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How do I know if I Have Termites? Quick FAQs for Nipomo Residents

By Kevin O'Connor on Jan 07, 2020 at 01:00 PM in Nipomo Pest Control
Reproductive Termites? Quick FAQs for Nipomo Residents-1

Chances are good that at some point you'll have to deal with termites if you own or rent any living space in Nipomo that involves wood as part of its construction. Getting to know and understand these pests a little better can help you avoid serious damage to your structure.

We've compiled a list of FAQs about termites taken from an article by the scientists at the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California. Take a look at what we think might be your most pressing questions answers, and if you're interested in reading more, check out Subterranean and Other Termites on their website.

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Do Termites Confer Any Ecological Benefits?

YES!!!! In California forests, woodlands, and deserts termites commonly feed on felled trees and stumps, grasses, bushes, or other pieces of dead or decaying wood. Termites can be highly beneficial as they degrade woody debris, return nutrients to the soil, and provide an energy-rich food source to a variety of predators. Their tunneling efforts help to ensure that soils are porous, contain nutrients, and are healthy enough to support plant growth. Termites rarely injure or kill trees.

However, a minority of termite species can be very destructive to wood in buildings, including furniture and many other wood-based products. Each year thousands of housing units in California require treatment for the control of these insects.

What are the Different Kinds of Termites in Nipomo?

Termite pests in Nipomo include subterranean, drywood, and dampwood species:

  • Dampwood termites derive their name from the fact that they live in moist wood, especially in stumps and fallen trees in forests.
  • Drywood termites are common and can survive in very dry conditions, even in dead wood in deserts and do not require much moisture or contact with soil.
  • Subterranean termites are very abundant in most parts of California, even at elevations above 8,000 feet, and live and breed in soil, sometimes many feet below the soil surface.

Dampwood Termites

Dampwood termites are common throughout the state; however, due to high moisture requirements, they are most often found in cool, humid areas along the coast. They typically infest decayed wood that remains moist either through contact with the soil or exposure to a water leak. Dampwood termites create large, open galleries within the wood where they live and feed. Their presence is significant as an indicator of a moisture problem or wood decay in wooden structures.

Drywood Termites

In California, with one exception, all species of drywood termites infest dry, sound wood—including structural lumber, dead limbs on trees, utility poles, decks, fences, lumber in storage, and furniture. From this infested wood, winged reproductives periodically swarm to infest additional nearby wood. Drywood termites are most prevalent in southern California, including the desert areas, but also occur along most coastal regions and in the Central Valley. Nests of most species remain entirely above ground and do not connect to the soil.

Similar to dampwood termites, feeding by drywood termites can cut across the grain of wood leaving a characteristic pattern of chambers and tunnels, some of which are filled with fecal pellets. Drywood termites often expel their fecal pellets through surface openings and they can accumulate on horizontal surfaces below the openings. These fecal pellets, which are distinctive in appearance with six longitudinal flattened sides, may be the first clue to their presence. For further information on drywood termite biology and management see Pest Note: Drywood Termites.

Subterranean Termites

Subterranean termites are common throughout California and can be found infesting fallen trees, stumps, or other dead wood in contact with the soil in the forest, landscape, or structural lumber in our houses. The species of economic importance are within the genera Reticulitermes, Heterotermes, and Coptotermes. Other genera of subterranean termites found in California are mostly restricted to the desert areas in the southeastern corner of the state and are generally not important pests.

The most common subterranean termites, Reticulitermes, can be encountered in nearly all regions of the state, from the sand dunes of the coast to the upper elevations of the mountain ranges and even in some of the desert areas. The species of Reticulitermes are the most destructive termites found in California. They are small in size compared to dampwood and drywood termites, but mature colonies can contain hundreds of thousands of individuals.

Reproductive winged forms of subterranean termites are dark brown to brownish-black with brownish-gray wings. On warm, sunny days following fall or spring rains, swarms of reproductives may be seen emerging en masse from their underground nests. Soldiers are wingless with light caramel-colored bodies and long, narrow amber-colored heads with no eyes. Workers are slightly smaller than reproductives, wingless, and have a shorter head than soldiers; their color is similar to that of soldiers.

In the Sonoran Desert of southeastern California, Heterotermes aureus is the most destructive species of subterranean termites. This species has light-brown winged forms that fly in the early evening and are attracted to lights. Another destructive species in this group, the Formosan subterranean termite, Coptotermes formosanus, is native to China but now established in California, thus far restricted to a small area near San Diego. Unlike the native Reticulitermes but similar to Heterotermes, Formosan subterranean termites swarm at dusk and are attracted to lights.

What Signs of Termite Infestation Should I Look For?

Reproductive Termites? Quick FAQs for Nipomo Residents-2

Signs of a subterranean termite infestation include swarms of winged reproductives in the spring, summer, or fall, the presence of shelter tubes, and evidence of tunneling in wood. Shelter tubes (sometimes called mud tubes) are the most commonly seen evidence of a subterranean termite infestation. These earth-hardened tubes are made by workers using saliva mixed with soil and bits of wood or even drywall. There are four types of tubes:

  • working tubes are constructed from the nest in the soil to wooden structures and they may travel up concrete or stone foundations
  • exploratory and migratory tubes arise from the soil but do not connect to wood structures
  • drop tubes extend from wooden structures back to the soil
  • swarm tubes for new and swarming reproductive kings and queens to emerge from and fly away during swarm season.

If you break termite tubes open, you may see live workers and soldiers running through the tubes. The darkening or blistering of structural wood members is another possible indication of an infestation; wood in damaged areas is typically thin at the surface and easily punctured with a knife or screwdriver. Finding live termites foraging within wood is a sure sign of an active infestation.

The excavations that termites make in wood are hollow, completely enclosed, more or less longitudinal cavities. Some species deposit light-brown excrement within cavities. Feeding in wood by subterranean termites generally follows the grain of wood; these species attack the softer springwood and leave the harder, less digestible summerwood. Many times this distinctive pattern of wood damage alone can be used to positively distinguish subterranean termite activity from that of other species.

What is the Best Way to Get Rid of Termites?

Educate Yourself

It is unlikely that homeowners will be able to execute subterranean termite control on their own. However, it is important for homeowners to have some familiarity with inspection procedures, reduction of conducive conditions, and treatment strategies. Successful termite management requires special skills and knowledge, including a working knowledge of building construction. An understanding of termite biology and identification can help a homeowner understand and select a suitable method of control. Of course, homeowners can replace termite damaged wood and correct conditions conducive to subterranean termite infestation on their own; however, applications of registered pesticides are highly regulated and require a licensed pest control professional to carry out the inspection and control program.

Multiple colonies of the same termite species or several different species can infest a building. A professional inspection and an integrated approach to control are required. A combination of methods, such as habitat modification, elimination of excess moisture, removal of infested wood from the structure, exclusion of termites from the building by physical and/or chemical means, and the use of chemical methods to destroy existing colonies will probably be necessary.

Schedule Regular Inspections

An inspection by a licensed pest management professional is required before any treatments can be performed. Most homeowners will be unaware that a subterranean termite problem exists until a significant finding occurs. For instance, an infestation is discovered during an inspection in a real estate transaction, damaged wood is uncovered during a room remodel, a shelter tube appears on an interior or exterior wall, or the sudden appearance of thousands of flying insects in a bathroom or kitchen. These situations are not unusual due to the cryptic and secretive life habits of subterranean termites hidden behind walls or buried away in crawlspaces and under slab foundations.

Homes that have had a history of subterranean termite problems can be especially vulnerable to reinfestation and should be inspected by a professional every several years. California, like most states, has nonprofit associations that provide contact information for reputable pest control professionals in your area.

Interested in Learning More About Termites?

Read the Full Article: Subterranean and Other Termites

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