TERMITES AND FLORIDA
Before getting into the signs to watch out for if you have a drywood termites on your premises, it is important to first identify how drywood termites actually look and to know how big are drywood termites. Since there are two other main types of termites which are commonly encountered within the home (subterranean termites and dampwood termites) it is important to distinguish drywood termites from the others.
If you don't already know, within a termite colony there are classes of termites made up of workers, reproductives (also known as swarmers or alates) and soldier termites. The worker termites make up the majority of any termite colony and they largely look the same between the three main species of termite. So what mainly separates drywood termites from subterranean termites and dampwood termites is the appearance of the alates.
The drywood termite alates two sets of wings that are both the same length . The front set of wings have a special pattern of distinguishing and conspicuous veins in the outermost part of the front wings, of which about three or more can be seen. When they are in swarming mode, the alates shed their wings very quickly. Because of this, whenever a dead swamer is discovered they usually do not have their wings attached to them. This is one of the main characteristics which makes the drywood termite swarms stand out from the subterranean termite swarms since subterranean alates will consist of dead swarmers which may or may not have wings still attached to them.
A few other traits which can separate drywood termites from the others is that drywood termite soldiers have larger-sized mouth parts with teeth to protect the colony against invaders or threats and they have a wider than normal pronotum which appears to be wider than their head. In addition, most drywood termite soldiers and workers are larger in size to that of soldiers and workers in subterranean termite colonies.
EXAMPLES OF DRYWOOD TERMITES
You may have seen enough closeup pictures of termites to know what they look like but do you know what termites sound like? If you have an infestation of drywood termites (or any type of termite for that matter) and listen closely, you’ll discover that termites make quite a racket.
One sign of a severe termite problem is soft clicking sounds coming from the walls. This clicking may come from Soldier termites banging their heads against the wood or shaking their bodies. No they haven’t lost their minds, this is what they do to alert the colony that there is danger afoot.
The worker termites, which are the termites who do the majority of the damage to your home, are very noisy eaters. If you know of an area infested by these termites and listen in, you can hear those termites essentially eating the wood.
So you now know that termites can be noisy, but did you know that termites also like the noise we listen to in our homes? This may be largely due to the sensitivity of termites, who are able to detect vibrations and noises using several organs which are found at the base of their antennae and on the tibia.
2. FLYING TERMITES AND TERMITE WINGS
Another telltale sign of a termite problem is the presence of flying termites known as swarmers or reproductives. These winged termites are the males and females that depart from the nest to find a mate and establish a new colony — which very well could mean an even bigger infestation in your home. These swarmers may be found at night or in the daytime depending on their preferences and times of the year. Drywood termites, in particular, like to swarm after rainfall.
Discarded wings are another sign of a termite infestation. Swarmer termites (also called alates) lose their wings shortly after finding a mate. The new termite couple then then crawls to a suitable nesting site where they seal themselves in to reproduce and start a new colony. The new king and queen then care for the first batch of their young until there are enough worker termites to take over caretaking duties.
While there are seasons, like the spring, where drywood termites swarm, there isn't a set time of the year where drywood termite swarmers decide to swarm. Drywood termites pretty much swarm throughout the year to continously grow their population, emerging from existing colonies through either an eave, the frames of a door or window or from under roof shingles and get right to work.
Something that is interesting to note is that there are multiple species of drywood termites as well which have different swarming habits. For example, Incistermes snyderi (southeastern drywood termite) choose to come out swarming in the springtime around nightfall. Incistermes minor (western drywood termite) prefers to swarm in states such as California during the summer and fall months, or if found in places like Florida they can swarm at practically any time of the year and typically do this during the daytime.
3. “WHITE ANTS”
People commonly mistake termites with white ants. This misconception is an easy one to make as ants and termites often resemble each other in both shape, size and occasionally behavior. While there are ants that are "whitish" like the ghost ant or the white-footed ant, these ants are only partially white. There is not a type of ant which is totally white.
So how can you tell the difference between ants and termites?
Termites are cream colored and can sometimes look transparent.
Termites have straight antennae compared to ants which look bent.
The waist section of a termite is a lot thicker than that of an ants. Ants have a more narrow abdomen.
Both flying ants and termites have two sets of wings. However, a termite’s are both the same size compared to an ant who has a larger set and a smaller set.
Again, the important thing to keep in mind is that there are no species of white ants. If you think you have spotted an insect which looks like a white ant you can pretty safely assume that it’s, in fact, a termite.
4. HOLLOW WOOD
Drywood termites usually devour wood from the inside out, leaving a thin outer layer of timber or just the paint. When you knock or tap on an area that you suspect has termite damage, it will sound hollow or papery. This is because part or all of the timber inside has been consumed.
When drywood termites infest a piece of wood, whether it be furniture or some other wooden element of a home, they often develop their feeding galleries and devour all of the wood in a piece of lumber or sheathing all the way to the surface of the wood. Because of this reason, drywood termite wood damage is usually detected and identified by seeing the portion of wood under the surface being almost totally consumed with just a mere thin rippled layer of painted surface left intact.
While the feeding galleries of a drywood termite infestation can by various sizes, the larger sized drywood termite galleries are usually connected by smaller galleries, basically making it so traveling between both types of galleries can be possible.
Some of the more common stories you might read about homeowners discovering termites is that a problem is only realized when a vacuum cleaner goes through a skirting board or a finger pressed into a door frame creates a hole.
5. HARD TO CLOSE DOORS AND HARD-TO-OPEN WINDOWS
While it’s usually believed to be a sign of damp or hot weather, doors that are warped or windows that become stiff when opening and closing may mean a drywood termite problem. The moisture that termites produce when consuming wood and tunneling through the wood within doors and window frames causes wood to become warped, making it difficult to shut or open windows and doors.
6. WOOD TUNNELS
The burrows made from termites, also known as termite galleries, may be difficult to view from the from the outside. But if you simply break a piece of broken wood in your house that has been infested you will clearly see tunnels created by the infestation of termites who are staying in your home. Most of the time you can simply use a finger to push through the thin surface of the wood.
To be able to tell that the tunnels were made from drywood termites rather than one of the other species like the subterranean termites, you should check for mud or dirt. The presence of mud is a sign of a subterranean termite infestation. However, if the galleries and tunnels you find are free of mud and dirt, that is usually the work of drywood termites who never really go near dirt or mud because they don't really have any need for the moisture, which subterranean termites are completely dependent upon.
7. FRASS – TERMITE DROPPINGS
Frass – which is the fecal matter they push out of their galleries when tunneling and eating wood. In large infestations of termites, frass is always looked for to indicate the size of a termite problem and where they are located. Unlike subterranean termites, drywood termites don’t use their droppings to build their tunnels. Drywood termites like to keep their tunnels and nests nice and clean so they push their feces out of small holes near the entrances to their nest. This results in small black marks and a dark powdery substance around the area they are infesting. Frass can easily pile up as well and is an even bigger indicator of a serious drywood termite problem.
Drywood termite frass is very fine and looks a lot like sawdust. Because of its appearance, homeowners who spot the frass believe it to be sawdust and just clean it up and discard the mess without giving it a second thought.
Drywood termites have a tendency to build their colony nests underneath the eaves and roof shingles and may also set up show between floors and ceilings in homes that have more than one floor. We recommend inspecting the attic areas and around joists when you can and watching closely for any frass that is left behind.
There have also been reported cases where frass is found on top of surfaces of the home like counters and beddings and these are usually when the drywood termites are pushing out their droppings from ceilings and the frass falls onto those surfaces.
While you may not even know it now, there is a prbable chance that you may have drywood termites in your home. Click below to connect with us so that we can inspect your home free of charge, and advise you on the best ways to gaurd your home against termites.