As termites have recently been spotted swarming in SaddleBrooke, I thought I would discuss the two main types of termites you may encounter in your home: drywood termites and subterranean termites.

As their name implies, drywood termites infest dry wood and can ravage attic framings, according to the National Pest Management Association. These light brown bugs do not need soil to survive and can form colonies of up to 2,500 members. They are commonly found in warm climates and areas with a low content of moisture. In addition, they do not require soil moisture content to live. Because they are more of a small colony insect, they are difficult to detect because their colonies are spread over a wide area.

In addition to their colonies, drywood termites typically enter homes after swarms, especially after heavy monsoon rains. Therefore, while this was an atypical monsoon season, you should be aware they also swarm during the spring and summer months, too.

Compared to subterranean termites, drywood termites can be more difficult to detect and are not typically noticeable until small piles of black pellets (their feces and unwanted cellulose) plus color of wood that is infested collect. They make their nests within the wood they consume and infest walls, columns, beams and furniture. They also attack floors, furniture and books.

The most effective prevention for drywood termites can be "built-in" to a home during its construction phase with the installation of pressure-treated lumber wherever a builder can do so. Meanwhile, untreated wood can be sprayed with borate solutions. Once construction ends, it becomes much more difficult to completely treat all wood in a finished house with residual chemicals.

If a drywood termite infestation is suspected in your house, I suggest having a trained pest control professional conduct a thorough examination of the entire structure. As a homeowner, you should make notice of specific areas when the professional visits and keep samples of the pellets whenever possible.

In cases where a drywood termite infestation is found, liquid treatment injection of galleries in the infested areas and preventative coatings of through interior baseboard injections and attic treatment is highly effective.

Meanwhile, subterranean termites cause billions of dollars of damage annually and are notorious for their destructive habits. Why are they so destructive? Because they break down cellulose substances (cellulose is what wood is made of) in the environment, turning them into nutrient rich material. This behavior makes them a homeowner’s worst nightmare. Subterranean termites are social insects forming large colonies that move together. As the name implies, a subterranean termite’s home is underground, working and winding their way through the soil. It is important for homeowners to be aware of the differences in behavioral characteristics of subterranean termites versus other types of wood destroying organisms (other creatures can damage the structure). Familiarizing yourself with these traits can prove to be helpful in identifying signs of a possible infestation, as well as knowing what to look out for and where.

Termites do not discriminate against home construction type and will eventually find their way inside any type of structure if the right conditions exist. Even homes constructed of concrete provide no match for a termite’s determination when attempting to invade your home. Although subterranean termites live below the soil, their tunneling capabilities allow them to weave and tunnel their way until they find an appropriate entry point.

There are several ways how subterranean termites can enter a home:

  1. Mud Tunnels - Although the common way of entering the home is at ground level, subterranean termites also construct mud tunnels that allow them to reach entry points above the ground. These entry points can include even the smallest cracks and crevices in brick mortar and concrete slabs, (termites only need 1/64th of an inch) allowing them to travel through the interior of the foundational walls. The mud tunnels can be visible on interior and exterior stucco, drywall, brick, rock, adobe, ceilings, and most commonly foundation stem walls.
  2. Wood-to-Ground - Structures that allow for wood-to-ground contact make the perfect roadway for termites to enter. Wooden support beams, viga beams, columns and posts, wooden decking/flooring, furniture and steps, window/door frames and more all provide ample opportunities for subterranean termites to find their way indoors. Additional wooden structures built onto the homes also provide possible entry points as homes built on concrete slabs are closer to the ground.
  3. Expansion joints - In-between the concrete slabs of your home and the beginning of the brick and mortar, there are joints that may sometimes expand, allowing for a small enough gap to allow termites to enter. In fact, many expansion joints are often separated by a type of cork material, termites have no problem moving through these.
  4. Wall fractures - small fractures in the concrete foundation or brick mortar running throughout the perimeter of your home also provide the ideal entry point for termites to enter, feeding off of the insulation and wooden framing on the interior of those walls.

When diagnosing the level of termite activity in your home, accurate identification of possible entry points from the exterior leading into the interior of your home is critical. Seeking out and determining how termites are entering your home provides a good foundation on which a trained pest control professional can assist you in determining the severity of problem and next steps.

Paul Opocensky is the Manager for Truly Nolen in SaddleBrooke. His service office can be reached at (520) 219-2494. Founded in 1938, Tucson-based Truly Nolen of America (trulynolen.com) is one of the largest family-owned pest control companies in the United States.


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