Did you know that termite colonies eat 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for 365 days a year? What do termites eat? That’s right, they eat wood! Once they gain access inside your home, there is a veritable buffet of wood material to feed on including the studs in the wall, the roof beams in the attic, your entry doors, and your wood floors, not to mention all the baseboards, cabinets and furniture. Each year, termites cause more than $5 billion dollars in property damage. That is more than all natural disasters combined. Did you know that termite damage in your home is not covered by your Homeowner’s Insurance?
There are so many termites on the planet that the total weight of all the termites weigh more than the total weight of all the people in the world. That’s a lot of termites! There are 4 main species that we encounter. There are Eastern Subterranean termites, Formosan termites and Asian termites, which all travel through the soil to find wood. Then there are Drywood termites that travel through the air. They are all extremely prevalent in South Florida because of our warm temperatures and high humidity.
The key to minimizing termite damage is early detection. The challenge is termites often enter homes through areas that are not visible or not easily accessible like the attic or crawl space. Here are some things to look for inside your home that would indicate you have termites.
- As Drywood termites consume wood and create galleries to travel in, they leave behind particles of wood, known as fecal pellets. As the galleries get filled with fecal pellets, the termites make a small exit hole and actually push the pellets out. They will begin to collect on your floor, perhaps by the baseboard or beneath furniture. The pellets will start to form a pile and are usually a light tan to medium brown in color. Similar in size to particles of sand.
- Eastern subterranean, Formosan and Asian termites need to have moisture from the soil to travel above ground. They build tunnels using moist soil as they start to venture into your home. These tunnels are called mud tubes. They branch off each other and look like veins. Look for them at the base of the home’s exterior walls, under your home if you have a crawl space and especially in the kitchen, bathroom or attic if you have had a leak or any water damage.
- All termite colonies will reach a stage of development where they create winged reproductives, better known as “termite swarmers”. The sole purpose of these swarmers is to relocate and start a new colony. Swarmers will instinctively fly toward a light and they also lose their wings. Look for clear wings that are about ½” in length. Since they swarm to the light, check for wings near the television, lamps or on window sills. We are approaching termite swarming season which starts around Spring when temperatures and humidity rise.
There are some things you can do to make your home a little less attractive to termites. Check the exterior walls to make sure the stucco does not go below grade (below the mulch, soil or turf). Do not store piles of wood up against the home and direct the gutter drainage spouts several feet away from the home to avoid flooding near the foundation. Inspect all the fascia/soffit screens to ensure they are intact.
Lastly, I would like to review some termite control/prevention options. If you discover Dry wood termites, you can spot treat a small target area if extremely confined or if the colony is more widespread, then tent fumigation is an effective and thorough treatment to eliminate termites from the home. If you detect Eastern subterranean, Formosan or Asian termites, you may have to treat the foundation by drilling through the slab or trenching around the exterior of the homes foundation. There is a green preventive option to install a termite detection system in the ground that will surround your home and will eliminate a subterranean termite colony before they reach your home.