What Are Termites?Termites, sometimes known as white ants, feed on wood and other dead plant material, and several species are economically important as pests that can cause serious structural damage to buildings.
Termites only superficially resemble ants and their “white ant” name is probably due to their similar size and social habits of ants. Termites have biting mouthparts and their soft bodies are small, rarely over 10 mm in length. They typically inhabit dark nests and tunnels, only venturing out when the winged alates emerge to leave their parent colony when constructing shelter.
Termites are generally grouped according to their feeding behavior. Common groupings are; subterranean, drywood, dampwood, soil eating, and grass-eating. Of these, subterranean and drywood are primarily responsible for damaging structures in southern California. Your home or business can have both types of termites at the same time. Each requires a different type of treatment.
Termites live in colonies that number from several hundred to several million individuals at maturity. A typical colony contains nymphs, workers, soldiers, and reproductive individuals of both sexes, often containing several egg-laying queens.
At maturity, a termite queen can lay several thousand eggs per day. The queen is widely believed to be a primary source of pheromones useful in colony integration. In some cases, termite mounds have been opened to find multiple queens and kings in a single nest chamber.
Worker termites undertake the labors of foraging, food storage, brood, nest maintenance, and a portion of the defense effort in some species. Workers are the only caste in the colony with the ability to digest cellulose in wood. They then regurgitate the digested cellulose to the other castes since only they have the mandibles to chew wood and the digestion required. Termite workers are blind due to undeveloped eyes. The workers are responsible for creating the nest walls using a combination of dung, wood chips, and saliva.
How can you tell if your home or business has a termite infestation?
Subterranean termites almost always leave remains of mud tubes (about the thickness of a pencil) that connect the ground with your home and wood structures to other wood structures. Subterranean termites construct these tubes to reach a food source while staying safely inside their tunnels. The mud tubes may be fairly straight or irregular and when broken open may contain the remains of mud particles and fecal materials.
The presence of flying winged males, females, or their shed wings inside a building indicates the building has an infestation.
The presence of fecal beads in a particular area may be an indication of an active infestation. The fecal beads are pushed out a tiny hole in a wall or wood wall or post by termites clearing a path through a tunnel.
Many infestations are very well hidden and only a professional inspector will be able to determine if your home or business has an infestation.