Bug Category: Termites & More

Subterranean Termite

Summary

Subterranean termites live in underground colonies or in moist secluded areas above ground that can contain up to 2 million members. They build distinctive “mud tubes” to gain access to food sources and to protect themselves from open air. Termite colonies are organized into castes depending on tasks — workers, soldiers and reproductives. The characteristics of a subterranean termite are dependent on the termite’s role in the colony. Cream-colored Worker subterranean termites are 1/8 to 3/8’s of an inch in length. Soldier subterranean termites are of a similar body length, but are distinguished by their powerful mandibles. Solider termites have cream-colored bodies and brown heads. Reproductive subterranean termites are approximately one inch long.

Habits

Subterranean termites live underground and build tunnels, referred to as mud tubes, to reach food sources. Like other termite species, they feed on products containing cellulose. Subterranean termites swarm in the spring — groups of reproductive termites go off to start new colonies.

Habitat

Subterranean termites need contact with the soil to survive and live underground. They can build tunnels through cracks in concrete.

Threats

Subterranean termites are by far the most destructive species. They can collapse a building entirely, meaning possible financial ruin for a homeowner. The hard, saw-toothed jaws of termites work like shears and are able to bite off extremely small fragments of wood, one piece at a time.

Prevention

Avoid water accumulation near your home’s foundation. Divert water away with properly functioning downspouts, gutters and splash blocks. Reduce humidity in crawl spaces with proper ventilation. Never bury wood scraps or waste lumber in the yard. Most importantly, eliminate wood contact with the soil. Maintain a one-inch gap between the soil and wood portions of the building.

Wood Borer

Summary

Three groups of wood-boring beetles—powderpost, deathwatch, and false powderpost invade and damage wood furniture as well as structural and decorative wood inside of buildings. The beetle larvae feed in and do most of the damage to wood, and when they reach the adult stage, they emerge through round exit holes, which they create by chewing through the wood surface. Adults of some species also bore exit holes through plaster, plastic, and even soft metals that might cover the underlying wood.

Habits

Fine sawdust or frass coming out of small holes in the wood is typically the first sign of the presence of boring beetles. The frass has a gritty feel to it as opposed to the talcum powder consistency of lyctid beetle frass. One of the challenges when dealing with a boring beetle infestation is the determination of whether the infestation is active or old. A good method is to cover a six-inch area of suspect wood with one layer of masking tape in early to late spring. If after a couple of weeks there are no small holes in the masking tape the chances are that the infestation is old and inactive.

Habitat

Genuine infestations are far more likely in areas with high humidity, such as poorly-ventilated crawl spaces. Housing with central heating/air-conditioning tends to cut the humidity of wood in the living areas to less than half of natural humidity, thus strongly reducing the likelihood of an infestation. Infested furniture should be removed from the house before the infestation spreads.

Threats

Subflooring, hardwood flooring, interior trim, joists, sills and especially beams are subject to attack. Other wood products, such as hardwood furniture, implement handles and ladders, may also be attacked. Log houses are especially vulnerable. Vacation or recreation structures are also more prone to beetle attack because they often have higher moisture content in the wood due to intermittent heating or poor ventilation. The amount of damage caused by wood-boring beetles will vary based on the species of beetle and their unique feeding and egg-laying preferences. Damage weakens structural timbers and results primarily from the feeding activities of the beetle larvae.

Carpenter Ant

Summary

Carpenter ants get their name because they excavate wood in order to build their nests. Their excavation results in smooth tunnels inside the wood. Carpenter ants range in size from one-quarter inch for a worker ant to up to as much as three-quarters inch for a queen.

Habits

All species mainly attack wood that is or has been wet and damaged by mold. Even though these ants first invade wet, decayed wood, they may soon begin building paths through dry, undamaged wood. They usually come into buildings through cracks around doors, windows, or through holes for wires. They will also crawl along overhead wires, shrubs, or tree limbs that touch the building far above the ground.

Habitat

Carpenter ants build their nests outdoors in various wood sources, including tree stumps, firewood or landscaping. They need a constant water source to survive. They will enter homes through wet, damaged wood.

Prevention

Because carpenter ants require a water source, eliminate sources of moisture or standing water. Keep tree branches and other plants cut back from the house. Sometimes pests use these branches to get into your home. Make sure that there are no cracks or little openings around the bottom of your house. Sometimes pests use these to get into your home. Make sure that firewood and building materials are not stored next to your home. Pests like to build nests in stacks of wood.

© All Rights Reserved.