Each year, termites are responsible for millions of dollars of damage across the United States. In Utah, the annual number fluctuates at 20 million dollars. Home and business owners in southern Utah are not only affected by the cost of repairs but also by the way an infestation can impact the future sale or improvement of their properties.
How can such a small bug quietly ruin your dreams? A drywood termite colony can secretly exist in your home for years, without your knowledge.
The termites live inside wooden structures above ground on your premises – such as skirting boards, door frames, rafters, flooring, and furniture. They do not need water. They do not produce mud tunnels. In fact, these unwanted visitors leave little evidence of their presence.
Whether in St. George, Hurricane, Washington, Santa Clara, or Ivin, the good news is that it’s possible to spot Drywood termites, despite their secretive nature, if you look for the following signs.
Little drops of evidence
Unlike other types of termites, Drywood termites don’t use their frass (another word for droppings) as part of their tunnels. These termites prefer to keep their tunnels clean, so they remove the droppings as they chew their way through the wood in your home.
Drywood termite frass is like small pellets and is often light tan to black in color. The color depends on the type of wood they’re chewing. The size of the pellets is around 1/25th of an inch but has the distinctive characteristic of being six-sided (if your eyes are good enough!)
The frass is ejected from small exit holes in the wood. Below the holes, small mounds of frass may build-up, giving a strong indication that trouble is nearby. The piles of frass can also be found on windowsills or even on floors if the termites are attacking wood higher in the room.
If you see small piles of what looks like sawdust, investigate further.
Swarms and wings
Another visible sign of Drywood termites is the swarming that occurs on warm, damp days, often after rain. Termite swarms are composed of winged male and female termites that take to the air from small exit holes in the wood where their colony is located.
Swarming is the way a termite colony expands and seeks new wood to attack. Unlike Subterranean termite swarms that may number thousands of individuals, Drywood termite swarms are much smaller. Often small enough to be missed.
A Drywood termite swarm may occur outside your building or inside. But the swarm could be over in less than 30 minutes, so you may not notice it. However, what may alert you to recent swarming activity are the discarded wings.
Drywood termites drop their wings as soon as they land. That often results in small piles of wings by windows, on window ledges, or even in nearby cobwebs. Don’t ignore these tell-tale signs, especially if they are indoors. It may indicate that an existing Drywood termite colony in your home has just tried to expand its territory.
Headbanging - subtle noise of termites
Surprisingly, despite their small size, you may be able to hear termites as they go about their non-stop destructive routine. Among the sounds to listen out for are clicking or chewing noises as they eat wood and, oddly, the sound when they are banging their heads against the sides of their tunnels. Termites also hum but it’s unlikely you’ll hear this.
The noise you are most likely to hear is headbanging. This is done by the soldiers, normally when under threat. The sound is also produced when a new food source is discovered and some studies suggest such headbanging may be used to find out more about the wood they are about to attack.
As termites are deaf, the headbanging is done to produce vibrations that warn or communicate with others in the colony.
Different species of termites bang their heads against the tunnel sides at different frequencies. With the right equipment, this can be used to identify the type of termite.
The best time to listen out for termites is at night. There should be less background noise to hide the sound of the active termites. But it can be disturbing to hear hordes of termites chomping through your house!
Damaged wood is not good
Damage is normally noticeable when an exposed piece of wood has small holes or obvious signs of insect chewing. Unlike Subterranean termites that chew the softer wood along the grain,
Drywood termites will typically chew both the hard and soft wood. They will leave galleries or tunnels that don’t follow the wood grain.
Termites tend to eat in the center of the wood, out of sight. Sometimes, large galleries may exist behind a thin layer of ‘good’ wood. The damage caused by the termites is then only visible when a piece of wood breaks off, exposing the galleries.
One way to find these hidden galleries is to gently tap on wood that may be at risk. A hollow sound could indicate internal damage to the wood.
Wood can lose its strength and integrity after being eaten by large numbers of ravenous termites. This puts it at risk from dampness and general slippage. This sort of indirect termite damage might include bubbled paintwork, stiff windows, or warped doors. Don’t be quick to assume all warping of wood or blistering of paint is due to dampness.
Inspections for peace of mind
If you have found evidence of a termite colony, do not delay. Speak to Southwest Exterminators, your friendly neighborhood pest assassins. If the colony swarms, it can easily set up a new colony (or two or three) elsewhere inside your property. The quicker you act, the easier it will be to remove the threat.
For each of the signs shown above, there may be another cause – frass can be dropped by certain types of beetles. Swarms might be flying ants, not termites. Bubbling paintwork and warped door frames might really be due to damp lumber. But don’t take the risk.
A termite inspection will quickly confirm if you have a problem or not. Ask your residential pest assassins at Southwest Exterminators about our termite inspections today!