Termites and the Ecosystem
Termites are a very expensive pest. In the U.S., according to the National Pest Management Association, these critters cost upwards of 5 billion dollars in property damage.
Termites are a serious nuisance in your home but they are great for the environment. They mostly eat wood and help the wood decompose. Termites eat dead and decomposing wood. More specifically, they break down organic matter and add nutrients to the soil. They require very little moisture. Termites also don’t require any contact with the ground. This feeding habit is why termites are destructive to our homes.
There are two main varieties of termites in North America: subterranean and drywood. All the worker termites look pretty much the same. Subterranean termites are not found in your home because they burrow underground.
Termites and Your Home
Once termites get into your home, they make your house a danger zone pretty fast. They will eat anything that is wood. Often, termites can cause structural damage – it could be walls, floors, ceilings and so forth. They will eat wood floors, subfloor, floor joists and trim. They will destroy your floors beyond repair. All they will leave is the floor finish!
Even if your house is not made of wood and you do not even have wood floors, they can travel through concrete and plaster to feast on your wooden furniture. Warm weather and a lot of rainfall make termites emerge in swarms.
Signs You Have Termites
The unfortunate thing about termites is that you don’t know that you have them until they get really bad. Once they are seriously destructive, you know you have termites. You don’t know you have them when they are making their way into your house.
You may also have swollen or buckling wood floors. It will appear as if there is water damage when you have termites. Termite infestations can cause your wood floors to swell. You may also have what looks like sagging wood floors. There may also be a smell of mold or mildew. This can also be caused by termites.
Termites don’t want their home to be near their feces so they create holes to push their waste matter out. Because of this, you can sometimes easily see holes and piles of fecal pellets near the holes in the wood. These piles of termite feces are most visibly seen on windowsills. They look like small piles of sand. These holes will be discolored from the rest of the wood.
If you are not sure you have termites, take a sample of an insect to a terminator. You can put in a sealable plastic bag.
Like their name says, drywood termites literally live in dry wood above ground. They get their moisture from feasting on wood.
Drywood termites eat wood in a pattern, most commonly against the wood grain. If you have visible cracks in your wood, it could be drywood termites. Cracks in the veneer may be from old age but may also be a sign that you have termites in your wood floors. These cracks can be tunnels that the termites have built. These channels are very obvious because they are so smooth it is as if someone has sanded them down perfectly. The tunnels are usually near the foundation of the house because they are looking for soil. These termites eat through timber in search of soil that may be inside the wood. They actually make colonies within wood – it could be in walls, furniture or floors.
Drywood termites have wings. After drywood termites swarm, they drop their wings. A sign that you have drywood termites is you will see their wings.
Drywood termites extract any water content from their feces. The result is very dry, very distinct pellet feces. Fecal pellets are called frass and they are hexagonal and span just 1 mm.
Once drywood termites enter your home, they are very rapid to take over all wood.
You may have have had termites a long time ago on your wood floors and in your home. They may be entirely gone. The only way that they are there is if there is feces. As their feces is dry, you will only know if you clean it up and more resurfaces on the wood. You may also have old feces. This could be from an inactive termite colony. Seeing their feces may mislead you as you think it is fresh. This is a telltale sign that you have an active termite colony.
Many of the preventative measures are fairly major jobs. This is because even before the builder builds the home, exterminators can use a termite treatment on the ground that will kill or repel them. You shouldn’t keep wood near your house but this may not help if you have wood furniture and floors in your house. You should also fill any cracks in the foundation of your house.
Also, when you purchase a home, often the house inspection will address termites.
In regions where they are prevalent, many homes are built on stilts with metal pieces to deter termites from entering.
Termites can do a lot of damage to your house. If you think you have a termite infestation, it is best to call an exterminator or a pest control company. They are the experts.
Termites are very rarely covered in home insurance and can be a very costly pest to treat. Insurance companies believe that termites are preventable.