Guide to Termites


Guide to Termites

Termites destroy flooring, framing, ceilings, furniture – the destruction can be staggering, and it is rarely covered by homeowner insurance. Termite damage can collapse a building entirely, meaning possible financial ruin for a property owner.

If you have questions about your (possible) termites then please contact your local Mitchell pest control branch. Click on the link below to be taken to obtain the contact information you are looking for.

What do Termites Look Like?

Fertile Termites (called alates), are the type your most likely to see through only when they leave their overcrowded colony to form another (called swarming). In appearance, they are usually black in color but can sometimes be deep brown, size is between ¼ and 3/8 inches long, similar to a large black carpenter ant, antennae are straight, bellies are rounded and they have thick waists. On their backs, are 2 identical pairs of large translucent wings dwarfing their bodies. The contrast between their dark bodies and the white almost transparent wings is eye-catching. They usually swarm in huge numbers to increase the odds that one pair will survive predators to build a new colony. However, these huge swarms located next to homes cause dread in all who witness it.

Less often seen, are termite workers who are typically foraging for food, taking care of babies and building chambers and tunnels to a food source.  They have to remain close to moist soil or on the move in their humid mud tubes to stay moist otherwise they will die. In appearance, they have light cream colored elongated rather flat bodies, six legs, small jaws and short straight antennae. Also, they are born blind making them rely heavily on their antennae to accomplish their tasks.

  • Soldier termites are bigger than the worker termite yet they still have the same cream-colored bodies. They also have large heads, mouths with large claw-like jaws that are darker amber in color and tougher skin to protect themselves in battle against invaders such as ants and spiders. You’ll see them when you annoy the nest or colony.
  • The Termite king’s appearance, remains the same throughout its life except for the loss of his wings at the colony startup. A dark male consort for his queen whose only purpose is to fertilize her eggs.
  • The Termite Queen grows much larger, throughout her life, looking like a segmented thick worm as her ability to produce eggs increases up to thousands per day, though this does take a few years. A large colony can occasionally have multiple queens in satellite colonies.
  • Larvae or Baby Termites hatch from eggs looking just like the adults, except much smaller with their bodies colored a pale white transparent color. Throughout their life cycle termite babies (nymphs) molt, meaning shedding their exoskeletons, many times as they mature and turn into one of 4 types of adults. Those types will depend on the needs of the colony be it workers, soldiers or the reproductive termites.

Do Termites Have Wings?

The only Termites that have wings are the fertile queens and kings who swarm to go on a mating flight to start a new colony. Winged termites are born just a few weeks before they swarm so the community doesn’t have termites with huge wings trying to maneuver through chambers and tunnels. The other termite community members such as the workers, soldiers some fertile termites that have no wings and do not swarm but stay in the colony to replace the queen or king should they die.

Termites are subterranean (underground) dwellers and not normally seen till they swarm. Swarming termites are often the first indication that termite infestation might be afoot. Swarming is the only time termites will fly. A winged mass emergence of fertile queens and kings leave a crowded colony to swarm into the surrounding area to build new colonies.

After the mating flight, the fertile king and queen will break off their wings and spend the rest of their lives, sometimes up to 25 years, producing offspring. The production of babies starts out slow as they will, at first, have to care for them but in a few weeks, when they can be cared for by their offspring, the queen begins to grow too large to even move and becomes a baby factory. Fertile Termites are the only ones that have wings and compound eyes- other members of the termite hive are blind.

What Does Termite Damage Look Like?

Wood damage by termites can sometimes be visible as a blistered appearance on the wood’s surface. But when the wood is cut open it, it will have a honeycomb appearance where the termites have devoured the softer layers of wood and leaving the harder layers in between. As the termites eat the wood, they leave behind a brownish or yellow color, mud like, digested substance that will be seen throughout the honeycombed interior. Termites left to munch freely through a home can weaken the structure into partial collapse which will end up costing thousands to set right.

Termites normally enter a building along its foundation, through cracks, expansion joints, hollow spaces in brick or cement block and around plumbing. Decks, porches and other wood structures in contact with soil are ways for termites to access an easy food source. Constant moisture is necessary for a termite colony to thrive or even survive so access to food sources will always run through mud tunnels to protect them from the drying effects of the sun or wind.

Another way to check for termite damage is to tap wood with a screwdriver handle along drywalls, baseboards and window molding every few inches to check for a hollow sound which will indicate damaged wood. in fact, such a tap may break the surface and reveal a cavity of tunneled eaten wood.

What Are Signs of Termites?

The first indication of a termite problem could be the visual swarm of winged fertile kings and Queens branching Termite Swarmout to start new colonies. Once a colony gets too large, generally takes 3 to 6 years, the colony will send out a swarm of fertile insects in a journey on a mating flight and settle into a new home.  People who see a swarming cloud of flying black insects or the evidence of discarded wings left behind as they pair off to build a nest can be sure that a colony is not far away and the best action they can take is to call a pest control company to investigate for a possible termite infestation.

Many times, the termite nest is hidden behind a wall, under a floor or even on top of a roof hampered by moisture infiltration- meaning that the roof ponds water and never dries out. Termites don’t make noise as they forage but their ferocious appetites will leave clues of crumbling drywall, sagging floors, doors that are greatly out of plumb or tiny holes in wood moldings.

Termite frass (droppings) which look like small brown crumbling saw dust indicates there is a nest somewhere close by. If the droppings are on a bed, termites are probably in the attic. Droppings on a windowsill are indicative of termites active in the window frame. When frass is found on the floor, termites are active under the floor, behind walls or in the basement.

These menacing and destructive insects build mud tunnels or tubes to food sources- a big clue that indicates a hive is operating just beneath the soil. These mud tubes look like flattened pencil sized structures that branch out in a starburst pattern from a central point in the colony. This type of search pattern helps eliminate repeat searches in the same area and eventually they will find, their only source of food, wood. These tunnels can be found moving up along drywall inside the home, foundations, along decks, inside cellars or crawl spaces. If you see these tubes, don’t disturb them but call Mitchell Pest services for an inspection.  It is best not to disturb an infestation because termites have very honed survival instincts that will cause them to relocate to another spot to avoid destruction.

Do Termites Swarm? 

Subterranean termites swarm after the current colony has reached such a large size that the nest is becoming too crowded which usually takes at least 2 to three years. When the swarm begins, you may only see a few flying termites, but thousands of them will soon be pouring from a small hole in their nest. This process of swarming may last less than an hour but can occur several more times over a week.

It is not the swarming insects you need worry about as they aren’t the ones destroying the wood in the dwelling but the workers from the larger nest that they are leaving. When a termite colony is ignored, serious damage multiplies as the colony grows.

The swarming termites are rather poor fliers only moving a short distance before settling to earth to begin a new colony. Once a location is chosen the king and queen termites discard their wings enabling them to crawl along the ground easier to build an underground nest.

Termites normally swarm during daylight hours, following a rain event, between February and April- as soon as the environment warms up. This is the same time flying Ants swarm so the 2 species can be easily confused which really demonstrates the need for a professional inspection.

Many times, piles of discarded wings around window sills or light fixtures confound people as they wonder what they are.  When termites swarm inside a home, in a bid to reach the outside environment, they are encouraged to move towards the light and ultimately discard wings by these light sources. Termites, in a swarm, not able to reach moist soil can’t start a new colony and will soon die. The fate which befalls most swarms ending up inside a home.

What is the Difference Between Termites vs. Ants?

To differentiate between flying Ants and swarming Termites note that ants have a thin waist, antennae are bent, front pair of wings are larger than the back pair and their wings have very few veins and are transparent. Whereas, a Termite has a thick waist, short straight beaded antennae, double pair of wings are the same size and shape and their wings have a lot of veins and are a smoky white translucent color.

How Do I Get Rid of Termites?

Eastern Subterranean termites are the type that cause most of the building damage in VA mainly because they build their colony underground mostly hidden and the sobering fact that this huge colony is formed from a single fertile couple can also explain how successful they are. The Queen and King Termites enclose themselves under the soil in a shallow chamber and will produces copious offspring. These offspring develop into soldiers and workers who either protect the nest from invaders or builds the necessary chambers and tunnels to propagate: ultimately spreading the colony several feet under the soil.

Termicides are a very effective method of eradicating this scourge that if left unchecked can make a home uninhabitable within 2 to 3 years as the termites will have tunneled through all cellous building materials and furniture within the home. When you see old sagging wooden that seemed to have collapsed inward, it’s most likely due to termite damage.Termite Treatment to Slab

Subterranean Termite Treatment Drilling is the goal of chemically separating the termites from their humid soil so the termites will die quickly of dehydration. The process is used to eliminate existing termite infestations because spraying termiticides on the infested wood or the stress cracks found in Slab construction will not penetrate to the center of the cavities made by termites. This method of drilling and treating provides an effective way to kill the termite colony.

Repellent Termiticides (pyrethroids) a fast-acting nerve toxin is highly effective against termites but low in toxicity to mammals (warm blooded, furry creatures, feed their young with milk and give live birth). Good to know for the safety of humans and their pets.Termite Barrier Applied

Non-Repellent Termiticides or soil treatment work differently from nerve toxin because they don’t detect the presence of the poison so its full speed ahead and they enter the soil. As they pass through the soil, they pick up a small dose of the poison and transfer it to other termites before they die. This is a very effective way to eliminate termites from feeding on a structure or to protect it from becoming infested because you need only apply a continuous band of termiticide around the structure.  This makes the weakness of bait stations (that many homeowners buy from home stores) placed every few feet around the structure very apparent because large gaps are left for the foraging termites to pass through without consequences.

Fumigation is a process used, sometimes, in severe home infestations. The Home is tented and a gas fumigant is used to kill the termites. However, the fumigant is also harmful to humans and their pets if not used properly. A family will have to leave the home for around 3 days including pets, fish and all house plants. Food items should be removed or covered in special bags. This gas fumigation can be done safely but is pretty much a last resort to save the home.

How Much Does Termite Treatment Cost?

If you’ve detected the termite infestation during its early stages before most of the home has been infested, then the termite treatment can be confined to the smaller areas of infestation while treating other areas with repellents to prevent future attacks. The larger the area of infestation the higher the cost of treatment. However, consider the cost of not treating the infestation which will result, in time, with the probable condemnation of the entire structure: which far exceeds any outlay you might have to make to protect your property and family now. The only way to discover how extensive a termite infestation is or even if there is one is to get the help of a professional like Mitchell Pest Services.

In the tidewater region, the Eastern Subterranean Termite is usually responsible for damage to structures. Once the termites detect cellulose on a structure (say, your house), lacking other food sources, they will try to access the house for food.

Subterranean termite colonies live 5-10 feet deep into the soil, often within 50 feet of a food source, and the termites must be surrounded by soil all the times. Thus, they build mud-tubes and tunnel through them to reach the wood of the house. Once tubes are built, the colony begins its attack.

The Termite Control Solution

Mitchell Pest Services attacks termite problems with the latest, most effective pest control technology and procedures while protecting the health and safety of people, pets and the environment. Treatment options include a monitoring and bait system and a liquid termiticide treatment that kills off a colony within two or three months.

The Mitchell Difference

For every pest problem, Mitchell Pest Services has a solution. Our work is guaranteed 100 percent effective. We use the least amount of material as possible while still resolving the problem. Natural products and baits are our service technicians’ first choice. All products are registered by the EPA, and our service technicians will inform you of any specific safety measures that need to be taken.

Our services are tailored to address each customer’s needs, and are available as a one-time visit or as part of monthly, quarterly, or annually service programs. We also have a 24 hour service available.

For every pest problem, Mitchell Pest Services has a solution. We provide inspections, all-inclusive cost estimates, and same-day service for your convenience. Contact Mitchell Pest Services, your Tidewater pest control experts, at (888) 681-6606.

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