Termites are wood-destroying organisms that can be found in areas containing wood including homes, trees, and furniture (inside and outside of the home). Although there are many types of organisms that destroy wood in Virginia including carpenter ants, carpenter bees, powderpost beetles, termites, and more, most homeowners fear termites.
In Northern Virginia and the surrounding area, we deal with subterranean termites. They live off moisture in dirt and seek out wood structures to eat, mate, and create colonies usually in early spring.
Subterranean termites include 3 distinct types, or castes, with physical differences including reproductive, workers and soldiers. The queen is the largest termite and integral to the colony’s growth with the other reproductive including the king and alates (aka swarmers). Swarmers have two pairs of smoky, clear wings that are equal in length and width. These wings snap off easily and can often be found on window sills and near other natural light that are sources sought by swarming termites as they attempt to expand the colony.
Soldiers and workers do not have wings and are distinguished by their cream colored bodies. Soldiers have rectangular heads and their bodies are flat and wide.
Common characteristics of colonies include:
- Build mud tunnels made of wood and soil – these help termites travel while helping maintain a cool climate.
- Soft wood – this will sound hollow when tapped, and can also show signs via bubbling of paint.
- Small piles of feces – this resembles saw dust.
- Discarded wings – near doors or on window sills.
Recommended tips for handling termites:
- Avoid/prevent water as termites are attracted to moisture.
- Install dehumidifier in crawl spaces to control humidity and moisture level.
- Never bury wood scraps or waste lumber in your yard (keep wood piles at least 10’ away).
- Seal cracks and crevice in your home’s foundation (ex: quikrete or concrete sealant).
- Repair leaky plumbing fixtures.
- Contact a pest control professional.