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MARCH 03 2022 / PEST AND TERMITE
A subterranean termite infestation is one of the worst pest infestations you can get in your Washington D.C. home or business. Thankfully, termites are not dangerous to your health, so you don’t have to worry about them biting you or spreading diseases when they get into your home or business.
In fact, you may never even see them in your building or around your property at all. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean they aren’t there or that you won’t experience serious problems if they do invade.
A subterranean termite infestation can cause severe damage to your house or commercial facility. In the United States alone, termites are responsible for causing over $5 billion in damage to buildings every year, but costly repair bills are just one of the unwanted ramifications of a termite infestation.
If you want to protect your home or business from the problems that go along with a subterranean termite infestation, it’s wise to have some basic knowledge of termites. Our complete guide to subterranean termites will help.
The most common of the termite species in the United States, subterranean termites cause more damage to homes, businesses, and other structures than any other termite species.
These tiny pests live in a well-ordered caste system and each of the three major types of termites all have distinct features to differentiate them from the other types. The three castes are made up of reproductive termites (also called swarmers), soldier termites, and worker termites.
Reproductive termites include the king, queen, and alates (young winged termites that will become kings and queens). There is only one king and queen per colony. This pair is responsible for all reproduction within the colony, although as the colony grows larger, the queen sometimes permits other reproductives to help with the reproductive duties.
The queen is the largest member of the colony, typically around half an inch in length, and she’s also the most important member of the colony. The king is quite a bit smaller at about an eighth of an inch. Alates range from a quarter to a half-inch in length.
The alates are the members of the colony that will eventually leave the colony to mate and start new colonies. These termites look extremely similar to flying ants and are often mistaken for them.
They have dark brown to black bodies, two sets of wings that are the same length, and straight antennae. When it’s time to mate, they leave the colony in a large swarm, which is how they got the name “swarmers”. They will then find a mate, shed their wings, and start a new colony not too far from their original colony.
Soldier termites are smaller than alates and look quite different from them. They have milky white bodies with slightly darker heads. Their heads are big and blocky and they have large mandibles that look like horns. As their name implies, soldier termites have the job of protecting the colony.
They are usually stationed at the entrance and exit of the nest so that they can stop intruders and protect the queen, and use their powerful mandibles to attack intruders.
Worker termites are similar in appearance and size to soldier termites with a few small differences. Their entire bodies, including their heads, are the same cream color. They have smaller heads than soldier termites and small powerful jaws that they use to chew through wood.
Worker termites have many jobs within a termite colony. They are responsible for gathering food for the reproductives and soldiers, they take care of the young, they build the tunnels and nests, and they clean out debris to keep the nests and tunnels tidy.
Other than when the reproductive termites go out in the open to mate, termites typically spend their entire lives underground or within the structures they’ve invaded. Most of them are unable to withstand the sunlight or open air, so they must remain in dark, moist areas to survive. This can make it difficult to identify a termite infestation because they are rarely seen out in the open.
Termites are far more than a nuisance when they get onto your Washington D.C. property. Although a colony starts out small, it grows at a rapid rate. Queen termites can lay up to 10,000 eggs per year and termite colonies have been known to grow into the millions of members.
Even a colony in the tens of thousands of members is capable of doing severe damage to your structure. Worker termites eat and gather food 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Since termites eat cellulose that is found in wood, they will chew tunnels through the wooden parts of your building, making them weaker and weaker over time.
Some damage that termites cause is simply cosmetic. For example, the wallpaper or paint on your walls may start to bubble.
However, the real problem is that the structural elements of your house or business can become so weak from the damage that the building can become a dangerous place to be inside.
Signs of a termite infestation and signs of the damage they’ve caused may not show up for months or even years because nearly all of it happens out of sight. However, there are some signs you can look for to identify termites:
Mud Tubes: Since most of them can’t go out in the open, if termites need to move from one area to another, they will build mud tubes. These protective tunnels are about the width of a pencil and are often found on the sides of a foundation wall. They can be on the interior or exterior of basement walls.
Hollow Sounds: If you knock on a wooden structure in your building and it makes a hollow-sounding noise, it could be due to termite damage.
Holes: Finding small holes in wooden structures could be a sign of termites. If you see holes, look for small piles of what looks like sawdust somewhere below them. Termites use these holes to clear out debris, including frass, which is termite waste. It looks very similar to sawdust.
Creaky Doors and Windows: Doors or windows that won’t open or close properly could be the result of termite damage.
Bubbling Paint: As mentioned previously, wallpaper or paint that has begun to bubble is a sign of termite damage.
Warping Wood: Walls that are bulging, ceilings that are bowing, and floors that are buckling are also all signs of a severe termite infestation.
Discarded Wings: Finding a pile of small discarded wings is also a sign of a termite infestation. Swarmer termites drop their wings after mating, so if you find a pile of them, it’s an indication of a large colony nearby as well as an indication of new colonies beginning to form.
Preventing subterranean termites on your own is difficult because they most often are able to get inside without your knowledge. However, it’s not impossible. When you know what termites need, you can work to avoid the things that will attract them to your Washington D.C. home or business.
Subterranean termites have two basic needs that draw them to an area to start a colony: Wood and moisture. Although you probably can’t completely eliminate wood or moisture from your property, you can do certain things to minimize these attractants and make them harder to access.
Reduce moisture on the outside and inside of your property by:
Ensuring your drainage systems are working properly and that they divert water away from your building.
Cutting back shrubbery, bushes, and tree branches that lead to overly shaded areas. These areas tend to hold moisture more readily because the sun can’t reach them to evaporate it as quickly.
Checking often for leaking pipes and dripping faucets or spigots.
Looking for any wooden elements that have sustained water damage and removing and replacing them with dry, sound wood.
Reduce the wooden elements on your property by:
Removing wood piles or storing firewood in a tightly closed receptacle.
Eliminating mulch, especially right around the foundation of your building, and replacing it with a cellulose-free alternative, such as crushed rock.
Looking for any area where wood comes into direct contact with the soil. This is common if you have a fence and the posts go directly into the ground or if your deck has support posts that go into the ground. If you do have any of these areas, look into ways to fix them so that the wood doesn’t touch the soil.
Although reducing moisture and wood-to-soil contact on your property are both good ways to help prevent a termite infestation on your Washington D.C. property, they are by no means 100% foolproof. Termites can still find their way to your home or business if you don’t have active preventative measures in place.
American Pest offers termite control services that not only eliminate active infestations, but also protect your property from termites that haven’t even arrived on your property yet.
Twenty-four-hour-a-day protection is the only surefire way to prevent a termite infestation and protect your home or business from the damage that termites cause.
Our termite control service begins with a thorough inspection of your property to identify any signs of termite activity or damage. We also use this time to determine the conditions on your property that are conducive to a termite infestation. This provides you with actionable information to help make your property unattractive to termites.
After the inspection, we’ll install The Sentricon® System with Always Active™. This termite baiting system works 24 hours a day, seven days a week to protect your home or business from termites.
When a termite finds the bait, they leave a pheromone trail to its location so that other termites can find it. They also bring it back to their colony to feed it to other termites. Over time it makes its way through the colony, eventually eliminating the queen and destroying the entire colony.
Termite control from American Pest includes regular maintenance of the Sentricon® with Always Active™ bait stations. This ensures that the bait remains consistently available, and it allows us to monitor how much bait has been taken, which indicates how much termite activity is in the area.
If you want more than prevention tips against termites that make your property less appealing, but can’t actively stop an infestation, you need the protection that comes from a termite control system installed and maintained by American Pest.
We are trusted by over 30,000 homes and businesses because we have the experience and knowledge to provide you with the termite control you need and results that speak for themselves.
To get started on your way to a termite-free home or business, contact American Pest today.