The word termite is derived from Latin and Late Latin words that mean “woodworm” and “to erode”. With a name like that, you know termites would be not just a nuisance, but a problem for your house.
There are currently over 3,000 species of termites classified, and of those, only 50 species are found in North America. They’re usually very small, measuring between 0.16 to 0.59 inches in length. The largest of these termites are the queens, which can measure over 4 inches.
To the average person, they may look like white ants, but there are a many differences. They’re antennae are almost straight, while ant antennae are elbowed. Their wings are also much longer, being twice as long as their body. Termite workers and soldiers that protect the colony don’t have wings. Ants have a thin waist, while termites have broad waists.
Each year, approximately 600,000 households in the US are damaged by termites, and each year, people spend $5 billion to control infestations and repair damage. Taking care of a termite problem at the first sign is key to saving your house from costly repairs in the future.
How do you know if you have termites in your house?
Termites feed on cellulose material, which may include paper, books, cotton, structural wood and wooden fixtures, and a termite colony can have as many as 20,000 to 5 million workers, with the primary queen of the colony laying as many as 10,000 eggs a day.
If you spot what looks like to be a pile of wood shavings or dirt, that may be a sign of termite activity nearby (carpenter ants also leave behind piles of wood shavings as they hollow out their nests). What termites do leave behind that look similar is frass or termite droppings.
Brittle-looking wood may be because termites are consuming the wood from the inside out, and are eating too close to the surface.
Tapping on an area with termite damage also produces a hollow sound.
If you hear faint, clicking noises from your walls, these may be soldier termites sending signals to others in the colony. Worker termites are noisy eaters, and you may even hear them munching away if you put your ear close to the wall.
So how do I get rid of them and make sure they don’t come back?
Doing your own termite pest control can be tricky, since they tend to be found in hard to reach places, and the damage they do may be structural. Products you can buy in the market to treat termite infestations tend to be expensive too.
A few easy ways you can safeguard against termites is to make sure it’s not that easy for them to get into your home. Remove mulch from your house, and consider putting down sandy soil around your home as a barrier. Make sure any outside vents are covered with a screen (steel mesh works great).
Sunlight is a great ally – if you have any infested furniture, simply take it outside and let the sun do its work.
You can also use a wet cardboard as a trap. Place it near an infested area, and once you see termites have moved on to it, you can move the cardboard outside to burn it.
You may also consider buying parasitic nematodes that feed on termites. You can mix them with water and place in a spray bottle, to be sprayed on infested areas.
For heavier infestations, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional pest control company!