollow wood and other damage by tapping on the wood and listening for a hollow sound. The more hollow an area sounds, the more damage has probably occurred.
- Frass. Termites leave droppings that are about the same color as wooden pellets. This indicates where they’ve been nesting and eating.
- Termites frequently create mounds that show where they’ve been reproducing. These are liable to appear in areas of the home where they weren’t present.
So How Do You Avoid Them?
One of the best ways to avoid a termite infestation is to remove their source of housing and food…wood. Opting for a house built of non-organic material is one of the best ways to guarantee your home remains secure.
Unfortunately, this can be rather expensive, so the next best option is to minimize the amount of wood, especially unprotected wood, used when constructing or expanding a house. Wooden trellises on exterior walls, for example, are a big “no-no” if you wish to thwart termite attacks.
Termites absolutely adore exterior wooden folds because moisture can get trapped within and form the perfect semi-soft wood which termites love.
Another way to avoid termites is to keep lawn care items such as mulch and wood chips away from your house, especially if you live in a humidity rich environment where these organic scraps can form the perfect food sources for expanding termite colonies.
Trees and other heavily wooded shrubs are potential candidates for termite colony fire-bases, so its a good idea to get these areas treated to keep termites at bay. Leaking faucets and waterlines are one of the most common reasons as to why termites and other bugs infest homes.
These leaks offer critters a nutrient rich and wet environment in which to propagate, usually to the homeowners unknowing demise. Finding and repairing these leaks plays a crucial role in safeguarding ones property.
Leaky roofs are just as bad as leaky pipes, because so many houses have their roof structures built with a large amount of wooden material, the warmth and humidity a leaking roof provides forms an ideal home for growing termite colonies.
Most homes today are built with a gutter system, these systems often become clogged and filled with bits of leaves and other organic matter, this medley of rotting pulp is another perfect feast for our termite enemies, so it is crucial that they be cleaned out regularly.
When it comes to roof level structures, the attic is usually the one place most homeowners leave untouched. Most attics are poorly ventilated, this heat and moisture often become trapped causing an ideal location for termites to propagate.
Figuring out ways to increase ventilation and decrease the humidity levels in your attics go a long way at keeping the wood-munching enemy at bay. If your house is built with a crawl-space, it is vital that you make sure it is not soil or some other kind of organic matter.
These areas are ripe for bugs to grow in, and should be chemically treated and/or tarp-ed at all costs. If you are unable to avoid a significant amount of wood on your home, then at the very least avoid as much wood to soil contact as possible.
When structural wood is in contact with soil, it creates the perfect highway for termites to burrow in through. In a perfect situation, wooden structural components such as legs, siding, stucco, foam boards, beams, and braces should be at least half a foot above soil.
Lastly, it is absolutely a must that you thoroughly check your homes external and foundation structures for cracks and holes. If you can recall, termites can enter homes through cracks less than a few paper sheets in width, so making sure your house is sealed is of vital importance.
The ultimate safeguard to preventing a termite home invasion is to hire a highly-rated professional pest company to come and spray protect your house.
How Termites Get Into Your Home
A small opening or crack is enough for a termite to enter your home. Termites are attracted to homes because they’re built with materials rich in cellulose—all of which is contained in paper, wood, and cardboard. Termites enter the home in two main ways: by feasting in the wood (drywood) or by invading the home via subterranean entry points.
With drywood invasions, termites tend to find small cracks or crevices in wood in which they can seal themselves in and create nests to lay their eggs. This allows them to form a colony and could seriously damage your home in a few short years if not treated in time. Drywood termites do not need to live underground to survive, and as such, they’re more potentially damaging than subterranean termites.
Drywood termites tend to be a problem in warmer parts of the country. They can also enter homes and businesses due to regular human activity, since they’re sometimes in cargo shipments or in contaminated food. Most termite damage in the United States is caused by drywood termites.
Subterranean termites prefer living underground and often enter homes at the ground level. They frequently invade homes in areas of the home where wood is contacting the soil, such as porches, door frames, supports and even areas where brick or concrete may come into contact with wood. These are usually found in all parts of the United States, except Alaska, due to the weather.
The Ultimate Weapon
Certain chemicals are unobtainable to the average person, so these companies can provide you with the strongest and most potent sources of home protection substance.
We have gone over what must be done to prevent a termite infestation, but let us say that you did not heed warnings and have now found yourself living in a termite kingdom.
If this is your predicament, then do not waste an iota of time It is time to combat them. Unfortunately for you, it is very difficult to completely remove all traces of a termite infestation, however, it is not impossible.
There are various different methods which to take when combating a termite infestation, but we will only cover the most foolproof. Insecticides are the most common way to get rid of termites.
The primary downside to these materials is that they almost always require the tenant to evacuate his/her home for a few days while the chemicals are sprayed as a gas or applied as a liquid. Another tool in the termite killing arsenal is termite foam.
Termite foam has an advantage over sprays and liquids because it seeps its way into the structural wood of the house itself, thus banning any further infestations from happening. If you are looking for a cheaper way to destroy termite populations, you could use a popular bait powder known as boric-acid.
After spraying the infested areas with boric acid, simply wait a few days as the termites, who are very attracted to boric acid, begin to ingest the spray and shortly after die. The primary negative with this form of termite killer is that it is often not permanent, and must be utilized repeatedly and regularly if desired results are to be kept.
When it comes termite groups such as the previously stated subterranean termites, it is crucial that soil and foundation materials be thoroughly treated. Flooding the soil with water is an effective way to drown a termite colony as termites cannot swim.
A mixture of flooding an chemical tactics can be a near guarantee that termites will not return to your home.
One of the more advanced weapons against termites are nematodes. As cute and cuddly as nematodes sound, they are anything but Nematodes are small worms that are natural parasites to most small pests.
Nematodes burrow into the insects themselves, and often target the larvae and eggs deposited by the queen, thus killing off any future progeny the termite colony may have produced. It should be noted that nematodes require special storage if they are to be used as termite killer.
Storing nematodes in a fridge or similar cold controlled container is a must for nematode survival. Also. unlike the other termite combat measures.
Nematodes do not last forever, thus time is of the essence when you obtain them for use Many of the preventative measures stated above can be used to kill existing termite colonies.
Natural ways such as exposing the infested area to sunlight can destroy a termites outer layer, ultimately killing it another natural way in which to destroy termites is by using botanical treatments such as orange oil.
Orange oil consists of a compound known as d-limonene; this compound is so powerful that it can kill almost any small pest on contact.
Like the previously stated boric acid method, orange oil must be applied repeatedly before total extermination of existing colonies can be achieved.
A final method in which to kill, and/or at least control termite populations is by using hot and cold treatments. More about killing them can be found here.
Dry-wood termites greatly dislike extreme temperatures, thus, using a heated air flow and raising the temp to 140 degrees Fahrenheit can eliminate most situations. On the other hand, extremely cold temperatures below 15 degrees Fahrenheit are also a foolproof way in which to destroy both dry-wood and subterranean termite colonies.
Termite Droppings and Health
Termite frass is typically the first sign that there is an infestation in the home. The droppings can be in different shades of brown depending on the type of wood a home is made out of. The damage to the home is a main concern when discussing termite protection.
It’s also important to be aware of possible health effects from termite poop. Generally, even if termites bite or sting, these small injuries are not harmful to humans.
Like any other type of insect, it’s important to be protected against termites since some people may be allergic to droppings or even termite saliva. Ventilation, air conditioning and heating systems may also spread termite droppings along the house and cause people to have allergic reactions, asthma attacks, or may exacerbate other current health problems.
People who have never presented allergy or asthma symptoms might not be at risk of any complications due to drywood termite droppings or their effects. It is imperative that termite infestations are detected early enough so that less chemicals are required to take care of the problem.
This is because many who have had asthma, allergies or other health problems are usually allergic to the chemicals used to treat termite infestations.
Those who decide to invest in termite protection should follow directions from the professionals who are taking care of the problem and allow enough time between termite treatment and re-entering the home.
Subterranean termites tend to use their own droppings to form tubes in basement or wood-to-ground contact spaces so they can slowly invade homes. Drywood termites tend to remove their droppings from the area in which they’re nesting so their eggs won’t be in the same area as frass.
Should you see frass, it’s important that you don’t clean it up yourself, but call a qualified professional to do it so they can not only clear the home, but even exterminate the colonies that created them.
It’s common to find termite droppings in various parts of the home such as:
- If you have a laminated or wood floor, the damage to the floor may resemble water damage. In such case, termites will kick their droppings out from under the floor to make room for their colonies.
- Window sills/door frames. Drywood termites prefer dry wood, and termites are adept at using their droppings to create tubes so they can navigate. It’s common to see wings in this area as well.
- Usually seeing frass on a bed is a sign that a roof or ceiling has been invaded by termites.
- Finding frass under the carpet is a sign that termites have been searching for food. Termites are attracted to items containing cellulose, but they can physically attack other types of items.
It is always recommended that one go about getting professional help if possible when combating termites. Because of the exponential quality of a termite colony, it is extremely easy to miss a few sparse individuals, and thus allow for the infestation to simply grow back and do even more damage.
We hope that this article has awakened you on the seriousness of termite infestations. Countless home owners spend hundreds of thousands on their houses, only to find them in decay because they did not take the issue of termites seriously enough.
Although nothing but a light nuisance at first, termites are one of the most destructive forces in nature.
Due to the way in which termites devour the primary structural components of homes, the only option after spotting a serious resident infestation is to move out So do not be hesitant the next time you see signs of termite damage, and/or termite droppings.
Taking action immediately could save you hundreds of thousands, and ultimately, your very home!