Frequently Asked Termite Questions

Frequently Asked Termite Questions
by Russ Frank

Here are some questions that property owners often ask about termites. Do you know the answers to these questions?

Q: How many different kinds of termites exist? A: Experts have identified more than 2600 species. Around 55 of those species exist in the U.S. There are only 2 main types that property owners should be concerned with: subterranean termites and drywood termites.

Q: How are those 2 types of termites different? A: Termites, like ants, are social insects, and like ants, they live in colonies. The different types of termites build their nests in different locations. Subterranean termites depend on moisture in the earth to survive, so they build underground nests and tunnel through the earth feed on homes nearby. Drywood termites, get their moisture from sources in and around the property they’re feeding on, so they nest inside the structures themselves.

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Q: How would I know if termites have invaded my home? And how do I tell the difference between the different types? You may detect subterranean termites when they swarm in the spring. At that time the colony splits to begin other colonies. Mud tubes on the foundation or walls is a sign of subterranean termites. All termites leave wood that may look broken, blistered or weak. Discarded wings or piles of “sawdust” may indicate that drywood termites were present in the past or are currently present.

Q: I see none of these signs. Is my home free of termites? A: Unfortunately, no. Termites remain hidden on the inside of the wood as they do damage. For that reason they’re very hard to detect.

Q: What’s the difference between flying ants and swarming termites? A: If you can catch one, look at them up close. You’ll notice that termites have straight antennae, where ant antennae are bent. Another difference is that ants have a narrow waist and termites have a thick waist.

Q: Aren’t termites generally found in older buildings? A: The only preference termites have is for wood. They don’t care where it is. They’ve even been found in recently completed new construction. Termites have no preference for older buildings.

Q: I’ve heard that termites aren’t much of a problem up north. Is that true? A: It is true that termites are more common in the southern two-thirds of the U.S., but many cities in the north are considered moderately to heavily infested by termites. Termites inhabit every state except Alaska. There are more termites in Florida than in most other states.

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