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Termites

Few pests are more terrifying to a homeowner than termites. These destructive insects can destroy your home before you even recognize there is a problem. Termites live in large colonies and can quickly eat large amounts of wood in just a short period.


Characteristics

  • Live in colonies with specialized castes performing different roles
  • Termites are detritivores, meaning they feed on dead plant-material
  • Experts estimate that termites cause $5 billion in property damage every year
  • Formosan termites are an especially destructive species found in Alabama

Overview

While termites are often confused with ants, they are actually not closely related.  However they both create colonies that range in size from the hundreds to several million. Termites play an important role in the environment by breaking down dead plant matter. Unfortunately, their large numbers and voracious appetites make termites one of the most destructive pests of all time. Termites can just as easily feed on the wood within your home and often times the signs are not noticed until the damage is extensive.

Warning Signs

Some of the more common warning signs are:

  • Discarded wings from swarming termites or the swarming insects themselves
  • Termite droppings (frass) outside of their burrows
  • Mud tubes on exterior walls, crawl spaces and wooden beams
  • Damaged or hollow wood

Once a termite colony has matured, swarming termites will fly out of the nest in order to start new colonies. These are often confused with winged ants and are attracted to lights. These swarms happen in most common during the spring but can also occur during summer months. If you notice swarming insects, or the discarded wings from these swarms, you should have your home checked for termites immediately.

Protect Your Home

You can take several steps to minimize the threat of termites. Termites require a moist environment in order to survive. Eliminate any moisture issues, including drainage issues, standing water, and excessive plant cover.

Identify Termites

Subterranean Termites are especially dependent upon moist environments and build their nests underground. One of the tell-tale signs of these termites are the mud tunnels they build to connect their nests to their food source. The vast majority of damage caused to homes are caused by subterranean termites. The workers have lighter colored bodies with elongated heads and darker mandibles.

Formosan Termites are an especially resilient and destructive type of subterranean termite found in the southeast, including Alabama. They can be identified by their slightly larger size and yellowish brown bodies. Formosan termites, unlike other subterranean termites can build their nests temporarily above ground by retaining moisture in their nests.

Dampwood Termites are much larger than subterranean termites and the soldiers have a large head with pincers. There is no worker caste in dampwood termite colonies, the work is performed by the immature termites. Dampwood termites are named because they live in damp and decaying wood and do not nest below ground. These termites are not very common in Alabama and are the least destructive of all termites since they eat wood that is already rotting.

Drywood Termites require very little moisture and are often found in attics and other areas without any connection to the ground. Like dampwood termites, drywood termites have no worker class, the work is done by immature termites. Because there is so little moisture in their environment the hexagonal frass, fecal matter, can be found piled outside of their burrows.

Common Termites in Alabama include:


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