What are Termites?

Termites are small white, tan, or black insects that can cause severe destruction to wooden buildings. Over 2,300 species of termites, most of them tropical, have been described by entomologists. In the U.S., we have only four groups of termites of economic importance: Subterranean, Dry wood, Damp wood, and Powderpost Termites. The Subterranean and Dry wood are the two types of termites that cause damage to buildings in Southern California.

Drywood Termites

Termites live inside wood and do not make contact with soil. They get the moisture they need to live from humid air. For this reason, Dry wood termites are most common along humid coastal areas.

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Subterranean Termites

Subterranean termites can cause the most damage of any termite species. These termites build distinctive tunnels, often referred to as “mud tubes,” to reach food sources and protect themselves from open air. They eat wood 24 hours a day, seven days a week, using their saw-toothed jaws to bite off small fragments of wood one piece at a time. Over time, subterranean termites can critically damage a building structure, sometimes causing a total collapse. 

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Termite Colony

Termites are social insects that live in highly organized colonies. Like many insects, termites have an egg stage, an immature stage, and an adult stage. There are three main types of adults colony members: reproductives, workers, and soldiers. When the colony is several years old and relatively large, it may produce another form of an adult termite called a “swarmer.” Swarmers are the termite’s way of sending out new kings and queens to start colonies.

Swarmers are the most visible form of termites. These termites can be confused with ants that also swarm in the spring. Swarming ants, in contrast, have elbowed antennae, a narrow waist, and front wings that are longer than the back wings. Swarming termites have straight antennae, a thick waist, and wings that are the same length.

Signs of Termites

If you see these signs in your house, you may have termites:

  • Sawdust-like piles near wood surfaces or elongated, pellet-shaped droppings.
  • Dirt or mud-like tubes or trails on outside walls, wooden beams or in
    crawl spaces. The mud tubes are typically about the diameter of a pencil, but sometimes can be thicker.
  • Darkening or blistering of wooden structural members (like windowsills). Wood in damaged areas is typically thin, may sound hollow, and easily punctured with a knife or screwdriver.
  • Swarming winged insects inside the structure, especially in the spring or fall. Swarms of termites emerging from trees stumps, woodpiles, and other locations in the yard do not necessarily mean the house is infested. However, if winged termites are seen emerging from the base of a foundation wall or adjoining porches and patios, there’s a good chance the house is also infested.
  • People often confuse winged termites with ants which may swarm at the same time of year. Termites have straight antennae, uniform waists and wings of equal size. Ants have elbowed antennae, constricted waists and forewings that are longer than the hind wings.
Schedule Your Inspection

After your home has been treated for termites, you will next need to address any repair issues. Because termites eat wood, you will need to inspect all the wood features in your home to identify how extensive the damage is.

Signs that you have termite damage

Do you think you might have a termite problem? If you find…

  • Mud tubes on your foundation
  • Piles of discarded wings
  • Distorted-looking paint or wood surfaces

…then it’s time to give us a call. We can repair your home’s structural features, including floor joists and sill plates.

Schedule Your Inspection