Florida Dampwood Termites
Dampwood termite colonies are populated by three primary castes or stages: the reproductives (king, queen and unmated winged termites called alates), soldiers and false workers or pseudergates. The soldiers protect the colony from predators and the pseudergates excavate wood, feed themselves and other colony members, plus maintain the colony.
Neotermes termite reproductive swarmers are among the largest termites in the eastern United States, and their front and hind wings are about equal in size and shape.
BEHAVIOR, DIET & HABITS
High humidity levels and the availability of water are keys to survival for Florida dampwood termites. As a result, the termites prefer moist woods like untreated posts, living trees, logs, and some furniture.These termites do not tunnel into soil; instead, they build galleries that wind through the wood they infest. Favoring living trees, Neotermes castaneus are regularly found when infested trees are pruned or damaged.
Strong fliers, Florida dampwood termite alates gravitate toward lights at night. Porch lights, security lights and indoor lights often cause alates to move inside structures that have poorly screened doors and windows.
As moisture-seeking insects, Florida dampwood termites rarely damage homes. However, the insects may infest homes and cause damage to moisture-rich areas that have roof leaks or leaks in other locations such as bathrooms and kitchens.
Neotermes castaneus swarm in late fall or early winter and at dusk or night. A male and female alate pair off and mate. The pair shed their wings and begin searching for a suitable nest site. When a nest site is found, the alates crawl into a crack or crevice in the wood and seal the entrance with a specialized secretion. The female lays the first batch of eggs within a few weeks after mating. During the subsequent years, additional batches of eggs are laid and the new colony population progressively increases in size.
SIGNS OF AN INFESTATION
Infestation signs include the presence of alates, their shed wings and the accumulation of fecal pellets. However, individual fecal pellets may not always be individually seen since the effects of the moist, damp conditions in the galleries can cause pellets to lose their distinctive shape and look like shapeless fecal clumps rather than individual fecal pellets.
Florida dampwood termites are found throughout Florida and the Florida Keys. Popular habitats include woodlands, mangroves, and some urban environments in southern portions of the Sunshine State.
Homeowners should contact their pest management professional (PMP) to request an inspection and control plan if they suspect they have a Florida dampwood termite problem. Sometimes, control may involve the removal and replacement of the damp wood and the source of water. However, if the dampwood termite problem cannot be fixed in this manner, use of insecticides may be required.
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Termites cost Americans more than $5 billion in damage each year and most insurance plans don’t cover the damage.
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