Welcome to The Bugged Out Blog, a blog dedicated to entertaining and educating you about bugs, pests, and the pest control industry. My name is Eric Palmer and I am president of Southwest Exterminators, where we personalize your pest control.
I commonly hear that there are no termites in southern Utah. They say it is too hot, too arid. Plus the desert just doesn’t have the amount of water necessary to sustain termites…right? Well, there are over 2800 different termite species throughout the world and termites are found in every state save Alaska. So let me put this myth to rest, we do have termites in southern Utah. In fact we have two varieties of termites: Dry wood and Subterranean. According to the U.S Termite Infestation Risk table the St. George area is at a risk level 3, which is Moderate to High risk. Today we will look at the home-wrecker of Mother Nature, the termite.
What is a Termite:
Termites are small, milky-white insects which feed on cellulose, namely wood. They live in colonies which can reach tens of thousands. They have been mistakenly called white ants but strictly speaking termites share very little with their distant relatives, the ant. There are three different types of termite, the Subterranean, Dry wood, and Damp wood termite. The Subterranean termite lives in the ground. They require a great deal of moisture and are by far the most destructive termite of the three. They build mud tunnels to gain access to wood which is located above ground. The Dry wood termite is the second most common. They consume dry, sound wood. The colony lives within the wooden structure it is eating and gets all necessary moisture from the wood itself. The Damp wood termite is the least common and is not present in southern Utah. They eat decaying wood that is moderate to heavy in moisture but they do not build tunnels to reach the wood they wish to consume. Annually it is estimated that termites cause over $5 billion in damage in the United States.
Termites have three life stages: the egg, the nymph (juvenile), and adult. There are three types of termites within a colony. The reproducers, the soldiers, and the workers. The reproducers are made up of the queens, kings, and swarners. The soliders are specialized workers with large mandables, and they protect the colony. The workers are the most numerous. They gather food, build the nest, and tend the queen.
Swarming termites also known as flying termites are often confused with swarming ants. It is important to hire a pest control professional to properly identify a pest species. Performing a service to eliminate a termite colony when you actually have an ant colony can cost you hundreds or even thousands more than necessary.
The following are easy ways to determine whether a pest is an ant or termite.
Termites have a uniform body; ants have a pinched waist. Termites have straight antennae; ants have elbowed or bent antennae. Swarming termites have equal length wings; swarming ants have a larger wing in front and a shorter hind wing. Lastly, ants will have longer legs than their distant termite brethren.
Where are termites found:
Termites will be found in or around their desired food source. The Dry wood termite will be found in dry sound wood and are usually only found after they deposit their waste through a kick hole. Window seals, sheet rock paper, and baseboards are common places to find them. There deposits will look like miniature wooden footballs. Tight piles mean the kick hole, a small hole they use to kick out waste material, is near. If they pellets are scattered then the kick hole is probably a few feet or more away.
Damp wood termites will be found in rotting and decaying wood, dead stumps and rotting logs are good examples. Luckily St. George and the surrounding areas do not have Damp wood termites.
The last is the most common for southern Utah’s Dixie, the Subterranean termite. The queen lives in moisture rich ground, safe in her chamber and the workers and soldiers are sent to gather food, namely your home. Subterranean termites build mud tunnels to access your home. They desire the dark and need a constant level of humidity or they would dry out and die.
Why are they infesting my home:
Termites infest homes which have the three things they desire: food, water, and shelter. Minimizing the amount of moisture on your property is the easiest and most cost efficient way to protect your home from termites. While minimizing moisture is not a silver bullet protection plan, it is highly effective at dis-incentivizing termite activity. It is generally a good idea to have a shoulder-width space between your home’s foundation and the nearest plant. It is also a good idea to insure gutter run-off is directed away from your foundation, as opposed to allowing it to pool next to your home.
When are termites most active:
Termites are active all year long in the St. George area, but they are most active during spring. The warmth, the spring rain, and their natural biology makes spring the most active termite season of the year. A good rule of thumb is that swarmers (flying termites), will start emerging after the first warm spring rain. These swarmers are emerging from developed colonies and are searching out new areas to set up new colonies on or near your home. Termites will naturally be more active near high moisture areas as well. The St. George heat mixed with moisture creates a Termite “Shangri la”.
How do I protect my home:
The first thing to do when protecting your home from termites is to hire a professional pest control company. A trained specialist will inspect your home for termite conducive situations. They will also search out present and past termite activity. If termites are found, treatment options will be advised. Depending on the time of year, the construction of your home, the type of termite, and the skill set of the company, a variety of treatment options should be presented with the pros and cons of each. It is important to fully understand what the service entails, what warranties are available, and if the company has a licensed technician who has been thoroughly trained to perform termite eliminating services.
Today we looked at termites. We now know there are three types, the Dry wood, Damp wood, and Subterranean termite. Luckily for St. George area residence, we only have to contend with the Dry wood and Subterranean. Reducing the level of moisture around the home is the best way to protect them from termites, but if termites are found, there are a variety of treatment options which can be tailored to the needs of your specific situation.
If you have any other questions about termites or pest control in general please give us a call at 435-628-2700 or visit us on the web at www.southwestexterminators.com
From all of us at Southwest Exterminators, we look forward to seeing you next week for our next installment of The Bugged Out Blog when we walk you through a proper termite inspection.
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