Wood termites are considered one of the worst and most destructive pests that a home or neighborhood can suffer. Their voracity has no limits, they attack not only wood and products derived from it, but also a large number of articles found in any home: books, clothes, cardboard, decoration …
This article is an essential compilation of information that helps us to know and destroy our enemy.
What are termites?
Termites are a xylophagous insect that lives in community, that is, it is social and builds nests (termites).
Adult insects, among which there are obvious morphological differences, play different roles within these communities (castes):
- Worker termites. It is the most numerous class of termites in the colony, over 90%. As the name implies, they are responsible for the work: everything related to feeding the colony, digging tunnels, cleaning …
- Termite soldier. These defend the colony from possible attacks, for example, from ants. Its most notable distinguishing feature is its prominent jaws, although not all welded termites have them, some are equipped with glands that produce toxic secretions. They are not particularly abundant, rarely exceeding 5% of the population
- Flying or winged termites. These types of winged termites are dark in color and have reproductive capacity. When they leave the termite mound to mate, they may end up establishing a new colony.
- Queen and king of termites. Once the termite becomes king or queen, it plays a purely reproductive role within the colony. In fact, they barely move during their life, which can even reach the age of 20.
- Neotenic. They are members of the colony initially sterile due to the production of a type of pheromone by the royal couple. However, if something happens, and that pair disappears or dies, neotenic termites will develop reproductive capacity, which would allow the termite to survive.
This pest is known in different ways depending on the country or region. Some of the names they receive are: termites, moths, turia and even white ants, due to their obvious similarity.
What do termites eat?
The obvious answer to that question is that termites eat wood. It is true, they feed on wood and also on many other things: paper, cardboard, clothes, all kinds of food, grass, fungi, vegetation, including many agricultural plantations, etc.
And what do wood and these other elements that serve as food for termites have in common? Cellulose.
So, to give a more accurate answer to the question, we could say that termites feed on cellulose.
Types of wood termites
There are approximately 3,000 different species or types of termites, however, they are classified into three major groups based on the location they use to build their nests or termite mounds.
This type of termite builds its nest or termite in the basement, several meters deep, in search of humidity and absence of light. And then they build tunnels that take them to their food.
It is usually difficult to locate the termite mound, as it is not close to the forest, and may be dozens of meters away.
It can wreak havoc on wooden structures because Access from below and your presence may go unnoticed until there is no solution.
The most widespread species is Reticulitermes, being the one with more presence in Spain. They are generally slightly smaller, but on the other hand, more numerous, approximately 2,000-2500 individuals per colony.
They are usually clear, whitish, even transparent in color. They are very similar to dry wood, although they are a little older.
Wet wood termites
As is intuitive by its name establish and feed on damp and decaying wood: tree trunks, buried wood …
Although they can obviously pose a risk to our homes, this type of termite, due to its nature and interests, is not one of the most dangerous for human constructions, as long as they are carried out taking into account certain preventive and proper maintenance measures.
For these wooden termites to infest our home, there must be problems with humidity, buried and / or rotten wood, etc.
Colonies can have up to 4,000 individuals and are especially abundant along the Pacific coast of the American continent.
Dry wood termites
You are building the termite mound, as the name suggests, in dry wood, that is, the one used for construction, furniture …
The most common species are Kalotermes Y Cryptoterms. In countries where timber construction abounds, for example, the United States or Canada, they represent a real problem.
Colonies are less numerous and can survive in conditions of low humidity. Physically, they are slightly longer than subterranean termites, although they are often confused.
How to detect termites
How do I know if I have termites at home? There are some indicators that help us to know if we are suffering from a plague. and what kind it is.
Signs of the presence of subterranean termites.
- Mud tunnels. This type of termite digs and creates tunnels to reach the forest. Finding holes in basements, foundations or near wooden structures is often a sign. Be careful, they can also take advantage of the cracks in concrete, stone, etc … so they don’t always need to dig.
Signs of the presence of dry wood termites.
- Waste. They do not use excrement to dig tunnels, as underground termites do, but they need to get rid of them, for which they make small holes. Through them, they expel waste, which may look like sawdust, and then plug the hole.
Note: If in addition to the remains, we find the holes, it is possible that the pest we are suffering from is the weevil and not the termites.
Treatments against themes
When dealing with insects that feed on wood, prevention is always the best. Remember that, in many cases, we learn about the problem when it is late or late.
Construction project. Termites do not appear out of nowhere, but reach the wood through a hole or crack. Some people think that having concrete foundations prevents termites from arriving, but they can even take advantage of the expansion joints of the slabs, pass between the cement and the tiles, take advantage of the air vents (such as those in kitchens or air conditioning), fences of doors, etc.
Preventive wood treatments. It is recommended to do so at different times: during construction, renovations and renovations. At this moment the wood is accessed directly.
Avoid storing wood or cellulose in conditions suitable for termites. Untreated wood in direct contact with the floor or wall, especially in humid environments. For example: firewood in cellars and storage, firewood in the garden in contact with the wall …
How to Eliminate Termites
If we believe that we may be suffering from a termite infestation, we will have to quickly call a pest control company and avoid impulsive actions, such as applying insecticide to an area, moving or taking furniture out, removing baseboards and other frames, etc.
If these actions are carried out without knowing very well what is being done, it is possible that we can only displace termite activity and even achieve an increase in the number of nests or termite mounds. This would complicate and prolong the subsequent control of termite infestation.
The treatments used to kill wood termites most used by pest management companies are:
Termite traps or baits. Especially useful against the underground. There are different types, although the result that is sought with them is similar: to make the termites feed on it to kill them.
The process is as follows, the behavior is studied and the baits are placed in the places of greatest activity. Termites reach the bait and transfer it to the colony as if it were food, from which all termites gradually feed. This termite bait alters the natural evolution of individuals, preventing them from reaching the adult stage in which they can reproduce.
A common problem that makes work difficult is that the bait is not identified as food. Therefore, selecting the right bait is essential.
If all goes well, bait treatment is effective, although it is undoubtedly a slow form of termite extermination, which can take years.
Termite baits are not normally available for sale to private individuals, either only to pest management companies, since they are composed of potentially toxic substances. Although there are also more ecological ones.
Chemical treatment. It consists of the application of insecticides and antifungals on wood. For this, the wood is cut and the chemical compound injected under pressure. It is the most used treatment for the elimination of dry wood termites, and serves as a barrier against the advance of underground termites. They do not always apply to wood, and it may also be necessary to apply them to other building elements.