Identification

Subterranean Termites live in colonies comprised of three castes: a king and queen, workers and soldiers. The king and queen are about a quarter of an inch long and perform the reproductive functions of the colony. They are often confused with winged or “flying” ants because of their black bodies and transparent wings. However, the antennae of termites are straight with bare, bead-like segments, while those of ants are elbowed. Also, termites have wings that are equal in length with many fine veins, while ants have two pair of transparent wings that are unequal in length with few veins. Also, ants are distinguished by a dark patch along the outer margin of the front wing.

Workers are about three sixteenths of an inch long, light-colored, and wingless. They carry on all aspects of colony maintenance from gathering food, feeding the other castes, grooming the queen, and making tunnels. Soldiers, on the other hand, have a large, cream-colored head with black jaws and a grayish, white body. They are approximately a quarter of an inch long and nearly half their length is comprised of the head and jaws, which are used to defend the colony. Also, both workers and soldiers are blind.

Education

A social insect, Sub-Termites live in colonies that have a few thousand to sometimes millions of individuals. The mass presence of swarming reproductives is usually the first indication of a Sub-Termite infestation. During swarming season, mature Sub-Termites will emerge from their colonies and take flight in search of a partner. Once a king and queen pair off, they lose their wings and construct an appropriate cavity three to 75 feet deep in the soil where they will build a new colony.

Within a day of excavating their new home, the king and queen will mate and produce four to 20 eggs that will hatch in about two months. The newly emerged nymphs undergo a gradual metamorphosis during a five-month period, molting several times to become a worker or soldier. Swarmers and supplementary reproducing termites, however, are not produced before the third or fourth year.

Rather than build discreet nests, Sub-Termites construct multiple and scattered nurseries where reproductives are often found together in piles of eggs and nymphs. These nurseries may be found in buried stumps, logs, dead roots, or pieces of lumber left in the backfill. Also, Sub-Termite nursery areas located under sub-floors or concrete slabs near furnaces, water heaters, or other sources of heat can remain active during the winter. Sub-Termites most commonly live in the soil where they can avoid temperature extremes and obtain the moisture essential to their existence.

Sub-termites preferably feed on decayed wood rather than sound wood. Their digestive tracts contain microorganisms that help convert the cellulose found in wood into usable food. They can also consume approximately two to three percent of their body weight per day.

In addition to wood structures, Sub-Termites will attack untreated fence posts and attached boards, utility poles, and other food sources including cardboard, paper, and fiberboard in, on, or close to the ground. If uncontrolled, their feeding frenzy will eventually weaken and cause the structure of the home to collapse. This is cause for concern not only from the standpoint of safety, but also undermines the value of the home. Homeowners can also expect to accrue large costs associated with preventing further structural damage and replacing the damaged wood.

The most frequent type of infestation is in buildings constructed near or on preexisting nests. Cement slab foundations are ineffective as deterrents since Sub-Termites can find other means of entry through frost cracks, cold joints between slab and foundation walls, and holes around plumbing areas.

Where a wood source is not in contact with the soil, workers will build earthen “shelter tubes” over concrete foundation walls or cracks in concrete through which they can travel to and from the food source and soil moisture. Occasionally the tubes can be built downward form a wood source to the ground. The tubes also provide protection from predators, especially ants, as they are mortal enemies of termites.

Customer Preparation

Inside:

  • Remove shrubbery or other materials that might block air flow in vents
  • Clear lumber, firewood, sawdust, and other woody materials from crawlspaces and basements
  • Ensure crawlspaces are accessible, well-ventilated, and high enough to allow working space. Insufficient clearance makes it easier for Sub-Termites to construct shelter tubes from soil to wood

Outside (Varies from house to house; may need to do one or all of the following):

  • Clear building sites of stumps, roots, or other woody materials that remain beneath or adjacent to the building
  • Remove all stakes, forms (under concrete steps, cement slabs, and pads), and building debris from beneath and adjacent to buildings. Do not backfill the debris
  • Keep the site well drained so that moisture is not retained under or adjacent to a building. Downspouts should carry water away from the building
  • Ensure stair supports, posts, or other wood materials are not projecting through concrete floors or foundations
  • Foundations should be of concrete or masonry, and soil debris kept clear of wood resting on it. Ensure foundation wall is high enough to allow sufficient top soil placement and still leaves at least 15-20cm of clearance between the bottom of siding or stucco and the ground
  • Seal slabs, concrete floors, and foundation joints against moisture and regularly inspect for cracks, which should be immediately sealed.
  • Fences, railings, wooden planters, wooden sidewalks, stumps or trees, and other outdoor structures should be well separated from houses or other buildings. Metal flashing can be installed to prevent the passage of termites
  • Do not stack firewood next to buildings, especially if siding is wood