Three types of termites thrive in the United States: dampwood, drywood, and subterranean. Many additional species of termites exist and are prevalent in the tropics. The most common termites found in American homes are Eastern subterranean, Southeastern drywood, and Pacific dampwood.
What Termites Do
Termites have a caste system. They can be workers, soldiers, or reproductives. There are queens and kings as well — they create new colonies. Worker termites usually measure from a quarter-inch to a half-inch long, while queen and king termites can be more than an inch long. Workers gather food for the colony and care for immature termites. Soldiers protect the colony by fighting off predators. Ants are the most significant predators of termites. Reproductive termites can fly; they are also called swarmers. Some species of termites lay millions of eggs each year!
Termites feed on dead plants and trees which contain cellulose, a fiber that provides them nutrients. Though termites mainly eat wood, some will also eat other materials such as drywall or even plastic. The diet that a termite prefers varies by its type. For instance, dampwood termites prefer moist wood while drywood termites require little moisture, which is why they can thrive so well in places like attics. Termites feed not only on the home itself but its foundation, furnishings, and even paper products such as books!
Where Termites Are
Subterranean termites are the most abundant variety here. (Dampwood and drywood termites are more likely to be found in Southern states of America.) Subterranean termites create homes, in the form of mounds, in soil. The mounds have elaborate tunnel systems that provide the termites access to food. Inside homes, termites live within the wood they feed off of; they can not only live in walls but also furniture. Thus, termites have the potential to do very costly damage over the years.
Signs of Termites
Termites may hide in your Des Moines home for years without signs of damage becoming visible. Some initial signs of infestation include termites swarming at windows or lights. Finding termite wings on window ledges or caught up in cobwebs is a sign infestation has begun because swarmers lose their wings shortly after emerging from the colony. Other signs of termites include mud tubes (mud-colored structures shaped like thick straws) and portions of wood being hollowed out (you can sometimes find these by tapping on them). Additional signs of termites include seeing tiny piles of sawdust or finding soft spots on floor joists.
Some signs of termites may suddenly show up, or they may not be discovered for years (perhaps until renovations are being done). All types of homes can provide cellulose-based food for termites, so that means any home can get infested. It’s best not to wait until you see signs of termites to take prevention measures because by then the infestation is well under way.
Prevention Measures for Termites
You can do a a number of things to help deter termites from your home. The EPA suggests keeping the soil around the foundation dry through proper grading and drainage, and reducing access for termites by filling foundation cracks and utility pass-throughs with grout or caulk. Additionally, you should:
- Avoid planting trees and shrubs too close to your home
- Not allow standing water to collect near your home
- Get rid of tree stumps near your home
- Periodically have your home inspected for termites
- Immediately repair leaky faucets and pipes
- Keep firewood and lumber away from your home’s foundation
- Keep gutters and downspouts clear
- Keep vents clear
- Remove excessive plant cover
Are you concerned that termites may have invaded your home? Miller Pest & Termite serves Des Moines, Ankeny, Indianola, and Ames residents. We can resolve termite issues and many other pest problems. Contact us today to learn more about our services.