Evidence of Termites

In nature termites are beneficial insects that serve an important role in facilitating the decomposition of cellulosic materials. When they enter structures termites become economically important pests of man costing millions of dollars in damage each year. Termites enter structures and cause damage by feeding on wood and other cellulose containing materials from which the structure is built. Three types of termites can be problematic in the United States. Subterranean termites normally inhabit the soil and may enter structures unseen through various strctural flaws present and associated with the foundation. Common species of subterranean termites encounted in the US include the Easter Subterranean Termite, the Formosan Termite and other similar species. subterranean termites are found in many states but there activity is either limited or they are not present in northern states due to extreme cold winter temperatures and other factors. Subterranean termites require moisture and commonly carry soil into the structure. Shelter or mud tubes are usually found during termite inspections and present within the hollowed galleries within the damaged wood. While Formosan termites also utilize soil or mud, they construct a hardened material known as carton and may build carton nests within the infested structure thus bringing the colony into the structure. Formosan termite colonies are of great concern in the Southern US where they have caused extensive damage to many structures. These colonies can be many more times the population of Eastern Subterranean termites resulting in significant damage.

Drywood termites are a problem of structures in warm climates. These termites do not live in the soil and are commonly found infesting and damaging attics where they enter and initiate their colonies, although they may cause damage in any suitable area within a structure. Drywood termites do not require much moisture and can survive and damage structural timbers found in attics and roof areas despite the intense heat usually present. Drywood termites may be detected by the presence of their fecal pellets. These fecal pellets are excreted and have a characterisitc shape which may be easily recognized under modest magnification, The fecal pellets feel granular to the touch and have been described as feeling similar to sand.

Dampwood termites are present in the US but are limited to certain geographic areas and not considered a broad scale problem. As the name suggests, these termites infest and damage wood that has elevated moisture levels.

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Termite Swarms

Homeowners may be alarmed when a termite swarm occurs. These swarms serve as the mating flights and a distribution mechanism for termites. Swarm activity occurs differently for different types of termites which helps to differentiate and identify which type of termites are present. Subteranean termites usually swarm in the spring during warm weather in the daytime. Formosan termites swarm during the evening or at night and are attracted to artificial light. The presence of crawling or flying termite swarmers and shed wings is a common tell tale sign of termite activity. While normal termite biology and behavior indicates that a mature termite colony produces a swarm each year, since the late 1990s entomologists have nioted that termites are not swarming as often as before and researchers have sited various reasons for this.

Termite Inspections

Termite inspections are an important and integral part of any termite control program. Termites are crypto-biotic creatures who's activities usually remain hidden and difficult to discover. In the past termite swarms were a common indicator of termite infestation and activity however, as noted above, termite swarms may not occur as they have in the past which makes the annual termite inspection more important for the long term protection of the structure from termites.

Experienced and well trained termite professionals understand the importance of regularly scheduled termite inspections and conduct these inspections at least on an annual basis. he structural configuration of a home or building can present certain complexities and challenges for termite inspectors. However, competent inspectors can overcome these challanges and perform professional inspections. Such inspections should focus attention to the suspect areas where termites may commonly attack. A cursory inspection of the building's exterior perimeter is not a professional or adequate inspection because potential termite activity within the structure and visible tell tale signs that may be present within the structure are missed.

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