What are termites?
Termites are eusocial insects that are classified at the taxonomic rank of infraorder Isoptera, or alternatively as epifamily Termitoidae, within the order Blattodea (along with cockroaches). About 3,106 species are currently described, with a few hundred more left to be described. Although these insects are often called “white ants”, they are not ants, and are not closely related to ants.
Like ants and some bees and wasps from the separate order Hymenoptera, termites divide as “workers” and “soldiers” that are usually sterile. All colonies have fertile males called “kings” and one or more fertile females called “queens”. Termites mostly feed on dead plant material and cellulose, generally in the form of wood, leaf litter, soil, or animal dung. Termites are major detritivores, particularly in the subtropical and tropical regions, and their recycling of wood and plant matter is of considerable ecological importance.
Termites are among the most successful groups of insects on Earth, colonizing most landmasses except Antarctica. Their colonies range in size from a few hundred individuals to enormous societies with several million individuals. Termite queens have the longest known lifespan of any insect, with some queens reportedly living up to 30 to 50 years. Unlike ants, which undergo a complete metamorphosis, each individual termite goes through an incomplete metamorphosis that proceeds through egg, nymph, and adult stages. Colonies are described as superorganisms because the termites form part of a self-regulating entity: the colony itself.
Termites are a delicacy in the diet of some human cultures and are used in many traditional medicines. Several hundred species are economically significant as pests that can cause serious damage to buildings, crops, or plantation forests. Some species, such as the West Indian dry wood termite (Cryptotermes brevis), are regarded as invasive species.
How to distinguished between termites and ants?
A closer look at the insect in question will reveal significant physical differences that make it easy to identify a termite versus a carpenter ant:
If you look at the insect’s body shape, take a good look at the abdomen area. A termite has no “waist,” instead, its body is more rectangular, without any narrowing in the center. In contrast, the carpenter ant has a very well-defined narrow, constricted waist.
An insect’s feelers can say a lot about the insect, too. A termite has straight, beaded antennae, meanwhile, a carpenter ant’s antennae are bent or “elbowed.”
A termite has wings that are of equal size and shape and its wings are much longer than its body. A carpenter ant’s back, hind wings are shorter than its front forewings and the wings do not look unusually long or disproportionate to its body.
Ant workers are reddish or dark-colored and are frequently seen in the open foraging for food. Termite workers, by comparison, are transparent, light or creamy white in color, and they avoid light. Termites are rarely noticed unless their nest is disturbed.
Carpenter ants merely dig into the wood to excavate their nests; they do not eat the wood but simply push it out through openings of the galleries of their colonies. So, if you see small piles of wood shavings or frass (insect waste) below the holes, it helps to identify an infestation of carpenter ants. Carpenter ants seek out moist and damaged wood in which to excavate their nests; termites will chew right into the healthy wood.
What attracts termites to your house?
Here are five things that could be attracting termites to your home:
Firewood and other wood piles are a huge termite attractant and also provide them with a quick and easy ride into your home.
As trees die and rot, the dead trees and stumps will attract termites. They will then move from these stumps and trees to your home.
Poor drainage, lack of airflow, and leaking pipes all contribute to moisture problems in the home AND create conditions conducive to termite infestations. Subterranean termites need an abundant source of nearby water to survive, so reducing moisture is an easy way to help prevent a termite infestation and damage.
While aesthetically pleasing, mulch can actually be a big attractant for termites. Mulch is comprised of wood chips which can retain moisture, making them an attractive food source for termites.
Clogged gutters can lead to damage to your home on their own but they can also be an attractant to termites. As leaves, twigs, and other debris build up in your gutters, the excess moisture can soften your roof and cause it to rot. These soft spots attract termites and also provide them with an easy access point into your home.
What is the sign of termite infestation?
Here are four signs of termites that you might have these unwanted guests living in your home:
Discarded wings that are left behind are another visible sign of a termite problem. After swarmer take flight, they shed their wings. If you have a termite infestation, you may find these piles of wings around your property’s foundation, inside or outside of the home.
Papery or hollow sounding timber
Termites usually consume wood from the inside out, leaving a thin veneer of timber or just the paint. When you knock or tap on an area that has termite damage, it will sound hollow or papery. This is because part or all of the timber inside has been eaten away.
Tight fitting doors and windows
Often related to signs of damp and hot weather, stiff windows and warped doors can also mean termites! The moisture they produce when eating and tunneling through door and window frames causes the wood to warp, making it tough to open doors and windows.
Termites live underground, building tunnels to sources of food. These tunnels leave irregular patterns made from mud-like material in your home’s subfloor. Although they are difficult to spot, regular inspections of the subfloor area are extremely important. Any moisture in the subfloor area should be rectified as high moisture can attract termite attack.
How to get rid of termites?
Damp spaces are hot spots for termites.
If you’re a homeowner, you need to keep damp wood and areas at a minimum across your yard. A damp location is the preferred climate for termites.
Wherever moisture collects, termites will be there. Hot spots like logs, branches, kid’s toys, or other backyard items are all threats. If you want more of a barrier between termites, your garden, and eventually your home, install a liquid termite barrier.
Although they’re found at the base of most home foundations, these barriers can be used on wooden structures, woodpiles, and tree stumps. This barrier is also sprayed to kill termites on contact.
Termites often gather near the gutters of your home. That means the down-spout extenders (although used to divert the termites away from the foundation) could force them toward your garden.
Make sure you’re keeping an eye out for pooling water across your yard and garden.
Naturally occurring roundworms known as nematodes can kill termites.
Because of their gut bacterium, nematodes are an effective natural insecticide. A microscopic organism, once a nematode enters a termite’s body the process is underway. The release of the bacteria mentioned poisons the termite’s blood and slowly kills them.
Nematodes live in a variety of habitats and are easy to find. They’re 100 percent natural, not causing harm to humans, pets, or plants.
Once a nematode is introduced, the process will be long-lasting. They’ll breed and continue multiplying keeping termites at bay for weeks. This process can happen in as little as 24 to 48 hours when they’re first released.
Even if termites aren’t your biggest threat, nematodes can kill tons of other common household pests.
Available in a powder mixture, boric acid is one of the best ways to get rid of insects.
The acid complicates a termite’s digestive and metabolic system. After prolonged exposure, the termite will eventually die. This takes about three to seven days on average.
If you’re not keen on the use of insecticides, don’t worry. Boric acid is one of the less toxic insecticides in comparison to the competition.
The process starts with a simple concoction of boric acid powder, sugar, and water to attract the termites. Once they’ve started moving the acid back to the colony, they’ll die off entirely.
Make sure you’re using goggles and a dust mask when preparing a boric acid concoction. You can also spray the boric acid powder onto any place you might think there’s an infestation.
Continue whatever process you choose for three to five days and keep an eye out for other developments.
Termite baiting employs a very different approach. With baits, small amounts of product are deployed like edible ‘smart missiles’ to knock out populations of termites foraging in and around the home. Termites consume the bait and share it with their nest mates, resulting in a gradual decline in termite numbers. A comprehensive baiting program then seeks to maintain a termite-free condition on the customer’s property through ongoing inspection, monitoring and re-baiting as needed.
Termite baits consist of cellulose (a structural component of wood), combined with a slow-acting insecticide which disrupts the normal growth process in termites. Within weeks of ingesting the bait, termites die while attempting to molt. The delayed action is important; if the bait killed quickly, sick or dead termites might accumulate near stations, increasing the chance of avoidance by other termites in the area. Delayed-action also enhances transmission of the lethal ingredient to nest mates, including those that never fed on the bait. Entire colonies can be eliminated in this manner, although colony elimination is not always necessary to afford structural protection.
Recommended Trapall Products:
Trapall has been an experienced manufacturer and supplier of termite control products for many years. We have developed various of traps and other accessories to help you expel and eliminate your termite problem:
- Termite Bait Station (ATPL6810)
- Ant Bait Station Box (ATPL6976)
- Anti-Termite Bulb Duster (ATPL7119)
- Termite Colony Detector System (ATE23)
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Wikipedia contributors. (2022, January 4). Termite. Wikipedia. Retrieved January 13, 2022, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Termite
Krishna, K. (2020, April 8). termite | insect. Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved January 13, 2022, from https://www.britannica.com/animal/termite
Abe, T., & Higashi, M. (2001). Isoptera. Encyclopedia of Biodiversity, 408–433. https://doi.org/10.1016/b978-0-12-384719-5.00200-8
Engel, M. S. (2009, June 25). no. 3650 – Termites (Isoptera). Biodiversity Heritage Library. Retrieved January 13, 2022, from https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/288387#page/1/mode/1up
Isoptera – termites. (n.d.). CSIRO. Retrieved January 13, 2022, from https://www.ento.csiro.au/education/insects/isoptera.html