Similar to ants, termites are social insects that form large and complex colonies. Termites are known to feed primarily on wood, though the particulars of their diets vary from species to species. In natural settings, termites are incredibly important to the process of recycling plant matter, but in developed areas they pose a frustrating and costly threat. In the United States alone, termite control and damage repair totals around $5 billion annually. To keep your home safe, it is vital that you understand how to identify, treat, and prevent the presence of termites.
What are Termites?
Before trying to figure out where termites come from and how to eradicate them, make sure you know how to identify them correctly. Termites range in size between roughly 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch in length, though queens and reproductive “swarmers” can grow to as large as a full inch in some cases. Termites also differ in coloration depending on species and caste, but generally are cream colored, with reddish or brownish heads. Though their diets vary slightly from species to species, all termites feed on cellulose matter, most famously in the form of wood.
Recognizing the Signs
Though the more destructive indicators of a termite infestation can be difficult to spot at first, there are a few easily visible warning signs that your home might be under attack. If you notice the presence of any of these tell-tale markings, it is likely you have a potential infestation on your hands:
- Shredded wings from swarmers scattered in a small area near your home, typically in the spring and summer.
- Mud tunnels on exterior surfaces of your home, or on wooden beams or crawl spaces.
- Termite droppings, known as frass, which appear as small, brownish pellets.
- Wood that sounds hollow when tapped.
If any of these more obvious warning signs are present at your home, the next step is to determine which kind of termite you are dealing with, as each require their own form of treatment. Though not all species of termite are destructive, the three most problematic types of termite are subterranean, drywood, and dampwood. While you can take many preventative actions on your own, in the event of a current infestation it’s best to bring in a professional.