When someone says “termite”, you almost always think of white ants that ravenously eat wood. While termites aren’t ants, they do eat a lot of wood– dead cellulose, in fact. The more common pest varieties of termites do significant damage to untreated buildings and other wooden structures, such as furniture and dead trees.
Termites belong to the order Blattodea, along with cockroaches, their closest living relatives. They previously belonged to a different insect order, but recent studies have determined that termites and cockroaches (rather than ants) have come from common ancestors.
In sheer numbers alone, termites as a species are one of the most populous insects on the planet, with colonies on every continent except Antarctica.
In fact, if you put every termite on the planet on a weighing scale, their total combined weight would be about 445 million tons.
If you did the same thing with human beings, our combined weight as a species would only be 350 million tons.
Why are termites considered a serious threat?
In the United States, termite infestations can cause more than $5 billion in property damage each year, says the National Pest Management Association. And many homeowners’ insurance policies don’t even cover termite damage.
Termites have insatiable appetites. They not only consume wood, but they can also chew on flooring and even eat wallpaper. They eat non-stop, gorging themselves on available food sources 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Termites are also quite relentless. They never sleep. They build their colonies 24 hours a day, every day, until they die.
At the center of any termite colony is the queen. Some termite species’ queens can lay 15 to 25 eggs per minute–and over 40,000 per day. That’s a lot of termites!
Which is why one of the key strategies for termite pest control is to contain the colony and make sure you get the queen. Termite queens have the longest lifespan of any insect in the world. Some termite queens may live between 30 and 50 years, reproducing annually and founding numerous colonies.
Are termites common in California?
Unfortunately, yes they are.
In California, the three most common varieties of termites that infest homes are Drywood termites, Dampwood termites, and Subterranean termites.
As their name suggests, Drywood termites infest dry, sound wood, and periodically swarm to infest additional nearby wood. Commonly infested structures other than wooden buildings include utility poles, decks and fences, lumber in storage, and furniture.
Dampwood termites prefer cooler, more humid coastal areas, infesting wood that has decayed through persistent moisture, usually through the soil or a water leak of some sorts. The presence of dampwood termites is often a significant indicator of wood decay in buildings and structures.
Subterranean termites, on the other hand, infest dead wood in contact with moist forest soil, so you’ll find them infesting fallen trees, stumps, or other wooden structures nearby.
The Reticulitermes termite is probably the most destructive variety of termite in California. While smaller in size, subterranean termites have massive colonies that can contain hundreds of thousands of individual insects.
How does my home get termites in the first place?
In all likelihood, there’s a termite colony nearby. Termite colonies need a food source, so ask yourself:
- Is there a forested area or a lot of trees nearby?
- Are there old, decrepit homes near your home or in your neighborhood?
- Is your home located next to a creek, a stream, or some other body of water?
- Is there a yard nearby with lots of old, rotting furniture?
- Are your utility poles made of wood?
Subterranean termites get to your home through ground-to-wood contact, and we’re talking about door frames, wooden support columns, fencing, porch steps, and so forth.
Drywood termites in your home start out through flying swarmers which set out from a nearby colony, and find an entry point in your home, and then start a whole new colony in a couple of years.
How do I know if I have a termite infestation at home?
One of the most annoying things about termites is that by the time you see the signs of termites in your home, it’s likely you already have a full-blown infestation at home. Look out for:
- Swollen bulges or sunken spots on a wooden wall, floor, or column.
- Swarmers flying around your porch light or any other light source.
- Small holes and unexplained mounds of dust around furniture or wood columns.
- Mud tubes snaking up and/or around the foundations of your home.
- A strong smell of mildew or mold even if it isn’t raining.
When you suspect you might have a termite problem at home, it’s best you call the professionals right away to give your property a thorough inspection and assessment.
Can I get diseases from termites?
One small consolation to termites is, despite the massive damage they can do to your property, they don’t carry diseases that are dangerous to humans.
They don’t bite, as they only prefer to chew on cellulose. Aside from wood, that also includes piles of paper or cardboard, flooring, and even wallpaper.
How do I avoid getting termites?
You can actively take preventive measures to minimize the risk of a termite infestation on your property. Here’s what you can do:
- Seal up any holes or cracks on your home’s exterior.
- Keep any wood (like firewood, old furniture, etc.) at least 20 feet away from your home and five inches off the ground.
- Keep an eye on any exterior wood, including door frames, windows and skirting boards, for mud tubes or any visible changes like bulges or sunken spots.
- Send water away from your house. Make sure water drains away properly and that gutters and downspouts also route water away from your home.
- Don’t forget to check your air conditioners: make sure that the moisture from condensation is also properly routed away from your property.
- Make sure your attic, basement or crawl space is dry and well ventilated.
A Final Word
Termites are pretty much a homeowner’s nightmare. Not only do they eat the wood in your home’s walls, they also do so almost completely undetected, as you’d usually discover the full extent of damage until it’s already too late.
That they carry no serious diseases is a small consolation. They eat non-stop, they don’t sleep, and they’ll just keep building their colony and even spread out for as long as there is food, warmth, and moisture to sustain them.
Calling a professional to properly deal with a termite threat to your home is both prudent and necessary. Rocklin Pest Control has been in the business of termite inspection and extermination for years, and can give your property a thorough inspection and assessment.
Consultations can always be scheduled at your convenience, and a variety of service options are available for whatever budget or unique property requirements you might have. Get in touch with the Rocklin Pest Control team today at (916) 943-7720.