Termites are praised from their ecological abilities to degrade difficult substances like wood but are every homeowner’s worst nightmare for that very reason.
Because of the many different species, they are placed into different ecological groups to help ease their identification. Like bees and their other counterparts, they can swarm together in colonies divide tasks among themselves.
Sterile male and female termites are usually workers. During wet or cold seasons, they remain cooped up in their mounds. When seasons change, they send out explorers to find suitable habitats to invade and colonize.
What Do Termites Look Like?
The five major groups of termites are Subterranean, Formosan, Dampwood, Drywood and Conehead termites.
They are found all over the world, in different populations and have discernible differences in their appearance. Although each of these has similar looking worker termites, you can separate them based on other members of the colony.
To help you identify each of these, here are the main differences they have in appearance;
Subterranean termites have unique soldier and swarmer termites.
Swarmers (alates) are about half an inch long with two sets of wings and appear to be dark brown.
Soldiers, on the other hand, have no wings but are equipped with large mandibles to fend off threats. The body is a creamy white color, but their large rectangular head is a dark brown hue.
Their nests are made with distinct mud tunnels to gain access to food and protect themselves from harm
Formosan termites have three colony categories.
Their works are simple and resemble other termites’ workers.
The soldiers have an oblong head and can be quite aggressive. The swarmers are a golden-white color and measure about half an inch. Their bodies are covered with tiny hairs that can’t be seen through their transparent wings
Dampwood termites prefer wood that is rich in moisture. They get considerably larger than their counterparts. Their bodies have a large head and grow up to about 25mm. They have an intense yellow coloration with brownish heads that grow darker towards the pincers.
Drywood termites as the name suggests, prefer wood whose moisture content is low.
The swarmers have distinct wings that have pigmented veins. Swarmers shed their wings after exploration expeditions and can be identified by the wingless dead bodies. The head is a deep brown color while the body is a light translucent brown.
Coneheads have arguably the most unique head of the five. They carry a golden brown color that runs from head to toe. Their distinct head shape makes them easy to identify. Coneheads are extremely aggressive and cause widespread damage in short periods.
Lifecycle and Diet of Termites
The cycle starts when the termite eggs are laid. Unlike bees or ants, termites go through incomplete metamorphosis marked by the egg, nymph and adult stages.
At the nymph stage, the termite undergoes several molts. Some termites stop at the first molt and grow into workers while others continue to molt into nymphs they develop into swarmers or soldiers. Depending on some factors, the nymph grows into an adult over months.
Adult workers feed them as they continue to grow.
Termites rely mostly on dead plants and convert the complex matter into food sources. They depend on the tiny organisms in the stomachs to help digest these substances and absorb them for use. Some unique termites ‘plant mushrooms’ around their homes and rely on them as a food source.
They require areas that are damp or moist to survive.
Houses whose foundation or soils carry a lot of moisture attract termites. Since they depend on wood and other dead plant parts as their primary food source, areas where timber is concentrated often draws termites. Paper is a plant derivative and can sustain termites when they need to eat.
Signs of Infestation and Termite Damage
It takes a while before you can see the sign of a termite invasion in your home. Chances are, they have probably been there for a while.
As a homeowner, you should be keen on regular inspections to ensure you are termite free. If you suspect an invasion, calling an expert for professional scrutiny should be your next move. If you do have termites, they are capable of analyzing the extent of the invasion and the appropriate course of action.
Some of the signs you should look out for include;
- Termite Droppings– These are an obvious indication of unwelcomed guests in your home. A dark powdery substance around the area of infestation is enough to warrant an inspection.
- Headbanging For Keen Ears – When disturbed, termites like to bang their heads or shake their bodies. If you are keen enough, you might hear a clicking sound coming from the walls where they’re located.
- Discarded Wings– you may want to investigate further if you find randomly discarded wings or dead swarmers around your home. They may have already invaded and are exploring for new settlements or are planning to invade.
They are responsible for the extensive structural damage of homes and other buildings.
The timber fixtures and fittings attract and shelter them whilst they rely on the wooden sections for food.
Papery wood that is chewed through is a common sign of termite damage.
Getting Rid of Termites
If you decided to handle them by your own read my guides about different methods.
Effective Methods to Get Rid of Termites
Termites may be eradicated with some natural methods, but using chemical sprays is a preferred and efficient method. Several products exist on the market for easy eradication of these pests when they are in small colonies.
A typical termite fogger comes in a pressurized aerosol can that contains termiticide.The termiticide that most companies use is actually just liquid insecticide that can kill all types of bugs. Upon activation, the can will spray the termiticide all around the room. The termiticide then settles on the floor and poisons the bugs.
That way, you’ll be sure that you’ve got rid of all the termites once and for all.
Professionals should manage heavy infestations.
Preventing termite invasions may save you a lot of time and efforts spent in eradicating them.
The best way to keep termites away is to maintain ventilated spaces with good airflow. Ventilation prevents moisture build-up and ensures you are at a lower risk of termite invasion.
Cleaning out the gutter system and clearing water pooled around the foundation robs these areas of moisture that attracts termites.
What Else You Should Know?
Can I Treat The House Myself?
There are some natural control methods you may invest in to eradicate these pests like clearing out mulch or exposing them to sunlight. If you’re looking for a quick method, using chemical sprays is one way to get rid of them.
Which Treatment Method Is Most Effective?
It depends on the type of termites invading your home and how intensely they have settled in.
Some termite invasions require expert treatmentswhile others you can handle by yourself.
While some people prefer chemical treatments, others opt to go for natural control methods which are safer for the environment.
Is Termite Control Necessary?
Yes and no.
If the termites are not affecting your living space in any way, interfering with theirs is quite unfair. Unless you determine that there is a high risk of the termites invading your home, termite control may be unnecessary.
When the termites invade buildings and other structures, they pose a threat to the structural integrity of these places and must be controlled.
How Do I Choose A Termite Company?
Most people use costs as the main criterion for selecting a pest control company.