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Termites are insects that fall into the category of “small, but mighty.” Although they aren’t ones to make themselves known when they enter a home, they will quite literally leave their mark there. Unfortunately, many Richmond homeowners miss the signs of a termite infestation until termites have already inflicted severe damage. To protect your house, it’s vital that you learn how to identify termite activity in your Richmond home.
Termites are interesting pests. They are arguably the most damaging pests that can get into your home, yet are often the ones you are least likely to realize are there. You’d think that if your home is being eaten away, you’d have some idea that it was happening, but oftentimes termites and the damage they cause goes unnoticed for long periods of time.
There are a couple of reasons why it’s hard to notice a termite infestation. First, termites rarely come out in the open, so unlike most pests, you are unlikely to see them walking around your house. In fact, most termites in a colony are physically unable to come out in the open because the light and air will kill them.
The only termites you might see by chance are the swarmer termites. These termites are the reproductive members of the colony, and their bodies are designed to withstand the elements, at least for a short amount of time. Usually in the spring of the year, a large swarm of these winged insects will come out in the open to find mates. Once they pair up, they’ll lose their wings and return underground to start new colonies.
The other reason that termite damage can go unnoticed for so long is because most of the damage is hidden or in hard to reach places. Since termites don’t come out in the open, when they get into your house, they stay inside your walls and other wooden elements in your home. In these unseen areas, they can happily eat tunnels through your support beams for months or years without your knowledge. Sometimes there are signs of their presence in areas like crawl spaces, but unless you specifically go looking for these signs, you probably won’t notice them.
Because termites can go for so long without being noticed, it’s imperative that you are proactive in your approach to these wood destroying insects. It’s not enough to simply trust that you don’t have any termites in your home; you must be on the lookout for signs of their presence.
Although you could go your entire life without seeing a termite, it’s important to know what they look like in case you do come across some. It’s possible that you’ll see a termite swarm either in or outside of your house. It’s also possible that by being proactive in looking for termite damage, you’ll come across other termites during your search.
Since you’re most likely to see swarmer termites, it’s wise to get a good handle on what they look like, especially since they have some key differences in their appearance from other termites in their colony. Swarmer termites are usually less than half an inch long, including their wings. Their bodies are a uniform width and can vary in color, but are usually tan, brown, or black. Termite swarmers have two pairs of equal length wings that are off-white and translucent. They also have a pair of antennae.
Reproductive termites are often confused with flying ants, so if you see an insect or a bunch of insects that you think might be termites, it’s important to get a closer look if you can. There are several key differences between the two that can help you determine if you’re looking at termites or ants. Termite bodies are all one width, while ants have segmented bodies with an obviously “pinched” waist. Termite wings are made up of two equal length pairs, while ant wings are made up of two pairs of differing lengths. Finally, termites have long, straight antennae while ants have bent antennae.
After swarmer termites, the termites you’re most likely to see are the worker termites. Worker termites cannot come out in the open, but if you’re actively searching for signs of termite activity, it’s possible that you’ll happen upon these busy insects. Worker termites are responsible for all aspects of keeping the colony running smoothly, other than reproduction and security. While the king and queen termite stay in the nest area, and the soldier termites guard the nest’s entrances and exits, the worker termites are the ones that travel around and chew through wood.
Worker termites are similar in length to reproductive termites, though usually a bit smaller, with soft, pale yellow or white bodies. From a distance they resemble maggots, but once you get close enough, you’ll be able to distinguish six legs and a set of antennae. Their heads are slightly smaller than their bodies, giving them a teardrop shape.
Although you aren’t likely to see a soldier termite, it’s helpful to know what they look like, just in case you do. Soldier termites are quite similar in appearance to worker termites with a few noticeable differences. Although similar in color to worker termites, soldier termites can sometimes be darker. Soldiers are typically larger than worker termites, with the main difference being in the size of their head. Soldier termites have large heads with big mandibles that protrude from it.
King and queen termites begin as the reproductive swarmer termites. After they find their mate and return underground, they start their own colony. Over time, they grow in size. Termite kings are typically over ½” in length and have the same darker casing and sturdier appearance than the worker and soldier termites.
The termite queen goes through quite a transformation. While the front part of her body remains similar in appearance to before she became a queen, her abdomen grows into a huge sac, about the length of a human finger, where she produces eggs.
Knowing you should look for signs of termite activity and damage is all well and good, but if you don’t know what to look for, you’ll be right back where you started, not knowing if you have a termite infestation or not. Below is a list of indicators that termites are present. While some of these signs could indicate either a new or an established termite colony, some of them indicate that the termite damage to your home is already well-advanced.
As mentioned above, termite swarmers are the only termites that come out in the open. If you see a termite swarm, it’s a sure sign that a large colony is somewhere nearby. If the swarm occurs outside, the colony could be near or in your house. If the swarm occurs in your house, it means the colony is definitely in your house. If you do see a swarm, its important to contact a professional immediately.
It’s possible to miss the swarm but find their discarded wings after they’ve gone back underground. If you find a large group of discarded wings in which both pairs are the same length, it’s just as sure an indication of a termite colony as seeing the actual termites.
Since most termites can’t come out above ground, if they need to move from one place to the other and can’t do it underground, they’ll build pencil-width tubes made out of mud. This allows them to get from place to place while still being protected from the air and sun. Mud tubes are most often found on the outside and inside of foundation walls.
One of the best places to begin your search for termite activity is on your property where wood comes in direct contact with the soil. If you have a fence, dig down into the ground along one of its posts. Look for grooves along the outside of the post. If you see any, termites may be present. This is also an area where you may see worker termites as you disrupt them while they work.
Another sign of termite activity is small holes in wooden structures. Although termites stay inside the wood, they like to keep their tunnels tidy. In order to do this, they push debris out of the holes they create.
Frass is one of the things that termites push out of their holes. This sawdust-like substance is termite excrement and can usually be found in small piles below holes in wooden structures.
Knock on wood” is more than just an expression. If you knock on the wooden beams in your house and they sound hollow, you may have advanced termite damage inside.
You’ll have to pay careful attention to notice the noise that termites make, but if your surroundings are quiet enough and there are enough termites in your walls, you might be able to hear them. They’ll emit a soft clicking noise that you may faintly hear.
Bulging walls, sagging ceilings, and buckling floors in your house are all signs of an advanced termite infestation. When these signs occur, damage to your home is already extensive and will require serious work to repair.
If you have trouble opening and closing your windows or doors, it may be a sign of termite damage. This is also a common problem if there is high humidity, so you’ll need to look further into it before knowing for sure if termites are the cause.
If you suspect you have a termite infestation, you know it must be taken care of as quickly as possible to prevent further damage to your home. You may be tempted to treat it on your own, but termites are pests that need professional control to be fully eliminated. Not only are DIY methods of termite control unlikely to eliminate the entire colony, but they can be dangerous for your family.
Instead, the best choice is always to hire a certified pest control company that has the knowledge and training necessary to treat termite infestations. American Pest is a certified provider, installer, and maintainer of the Sentricon® System with Always Active™. This termite baiting system not only monitors for termite activity 24/7, but also protects your home against these dangerous pests all year long.
Whether your home is currently under attack or you want to prevent termites before they get inside, American Pest can help. Our termite control is the best in the business and comes with a termite-free guarantee. Contact us to schedule an inspection.
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