Termite Life Cycle
Late spring and early summer is swarming season for termites in Florida. It’s a time when homeowners are most likely to discover signs of infestation, which typically means finding discarded wings or intact specimens of these invasive insects. Read on to learn what type of termites may have disrupted your serenity and what they are capable of, but don’t worry; Patrick Exterminating can make them go away for good with proper termite treatment and ongoing termite protection.
Florida is relatively rich in termite species diversity compared to the rest of mainland U.S. Twenty-one termite species were recorded in Florida and among them at least six established were invasive species (more than any other states), mostly due to the sub-tropical climate of Florida and high human activity.
Among all termite species present in Florida, only a handful of species are actually considered pests. Such termites were categorized in different types of termites, according to their lifestyle and habitat. These include Subterranean Termites and Drywood Termites which are responsible to the majority of damage to Florida Homes.
Drywood termites were once called powderpost termites because of the telltale heaps of fecal pellets that accumulate beneath infested wood. While known to commonly infest structures, drywood termites were also known at one time known as the “furniture termite” thanks to the frequency with which colonies were found in pieces of furniture. Drywood termites are endemic to all of peninsular Florida, from St. Johns County south.
The head and body are dull, pale brown. The width of the head is less than 1 mm, and the antennae are much longer than the head, with 10 to 14 (usually 11 or 12) segments. The wings have three to four sclerotized (hardened and thickened) veins visible in the third of the wing closest to the body. The forewings also have a median vein that curves upward to the sclerotized veins about midwing. The wings are long, with the tip of the abdomen often reaching only about halfway down the length of the wing.
Drywood termite colonies develop slowly. The entire colony may take five years or more to mature. Limited space and resources prevent them from even attempting the rapid growth of subterranean colonies. Even with optimal resources, the growth rate of drywood colonies is slow due to their low inherent reproductive rate. Drywood termites’ legs are actually shorter than subterranean termites’ legs, as well, and they literally move slower as a result. Also, in their preferred habitat, water is a precious resource in limited supply at certain times of the year. Drywood termites have several adaptations for conserving as much water as possible. Three pairs of rectal glands compress their feces to remove and retain all water possible before waste excretion. This results in hexagonal fecal pellets (frass). These six-sided pellets, usually found in small piles, are indicative of drywood termite infestation. The pellets are small and feel like grains of coarse sand when rubbed between the fingers.
External signs of damage are elusive with drywood termites. Often, the only obvious signs of infestation are little mounds of fecal pellets building up underneath the infested wood or the appearance of “kick-out” holes in the surface of the wood. Drywood termites make tiny holes in the surface of the wood that allow them to expel their fecal pellets. Some holes also may be closed off with a temporary paperlike substance. These holes are usually very difficult to see because they are very small (about 1 mm) and seldom open. The diameter of the frass piles is proportional to the height of the kick-out holes. Homeowners frequently mistake frass piles for sawdust.
The eastern subterranean termite is the most widely distributed and is found in the entire eastern region of North America as far north as Ontario, Canada, and south to Key Largo, Florida. Because of their cryptic nature, structural infestations of subterranean termites are usually not visible. Most people become aware of an infestation when annual flights of winged termites (called alates) occur in structures. After indoor flights, most alates are found dead near windows or in sinks and bath tubs – usually with their wings still attached. Swarming occurs during warm, sunny and windless afternoons usually after rain and at night.
Subterranean termites form a network of interconnected feeding sites beneath or above the soil surface. A single colony of subterranean termites may contain 100,000 – 1,000,000 termites and forage up to 150 feet in search of food. When subterranean termites search for food aboveground, they may enter a house through small cracks or joints in the foundation, or by building shelter tubes along the foundation wall. These tubes are highways connecting the underground termite population with aboveground food sources.
Because termites consume cellulose, the main structural components of plant cells, any wood material in a house is a potential food source, but they may also damage non-wood material in search of food. Termites rarely show themselves in the open, and infestations can be difficult to detect until damage becomes severe. In addition to the presence of alates and shelter tubes, wood material can be probed with a screw driver or ice pick to locate infested wood. The surface of severely damaged wood may appear blistered or peeling, as termites hollow out the wood leaving a paper-thin surface.
Termites can invade without any visible signs and all types homes are vulnerable, whether CBS, wood or concrete. At Patrick Exterminating, our preventative and corrective treatments can safeguard your home against costly repairs from both subterranean termites and drywood termites. Our service personnel are highly trained and we have over 30 years of experience ridding homes of these destructive invaders. If you find what you think might be termite wings or specimens, save them for us to identify. If termite presence is confirmed, we will help you determine the best course of action to treat your home quickly and effectively to eliminate the problem and provide future termite prevention.
Patrick Exterminating – Since 1988
Just Say No to Bugs!
226 SE Gran Park Way, Stuart, Florida 34997
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