Types of Termites

The first step in dealing with or preventing a termite infestation is acquiring the weapons needed to fight them. The most important weapon is information. This article is going to teach you the types of termites you are dealing with and from there you can figure out your battle plan.

Termites are colonizing insects that live all over the world in one form or another. Some types of termites destroy homes as fast as a fire (matter of months) while others consume the home much more slowly (matter of years).

Learning the important termite information like, which termites tunnel under the ground as opposed to which tunnel in the walls themselves. how they get inside and what they look like are important too. simply put the more you know the better.

There are five main types of termites in the United States and depending on where you live and your climate you should familiarize yourself with one or more of them.

The five types are:

Eastern Subterranean Termites:

By far the most prevalent type of termite in North America is the subterranean termite also known as the soil feeding termite. This termite feeds on cotton, paper, tree and bush roots, and wood. Subterranean termites especially enjoy the cellulose part of wood. The Eastern Termites can have colonies up to 5 million strong! Although the average is in the 30 to 40 thousand range. The termites can be found in many parts of the building from the attic rafters to the basement foundation. You can find them by looking for the mid tubes they make, or even by finding the wings of the termite kings and queens lying about. Eastern subterranean termites have a swarm intelligence which means they move and act as one entity. They swarm up in the spring months. These termite colonies can live up to 30 years and sometimes can even exist above ground.

Make sure to keep an eye out for the termite tunnels and tubes because these swarms are not always readily visible so they can be destroying your home without you even knowing it. Make sure to look into termite prevention because it is a whole lot easier that way.

Formosan Subterranean Termites:

The Formosan Subterranean Termite can be found in the warmer southern climates of the United States and also in Hawaii. This termite can consume huge amounts of wood very quickly. So much so that it has been given the nickname "the super termite." A healthy adult colony of this type of termite can eat up to a pound of wood a day! The queen of a Formosan Subterranean Termite colony can have up to 1300 termite eggs a day as well. The Formosan Subterranean Termite is a ruthless attacker and can cause more amount of property damage in the shortest amount of time then all other species in the United States. They have been known to eat everything from wood to plater to plastic even metal!

These termite cause their damage by eating into your walls. While they do this they use their saliva and feces to make tunnels and these tunnels make your walls bulge in places. If you see these bulging walls take immediate action because chances are you have a Formosan Termite infestation so call an exterminator because time is of the essence. Once again the best way to deal with termites is prevention so make sure to get your house protected.

Western Subterranean Termites:

This is by far the most common termite in the western part of the continent. The Western Subterranean Termite enters your house by squeezing thru cracks in the foundation and other things. These sneaky termites can actually squeeze through cracks as small as 1/16" wide. They usually build their colonies underground below the frost line and above the water table. They specifically eat the cellulose part of wood this means walls, floors, dressers, etc. The best way to notice these guys around is to look for their tell tale tunnels and recognize their swarming behavior.

The thing to remember about these types of termites is where they are located in your home. They tend to do most of their damage in the basement and first floor levels of your house. They are also the urban termite in warmer climates.

Desert Subterranean Termites:

These termites are found in the dry desert climates of the southwest of the United States and into Mexico. More specifically New Mexico, Western Texas, Arizona, and Southern California. These types of termites are unique in that they have long slender mandibles as opposed to the rest which have stout wide ones. Desert Subterranean Termites are the only termite that can burrow and feed under dry conditions. These termites make small mud tube huts that hang from wood ceilings, shelves, overhangs and the like. They as the rest of the bunch crave the cellulose part of the wood.

The important thing to take note of with the Desert Subterranean Termites is that the soldiers and workers are much smaller then the other types of termites. So they can penetrate small cracks and openings that the other termites cannot.

Drywood Termites:

Drywood Termites get their name from the fact that they live in dry wood. Drywood infestation can occur in everything from bookshelves to wooden rocking chairs to hardwood floor to the walls of your house. Pretty much anywhere there is dry wood. There are hundreds of species of Drywood Termites. The United States only have a few. There are the Powderpost termites or more commonly known as "furniture termites". These termites inhabit the southeast and middle parts of North America. There is also the western Drywood Termite which mainly inhabit the western side of the United States. The typical colony of Drywood Termites is relatively small compared to the subterranean termites. There can be multiple colonies in the same house. Unlike the subterranean termites where the colonies live in tubes and huts Drywood Termites live in the wood and tunnel along the grain of the wood.

The best way to find these types of termites is look for their tell tale fecal pellets. These oval shaped pellets have 6 concave side and look like nothing else. Drywood Termites also leave behind fine powdered wood that looks like fine sawdust.

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By Frank Reece. Page last modified Nov. 10, 2008.

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