Termites can strike fear in the heart of any homeowner. These destructive pests never stop eating. Each year, they cause $5 billion in damage in the United States every year, and the average cost of termite treatment and repairs totals more than $8,000.
There are more than 2,000 species of termites worldwide, but only 50 are found in the United States. Termites live in every state except Alaska, and they thrive in warm climates, meaning they’re most active in the South, Southeast, West and Southwest.
For American homeowners there are three primary species of termites that pose a threat to homes and property: subterranean, Formosan subterranean and drywood. Termite behavior varies by species as well as geographical and regional location. Knowing where these termites live in and around your house can help you stay vigilant and may help prevent further damage if an infestation is present.
Soil or Not?
The key distinguishing factor between subterranean(including Formosan) and drywood termites is their need to main contact with the soil. Subterranean species live underground and access sources of wood through a series of termite tunnels, also called mud tubes. These tubes are constructed of soil and wood and are frequently found near nests and homes. There are three primary types of mud tubes that indicate the presence of termites:
- Working tubes - Termites use these tubes to move between their underground colonies and their food sources.
- Exploratory tubes – Termite build these tubes as they randomly forage for a food source. If they do not find a source, they may abandon these tubes. Some of these tubes will become working tubes when a good food source is found.
- Drop tubes – Drop tubes are tubes that come down from the food source in an effort by the termites to reconnect or find a shorter path back to their colony in the soil. In many cases, the food source is too far from the soil to make the connection so the drop tube is abandoned.
Unlike subterranean termites, drywood termites do not need soil to survive and are able to get all the water they need from the wood they are living in. They are commonly found in dry climates from Florida to California, and they live in dry wood above ground level, where they tunnel through the wood and eat across the grain.
Once subterranean or drywood termites access your home, they can damage your walls. Subterranean termites create mud tubes on or near your walls are one sign that you have a termite problem. Other signs of subterranean and drywood termites in walls include paint blisters, damaged wood paneling or trim, hollow-sounding wood and pinholes.
Termites eat most substances containing cellulose, and surprisingly, this includes the paper facings on most drywall, which means walls and ceilings in your home may be damaged by an infestation.
Any area of your house that provides wood, warmth and moisture is an ideal environment for termites to thrive. Bathrooms have wood framing in the walls and ceilings, and they have a constant source of moisture. Termites may be found behind walls in the bathroom, but they may also be found in less obvious places, like behind tile and bathtubs.
Because they can survive without soil or moisture, drywood termites may be found in some places in your home where subterranean termites may not live. They can infest virtually any wooden item in your home, including furniture (especially antiques), built-in cabinets, door and window frames, baseboards, exposed beams and wood paneling.
One of the most obvious signs of a drywood termite infestation is droppings, or frass. These are small wooden, hexagonal pellets that the termites dispose of through kick-holes in the wood when they accumulate. If termites are present, you will likely see droppings on or under furniture, inside drawers or on horizontal surfaces.
What You Should Do
Termites are a serious problem, so if you notice any of the signs listed above and think you might have an infestation, it’s best to contact the professionals. Different species of termites respond to different treatments, and pest control specialists will know which treatment methods are most effective for your situation. Call to schedule your initial inspection today.