What are termites?
Bugs are a common problem in South Florida. Termites are a type of bug that can be found in many homes throughout the state of Florida. Wood and plant matter are their primary sources of nutrition, making them a nuisance. This includes all of the wood in and around your house. The majority of homeowners consider termites as one of the most dangerous pests. Because they avoid direct light and are only 3-4 mm long, they are rarely seen until their nests are broken into. Termites can go undetected for months or even years. If you spot swarmers or their wings, you may have a problem.
How Do I Know if I Have Termites?
The most common termites in Florida are the eastern subterranean termite, Florida dampwood termite, formosan termite, and drywood termite. Florida’s Spring and Summer months are known for termite swarmings. It is more difficult to find subterranean termites than drywood termites. That’s because subterranean termites are the most commonly soil-dwelling.
Aside from looking out for signs of termites, we recommend that you have annual inspections done by a pest control company. Here are five signs that indicate termite activity:
Stuck Doors or Windows
Have you noticed that your door or window is harder to open or close? This may indicate an early termite infestation.
Termites are drawn to wood that is exposed, such as around windows and door frames. You’ll have to work harder to open and close them as the wood is eaten away by termites.
Termite damage can weaken the structural integrity of your home, resulting in sagging ceilings and crumbling baseboards.
Damage under Paint or Wallpaper
Termites feed on cardboard and wood paneling hidden beneath the surface of your walls, constructing tunnels (known as termite galleries) and tiny pinholes (known as exit holes).
When this happens, they may not disturb the paint or wallpaper on the surface, making this type of damage difficult to detect unless the wallpaper/paint is removed. As a result, termite damage is more commonly discovered during home renovations and repairs.
Termites can also be spotted early on painted or wallpapered surfaces by their unusual appearance. Termite damage can be seen in the following ways if you look closely:
- Pinholes in the paint where termites have eaten through
- Bubbling in paint
- Wallpaper that is peeling or discolored
- Wood that buckles
- Areas dented or sunken
Flying Termites & Discarded Wings
One of the first signs of an active termite infestation is the emergence of termite swarmers.
Worker, soldier, and swarmer are all castes in the termite hierarchy. They are the termite colony’s reproductive members known as alates.
What termites look like: They have two large wings, which are pale-colored and about 1/4 to 1/2 inches long, making them easily recognizable. A swarmer that has found a mate and left the colony sheds its wings.
Termite swarms are most common in Florida in the spring, when the insects emerge to find mates and form new colonies.
Swarmers are drawn to windows and doors because they are attracted to the light coming from them. You may also find swarmers and discarded wings near windows and entryways because they don’t stay alive indoors for very long.
People often think termites look like ants. Swarmers are frequently misinterpreted as flying ants by the general public. Flying ants have pinched waists and two unevenly-sized wings, whereas termites have straighter bodies and two evenly-sized wings.
The next step is to look for mud tubes on your property. Alongside your house, you may notice narrow mud tubes. Starting from the ground, these tubes are drawn to areas where there is a lot of exposed wood.
When the air is dry, termites build mud tubes to keep themselves dry. The most common type of termite in South Florida, subterranean termites, have thin exoskeletons that dry out quickly. It is because of this that they require a moist habitat to thrive. Mud tubes help them get from their colony to their food source in a safe and efficient manner
Breaking a piece of mud tube and inspecting it for live termites is a simple way to find out if you have an active termite infestation. Don’t give up even if you don’t find any problems at first.
Even if there are no signs of live termites and the mud tube isn’t repaired, you aren’t necessarily in the clear. It is possible that the termites have relocated to a new area of your home or property where they have better access to food.
JJ Greive of Home Inspections Of Puget Sound, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Frass, or termite excrement, is another sign of termite activity and is commonly known as termite droppings. They eat the wood and push it out of the colony to prevent a buildup of waste, which is why they do it.
Drywood termites, which are found mainly in the southern coastal states, produce only frass that is visible to humans. Drywood termite frass looks like wood dust or shavings due to its wood color and pellet shape.
This is in stark contrast to subterranean termites that build their tunnels out of mud and excrement.
Types of Termites
There are a lot of drywood termites in warm, southern climates. They build their nests in the trees they eat. It’s common for termites to burrow their tunnels and chambers into walls and furniture as they eat wood. Small, pellet-like feces deposits are left by the insects after they’ve eaten or nested.
Additionally, drywood termites may leave behind areas that appear to have been damaged by water, resulting in sagging floors, walls, and ceilings. They shed their wings after swarming, and these small piles can be found throughout an infested home. These wings have fish scale-like patterns.
The continental United States is home to subterranean termites. These pests live in burrows beneath the ground, but they have the ability to travel above ground in search of food. They gain access to houses through foundation cracks or leaks, as well as tunnels made of mud, animal excrement, and saliva. Brown, dry, and spherical, these tunnels are a sight to see.
A subterranean termite infestation can be identified by the presence of these tunnels near the house’s foundation. If you see flying swarmers of subterranean termites in your home, it means that there are active termite colonies nearby.
Photos By: Jean Hort
How To Get Rid Of Termites: Hire A Professional
Remember that these signs may not be visible for months or even years after termites have been present. A licensed termite professional is the best way to ensure that your home does not suffer catastrophic structural damage from termites. Termite experts are trained to look for even the tiniest signs of activity, which could save you thousands of dollars in home repairs. See more on what termites look like here.
Full Attic & Home Inspection for FREE by On Demand Pest Control
On Demand Pest Control is a South Florida based pest control company that specializes in providing safe and effective termite treatments. We know what termites look like as well as their activity. In order to provide the best pest control services possible, our highly-trained staff treats pest control as a scientific endeavor.
Call us today for a free inspection and no-obligation estimate, or feel free to check out our termite page.