Termites are wood destroying insects that secretly eat away cellulose-based plant and tree materials found in the house or yard. Most of the time the damage is not visible to the homeowner and only a professional can raise awareness of an infestation. The construction type of the property does not matter as termites feed non-stop. They cost homeowners about $5 billion annually and homeowner’s insurance usually does not cover damages.
The most common termites include the subterranean termite, the drywood termite, the dampwood termite, the formosan termite, the conehead termite, and the desert termite. While about 2000 species exist throughout the world, the first three mentioned are most commonly found in North America. Did you know that even though termites behave like ants and bees, termites are classified in the same category as cockroaches? Termites fall into the pylum Arthropoda, are classified as Insecta and organized within the order Isoptera. The climate in Middle Tennessee and Southern Kentucky raises concern for termite colonies, subterranean termites and termite swarmers. The professional termite specialist might identify Zootermopsis angusticollis, Reticulitermes flavipes and Incisitermes snyderi which are the scientific names for the pacific dampwood termite, the eastern subterranean termite and the southeastern drywood termite.
Termites measure between ¼ and ½ of an inch, with kings and queens growing above one inch in length. Termite workers do not have an exoskeleton, which means that their bodies are soft, they are pale in color and possess antennae. Termite swarmers are darker in color and have wings.
While termites consume almost all kinds of wood, trees and dead plants, each species prefers its own type of wood. Cellulose, an organic fiber, provides nutrition. Aside from wood, termites will consume plastic, paper, and drywall. While few types dine on living trees, most termites prefer dead wood. Just like the name suggests, dampwood termites prefer moist and decayed wood and tent to stay near the ground. Subterranean termites mostly consume softwoods. Generally, found in attics, drywood termites do not need a lot of moisture from the wood they ingest. Termites cause expensive property damages. Aside from house foundations, termites can chew on wooden furniture and books.
The habitat of termites includes soil, timber, trees, and structures made of wood. Different species choose different environments because of varying levels of moisture. Tropical conditions are favorable to most types. The most widespread kind of termite throughout the United States is the subterranean termite. Dampwood and drywood termites are mostly prevalent in southern states such as Tennessee and Kentucky. Like the name suggests, subterranean termites house in the soil and create tunnel systems. To access feeding sites, they build mud tunnels leading above ground. Drywood termite infestations can be found in walls and furniture, where they live and eat. A fully developed colony is characterized by swarming termites that have wings, these termite swarmers cluster near windows and doors. Especially during the spring, winged termites are rampant. They are drawn to light sources. Drywood termite infestations are spread through new colony creation, which happens after mating when a clear breeding site is needed. During the summer flying mature termites will mate, reproduce and form a new colony by losing their wings to becoming kings or queens. Before nesting termites can be confused with flying ants because of their black color and wings. This is a big problem for homeowners during certain seasons when temperatures and climate change. Not fully developed termites assume the role of a worker, a soldier or take part in reproduction. Certain queens are capable of producing millions of eggs annually. The job of a worker is to take care of the nest and care for the offspring by gathering food. Soldiers have long mandibles to protect the colony from predictors. Workers and soldiers cannot reproduce.