Identifying and Treating a Subterranean Termite Infestation

several carpenter subterranean termites on wood

Understanding termite infestations, behavior, and the developmental aging process that incorporates both the evolution of these pesky critters, and their wreaking havoc on your home can be limited – especially if you do not have prior knowledge or experience. A pest control strategy can only be effectively measured and applied once it’s been verified that termites are active, what type, the locations, and to what capacity.

Some of the most common trends and behaviors of Subterranean termite infestations are the building of tunnels – or “tubes” – three to be exact, identified as working, exploratory, and “drop-tubes”. Each of these tunnels are typically developed through the combination of fecal matter, saliva, and mud collected and applied by the termites throughout the interior and or exterior infrastructures of your home. The purpose of these tubes is to transport the food (wood from your home) to their nests (the caves or tunnels in the ground) through an efficient channel or super ant-like “highway”. Understanding this concept and dynamic of termite building is essential to termite control initiatives.

A strong indicator that there is current subterranean termite activity within or on the outside of your home can be demonstrated in the obviously operational existence, and current visual activities of termites such as digging, tunnels, and other common wood destruction throughout or around your home.

With the simple scrape of a box-cutter or icepick one can expose these seemingly “hollow” work-tubes and determine both whether or not termites are currently active in these locations, as well as to what capacity. In some instances however, it can be difficult, as termites rely on the food accessibility and desirability of wood throughout various locations of your home, including hard to reach crawl places or others unknown to you and only accessible by a seasoned pest control professional.

The average subterranean termite is ¼” long, while its superiors the reproductive King and Queens are typically half an inch in diameter. Worker termites are usually of a white color, and do not have wings. The King and Queen termites on the other hand are usually black or brown in color.

Observing “swarmer’s” or (flying) worker termites and even reproductive king or queens around the wooded infrastructure of your home outside does not necessarily indicate that termite control is necessary – they could just be ‘prospecting’ the area. Since the actual development of tubes, breeding, and effectively feeding on wood by termites can be so slow and take years to have an obvious impact, detecting them earlier on will undoubtedly lead to the most effective pest control measures.

Not all subterranean termites are created equally, so a handful of considerations should be in place before making any final judgement calls, or determining whether or not to call for a pest control professional.

Finding tunnels and rows of mud, feces, and other signs of tube-building such as tunnels or weak wooden infrastructure with holes in them throughout your home, as well as fecal matter inside likely indicates the need for termite control. If the tunnels or “tubes” crumble easily, and no termites are to be actively observed inside, it is possible that they have moved on, died off, or are perhaps located in other places throughout or outside of your home.

Image credit: Michael Pettigrew