Subterranean Termites

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Subterranean Termites, who have been in existence for millions of years, reside within colonies underground in moist secluded areas. Subterranean Termites have been known to build elaborate mud tubes to tunnel hundreds of feet to reach feeding sources. The tubes also protect them from exposure to light, dehydration and predators.

With that said, Subterranean Termites have been found living above ground, but they must have a source of moisture in an unexposed area. In addition to moisture, subterranean termites also need cellulose for survival. This is why they feed on wood, paper and other cellulose containing products.

Subterranean termites are by far the most destructive species. They can collapse a building entirely, meaning possible financial ruin for a homeowner. The hard, saw-toothed jaws of termites work like shears and are able to bite off extremely small fragments of wood, one piece at a time.

Subterranean Termites can be found entering structures around plumbing penetrations, cement expansion joints, cracks, and other areas that give them access to the structure. Any wood that is in direct contact with the soil is also a prime target for subterranean termites. Subterranean termites will build their mud shelter tubes as far and as long as necessary to get to their food sources.

Characteristics

  • Subterranean termites can be found in every state except Alaska.
  • Subterranean termite colonies can be small with only a few hundred, up to around 250,000 termites, or as is the case with Formosan termites (found in the southern and gulf coast states), up to 10 million.
  • There are (3) different forms of subterranean termites each with its own specific characteristics.
  • Workers – Cream-colored (white to off-white) workers will be smaller, wingless and there will be variations in size between species. Count and examine the six short and stubby legs. While they do resemble soldiers, their heads are shorter and their mandibles are not as pronounced. The worker termites build the mud tubes.
  • Soldiers – Solider termites, known as the “defenders of the colony”, have cream-colored bodies and brown heads. Soldiers are also wingless termites, just as workers. However, their heads are pale yellow to dark brown in color with bigger mandibles (jaws) than those of workers. There are some soldiers, depending on where they are located, that feature pear-shaped heads featuring a long front projection that traps enemies by exuding a sticky substance.
  • Reproductive (swarm in the spring) – Groups of reproductive termites go off to start new colonies. Reproductive subterranean termites, also known as “alates” are approximately one inch long, have (4) equally sized wings that are double of its body and may be brown to black in color.
  • Flying termites (known as swarmers) are often confused with flying ants, because both mate during the springtime. Flying ants do not shed their wings. Look for discarded wings around window sills.
  • Most worker and soldier termites are completely blind as they do not have a pair of eyes.

Reproduction

  • Once the colony has matured (usually two to four years), then swarming occurs.
  • The surviving males and females pair off and begin the nesting and mating process.
  • The mating process may continue for years, which explains why subterranean termite colonies can contain several thousand termites…or several million in the case of Formosan termites.
  • Termite eggs are small, white, translucent and ovoid in shape. Termite eggs increase in size near hatching.
  • A new queen’s first clutch will contain approximately two dozen eggs.
  • Eggs laid in cooler climates need more incubation time. Depending on the climate, termite eggs hatch within 26 to 30 days.

Prevention

  • Eliminate wood contact with the soil.
  • Avoid water accumulation near the home’s foundation.
  • Ensure proper ventilation in crawl spaces to reduce humidity.
  • Divert water away from home with downspouts, gutters and splash blocks.
  • Use plastic sheeting to cover soil in crawl space.
  • Wood siding, stucco and foam board should be at least six inches away from the ground. Seal all cracks and holes in your home’s foundation, which may provide a handy access point for termites.

Attempting to eliminate Termites effectively require the use of several insecticide products and baiting stations. To avoid improper application, call a local pest control expert.

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