EASTERN SUBTERRANEAN TERMITES
Termites are subterranean in nature, meaning they live and spend their life underground. They are very susceptible to natural enemies (like ants) and desiccation – so they need a constant source of moisture. They prefer to remain hidden so they often feed on wood that is in direct contact with the ground.
A tell-tale sign of termites is straw shaped tunnels composed of sand or mud. This helps the termites stay protected and moist. One quick way to check for termites is by looking into the wooden framing in your basement. Any out of place mud or mud tubes will indicate termite activity. However, a house can be infested for years by the time a homeowner even notices. Because of their subterranean nature, they often eat wood from the inside out. If it’s a sill plate or beam in your basement, significant damage can be done before it becomes visible.
When a termite colony gets to be a certain size, it sends out winged termites whose sole purpose in life is to fly up, find a mate and start a new colony. In the spring we get a lot of calls where winged termites take over a person’s basement. Termite swarmers differ from flying ants in that they have four wings of equal size–ant wings are two different sizes–and they have straight antennae and a wide waist. Termite swarmers may appear every year. Termite workers, however, are smaller, white and rarely seen. Damage from termites generally occurs in the recesses of the wood. Just prior to the adult stage, a termite can turn into any stage of termite: a worker, a soldier or a reproductive! A colony doesn’t even need to send out “swarmers” to reproduce (swarmers are flying termites whose sole purpose is to find a mate and reproduce). Colonies can create “secondary reproductives” (reporductive termites without wings), which makes an infestation even more difficult to identify!
Termites are one pest that needs to be identified by a professional. Check out the video below. Termite swarmers are seen coming out of the flooring. In this home the basement was unfinished with a solid drywall ceiling preventing an inspection. But the small amount of damage to the flooring, along with the termite swarmers indicate a much bigger problem beneath.