What Do Termites Look Like? Termite Identification Guide
With over 40 species of termites in the U.S., it can be challenging to identify a specific species due to their distinct characteristics. These wood-destroying insects are social and live in colonies.
Termites are beneficial to the environment as they help remove decaying plant materials. However, when they get inside your house, they can cause extensive damage. It’s essential to identify termites according to their species to prevent an infestation.
What do termites look like? In this guide, learn how to identify different species based on their physical characteristics and habits.
What are the Signs of Termite Damage?
Although it can be challenging to see evidence of termites, specific signs can help identify a potential termite problem. Some of the signs of termite damage include bubbling paint, mud tubes on the exterior of your house, and blistering or darkening of wooden structures.
Other common signs include wood that sounds hollow when tapped, discarded wings around window sills or doors, and small piles of feces that look like sawdust next to a termite nest. If you notice any of these signs, you need to contact a professional pest control specialist before the problem worsens.
How Do Termites Look Like?
What does a termite look like? Most termites typically measure between a ¼ of an inch to half an inch in length. They have straight antennae and soft bodies. Also, they are light brown to white color, short legs, and a thick waist.
When it comes to flying ants vs termites, you’ll notice that flying ants have pinched waists, two sets of wings, and bent antennae. Their top set wings are bigger than the lower. Another difference is that flying ants swarm at different times of the year while termites swarm in the spring.
Identifying Termite Species
After determining that you’re dealing with termites, it’s time to find out the type of species you have in your house. The four common species include the dampwood termite, subterranean termite, drywood termite, and the Formosan termite.
Dampwood termites are common in the pacific coastal and nearby states. Most are half an inch long, and some can be 5/8 inches in length. These species infest wood with high moisture content. They require excessive moisture to survive; you won’t find them infesting structures.
Drywood termites do not need contact with the soil. They are 3/8 of an inch long.
These termites create their nests in wooden wall supports and roof materials. You can also spot their nest in deadwood around the house.
Drywood termites are common in North Carolina, the coastal areas of California, and through the gulf coast. They like swarming during warm days, and they can form colonies with over 2,000 members.
Subterranean termites are about an eighth inch long and have a dark brown or black color. They are common in every state in the U.S. apart from Alaska.
These termites form underground colonies that can have over two million members. You may also spot mud tubes that these termites use to get access to food. Mud tubes also help to protect them from open places.
Subterranean termites are a damaging termite species in the United States.
Formosan termites are about half an inch in size. They are common in California and most parts of the southern U.S.
These termites are aggressive and can consume so much wood in a short period. Also, they form colonies with over 300,000 workers. Formosan termites build mud nests inside the walls of a structure.
It’s challenging to control this species of termites once they get inside a building. Moreover, they cause extensive structural damage in a short time.
Identifying Termites From Their Damage
You can also tell the type of termites you’re dealing with from their damage. Drywood termites will enter your house from exposed wood or near the roofline. Check your attic for tiny holes in the wood with the presence of frass nearby that will tell that you’re dealing with drywood termites.
Subterranean termites feed from the ground up. They will enter your house through crawl spaces. Check for mud tubes and damaged wood in your crawl spaces. You’ll also notice galleries on wood damaged by this species. The galleries look like hollow tunnels that run along the grain of the wood.
Identifying Termites From Their Life Cycle
Drywood termites go through a simple metamorphosis. Winged female and male mate in late summer and early fall to form a new colony. They may remain together and mate to ensure there’s continued egg production. The eggs produced by the queen hatch in 14 days.
The nymphs go through two stages. Some become workers, while others become soldiers or primary reproductive. A colony needs some years to mature. Mature colonies can have over 10,000 members.
Subterranean termites also go through a simple metamorphosis. The male and female reproductives swarm during the spring when the light, temperature, and heat conditions are right.
The male king and female queen termites mate and stay together for periodic mating. That ensures continuous egg production. It takes up to seven weeks for the egg to become an adult. The eggs hatch into wingless nymphs that go through three stages.
Worker termites are the first to be produced, later false workers with no wing pads emerge, nymphs with wing pads become winged female and male reproductives, and later more soldier nymphs are produced.
Reproductive termites can develop from nymphs with wing pads or from false worker nymphs. A termite colony can take up to four years to mature. It can contain up to 300,000 termites.
Identifying Termites Through Their Habitat and Food Source
Subterranean worker termites gather food to feed and care for the colony. Some of their food sources include burlap, cotton, paper, and plant products like okra. Workers feeding above ground construct tubes or tunnels made of soil. They can also feed on wood particles. Mud tubes help to retain moisture in the nest and protect workers.
Preventing Termite Infestations
It’s crucial to prevent termite infestations if you don’t want to incur thousands of dollars in repairs and treatment. Some of the steps you can take include:
Eliminate Potential Food Sources and Nesting Materials
The best way to keep termites off your house is to remove their chance of survival. Termites require soil, water, and wood to survive. Remove any material that has cellulose, as this is the primary food for drywood termites.
Also, ensure that you don’t have a leaking sink or still water as this provides a regular water source for these pests. Don’t forget to leave firewood lying around. Instead, keep firewood and other wood piles at least twenty feet from your house and off the ground. Use treated lumber for structures that are close to the ground.
Trim Bushes and Trees
Termites use branches and leaves to get to your house. Maintain your bushes and trees regularly to stop termites from accessing your home.
After trimming the bushes, clear the stumps and dead trees from your property. You can use treated lumber to build porches and decks.
Remove Unused Items
When you have plenty of space, you may be tempted to store unwanted items. Unfortunately, that provides a convenient breeding place for these pests, as these places don’t have enough ventilation. Moreover, cardboard boxes and wooden items make some delicious termite food. If you have cloth piles, remove them as they could also act as a food source for termites.
Seal any Openings
These tiny pests can enter your house using the smallest openings and cracks in your foundation. They can also get indoors using crawl spaces. Make sure to seal and cover any areas to prevent access.
Keep the Vents Open
Inadequate ventilation results in high moisture and humidity levels that provide a pleasant environment for these pests. If possible, have extraction fans to reduce humidity levels. Open the windows to allow for proper ventilation. That e=reduces the risk of having subterranean termites from infesting your house.
Check Your Roof
Broken roofs can give termites access to your home. Termites thrive in a place that has food and moisture. Having dampness in dark corners provides this pest with a convenient environment. Check your roof every six months to ensure there are no gaps or openings. Don’t forget to check your attic for signs of dampness,
Termite Professional pest Control
Termites can cause significant damage that could result in thousands of dollars. The worst part is that termites could be infesting your home’s structure without your realization. If you’ve noticed some of the above signs of black termites, you’ll need to contact a professional pest control service immediately.
They can help detect the nesting areas, identify the species you’re dealing with, and recommend the best treatment to eliminate these pests in your home. Having a termite inspection will give you peace of mind once you know the problem areas and get the right treatment.
More information about identifying termites
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