Pest Control – Termites

Balck TermiteTermites are important structural pests in the Northwest. If you suspect that your home or business has a termite infestation, schedule an estimate today. They feed on wood or products made from wood, their digestive tracts containing microorganisms which allow them to digest the wood. Many termites need a moist environment to start a colony. Subterranean termites usually nest in the soil. Dampwood termites nest in wet wood. Termites live in colonies comprised of workers, soldiers, a king, and queen. The workers care for and feed the king and queen as well as the newly produced young. They also mine the wood to produce food for the colony. The soldiers defend the colony from invaders and the king and queen’s sole function is to produce young for the colony.

Termites in WoodWashington State is home to two common species of termites; The Western subterranean termite, Reticulotermes hesperus and the Pacific dampwood termite, Zootermopsis angusticollis. Both species occur in both eastern and western Washington. The subterranean termite is not found north of Seattle. The Dampwood termite is not common in most areas of eastern Washington.

Many times termites are mistaken for ants. The termite has straight antennae, while those of ants are bent. The abdomen and thorax of the termite is often referred to as slab sided (no waist), while ants have a distinct waist between the thorax and abdomen.

Pacific Dampwood Termite

The Pacific Dampwood Termite is large. The reproductive (winged) forms are more than one inch long including the wings. The reproductives are dark brown and the workers are cream colored. The soldiers have a large head that is reddish brown and their body is cream colored. They are about 3/4 inch long, their head and jaws making up one-third of their total length. Dampwood termites have no worker cast so the nymphs (immature form) perform the tasks normally associated with the workers. The nymphs are white to cream-colored and about 1/2 inch long.

Moist and usually rotten wood must be present for a dampwood termite colony to develop. Contact with soil is not necessary as in subterranean termites. In most cases, leaky plumbing or damaged gutters, as well as high moisture in the crawlspace due to poor ventilation, are the primary cause of infestations in homes. Firewood stored outside for extended periods can also attract termites. Dampwood termites live in the wood they infest and do not live in the soil. These termites rarely extend their activities into sound dry wood. Mature colonies produce winged reproductives that swarm in late summer after rainfall. Structural damage produced by Dampwood termites is usually limited to water saturated and rotten wood.

Termites are not easily observed by the homeowner because they are hidden within the soil or wood they infest. Signs of a termite colony in the home include termite swarms emerging from the home and shelter tubes from the foundation to wood members of the substructure. Dampwood termites produce distinctive fecal pellets which can aid in their identification when damaged wood is examined. Proper identification is essential because each species of termites requires different control methods

Western Subterranean Termite

Western Subterranean TermiteThe western subterranean termite is small. The reproductive form is approximately 3/8 inch long. They are dark brown to black with gray wings. The soldiers have a grayish white body and cream-colored head with black jaws. They are 1/4 inch long. The head and jaws are large, comprising half their body length. The workers are grayish white and about 3/16 inch long.

The colonies are found in the soil and may be as deep as 10-20 feet under the ground. Subterranean termites may infest moist or dry wood. This is in sharp contrast to Dampwood termites that require moisture within the infested wood. Cement slab foundations do not prevent infestations since subterranean termites will enter through cracks in the slab, plumbing perforations, and expansion joints or simply create mud tubes around the edges of the slab.

Flying TermiteIndications of subterranean termite infestation are swarming, damage to wood, sounds of rustling or tapping, and by the presence of shelter “mud” tubes. These are most often found on the foundation walls or in cracks. Shelter tubes provide protection from enemies and reduce moisture loss. Fecal pellets are often found incorporated into the galleries other areas of the wood and rarely are loosely scattered as with dampwood termites. In western Washington, mature colonies swarm each year usually in late summer. In eastern Washington, swarming is predominantly in the spring. New colonies may not produce swarms for several years.

Prevention, Detection and Control

Termite DamageAvoiding situations that lead to dampening or rot of structural wood can reduce the likelihood of a termite attack in many cases. Prevention can be further insured by periodic home inspections or preventive treatment.

Termite control methods differ with the species to be controlled. Dampwood termite infestations can be corrected by eliminating the conditions that led to their establishment (for example, leaky pipes, wood-soil contact, etc.). Subterranean termite infestations require chemical treatment. Call us at Action Pest Control Inc., and we can help with this damaging pest.