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Termites

Facts, Identification & Control

Appearance

What Do They Look Like?

  • Size: Termites range from 1/4 to 1/2 an inch in length. The queens and kings are larger, capable of reaching over one inch long.
  • Color: The workers are typically soft-bodied and pale-colored.
  • Wings: Flying termites, also called reproductives, have two pairs of prominent wings.

Learn more about what a termite looks like.

How Serious Are Termites?

A termite infestation and damage can be devastating to your home or property. Termites are often called the “silent destroyer” because they may be secretly hiding and thriving in your home or yard without any immediate signs of damage. All termites consume cellulose-based plant materials. Unfortunately, all homes, regardless of their construction type, can provide cellulose food for termite infestation.

Termite Warning Signs

Some indications you may have a termite infestation:

How Do You Get A Termite Infestation?

Termites invade homes by crossing from their colonies in yards to foundations. Cracks or gaps around pipes and wires give the pests access inside. Homeowners can also get termites from:

    • Wooden structures, like porches and decks, in direct contact with the ground
    • Stacks of firewood that lean against the house
    • Damp soil near foundations from leaking faucets, gutters, or downspouts
    • Trees and shrubs planted close to the building.

Above ground locations in the house that remain damp enough to support termites without them needing to return to the moist conditions found in the soil.

What Can I Do About Termites?

Learn more about how Orkin controls termites.

Overview

There are three major types of termites found in the United States:

They all belong to the phylum Arthropoda, the class Insecta, and the order Isoptera. There are over 2,000 different species, which all have distinct scientific names.

Three of the more common home-invading termite species are Eastern subterranean termites, Pacific dampwood termites, and Southeastern drywood termites.

Diet

What Do They Eat?
Termites are detritivores, or detritus feeders. They feed on dead plants and trees. Termites get nutrients from cellulose, an organic fiber found in wood and plant matter. Wood makes up the majority of the pests’ diet, although termites also eat other materials such as paper, plastic, and drywall. Most species prefer dead wood, but some termites feed on living trees.

Each type of termite has its own dietary preferences.

  • Subterranean termites prefer softwoods, but may invade most species of wood.
  • Dampwood termites generally stay close to the ground, but will choose moist, decaying wood anywhere it is found.
  • Drywood termites are often found in attics and require little moisture in the wood they eat.

A termite’s mouth is capable of tearing pieces of woody material. This ability is what causes concern in human dwellings: while termite workers only measure approximately 1 cm to a few millimeters in length, their feeding habits are capable of causing costly damage to property. House foundations, furniture, shelves and even books are all possible feeding sites for termites.

Read more about what termites eat.

Termite Habitat

Where do they live?
Commonly, termites live in wooden structures, decayed trees, fallen timber, and soil. Habitats vary among species as some termites require different amounts of moisture. The pests are found in greater numbers in tropical regions where living conditions for termites is optimal.

Subterranean termites are the most abundant variety and can be found throughout the United States. Both dampwood and drywood species are generally more localized in the Southern states.

Subterranean termite homes are usually formed in soil. Within these mounds, termites build elaborate tunnel systems and mud tunnels through which they access above-ground food sources.

Mud Tubes on Walls

Drywood termites live within the wood they consume and oftentimes infest walls and furniture.

When a colony has matured, winged, swarming termites can be seen around windows and doors. Winged termites are highly attracted to sources of light and are most active in springtime. After mating, these termites locate a new breeding site and create another colony, spreading infestations throughout multiple locations in the case of drywood termites.

Reproduction

In the summer months, reproductive flying termites leave their mature colonies to mate and pair off. After this, the couples lose their wings, become queens and kings, and create new colonies. Immature termites develop to fill one of three roles: workers, soldiers, or reproductives. Some species of termite queens lay millions of eggs each year.

Read more about the termite life cycle.

Colony

Workers are responsible for gathering and feeding the colony members, maintaining the nest, and caring for young. Soldiers protect the termite colony using their large mandibles to fend off predators. Reproductives are the only sexually mature members of the colony, aside from queens and kings. Read more about termite colonies.

Termites in a Subterranean Colony

Prevention Tips

What Can You Do to Help Protect Your Home?
Since termites are a constant threat to your home, here are some things you can do during the year to help maintain the effectiveness of The Orkin Man’s termite treatment plan.

Small steps make a big difference in termite prevention and sustaining an effective termite treatment plan. Start by eliminating moisture conditions and termite food around your home. These simple steps make your home a less attractive target, helping deter termites.

Eliminate Moisture Problems

  • Repair leaking faucets, water pipes, and A/C units
  • Divert water from foundation
  • Keep gutters and downspouts clean
  • Remove excessive plant cover and wood mulch
  • Get rid of standing water on roof
  • Keep all vents clear and open
  • Seal entry points around water and utility lines or pipes

Remove Termite Food Sources

  • Keep firewood, lumber or paper away from foundation or crawl space
  • Get rid of stumps and debris near house
  • Place screens on outside vents
  • Check decks and wooden fences for damage
  • Wood on your home shouldn’t contact the soil

Read more termite prevention tips.

Termite Control

How do you know if you have termites?

Learn the signs to look for to determine if you might have a termite infestation.

Why should you be worried?

Termites cost Americans more than $5 billion in damage each year and most insurance plans don’t cover the damage.

Schedule a FREE inspection

We’ll determine whether you actually have termites, then discuss a treatment plan including financing that works for you.

What Orkin does.

Learn what to expect from your Orkin Man and the AIM process.

 

More Information

Termite Damage Signs

Termite Structural Damage

Termite Life Cycle

Termite Colonies

Termite Season

Termite Facts & Questions

Termite Damage and Real Estate Transactions

Types of Termite Treatments

Termite Control Methods

Video:Termite Infestation & Control

For information on other pests, visit the Pest Library home page.