Damaged floors, sagging walls, traces of dust around wooden items, piles of small wings, difficult to open windows or doors, if you are familiar with any of the above damages, know that your house is under the vicious attack of tiny bugs called termites. Termites are small, pale and soft bodied insects which are predominantly found in tropical regions. A termite has a thick waist and straight antennae. Termites typically feed on wood and dead parts of trees. Their mouth is well capable of tearing woody material. This causes huge damage to property including the foundations of a house, furniture, shelves and even books. Infact, when given the opportunity, termites can even damage leather, bone, and plastic cables. Termites are called silent destroyers because they secretly damage their hosts without showing any immediate signs of damage. Often called white ants, termites live in colonies consisting of hundreds or even thousands of individuals.
Termites are broadly divided into three types:-
Drywood termites are long, narrow, oval and light brown in colour. They have six legs, wings and antennae. As the name implies, drywood termites are found in dry wood which is above the ground level. They build colonies in wooden items, furniture, mouldings, doors and window frames, etc. These termites tunnel their way across the wood's grain which tends to weaken the internal structure of the wood and it eventually falls. They live deep inside wood except during periods when they swarm or when repair work is being done on an infested home. They do not require moisture as they can create moisture from dry wood on their own. They spend their entire lifetime in dry wood which makes them very difficult to get detected. Drywood termites usually enter homes at the time of spring or fall in swarms. An existing colony sends out winged reproductive males and females. These mating termites result in new young termites which then start establishing new colonies.
Drywood termites live within their food, i.e., wood, so they eliminate their faecal pellets through small holes made in the wood. There are piles of these pellets accumulated around these holes, which eventually becomes a reason for their detection.
Drywood termites usually feed on dead trees, branches and wooden items. Usually when a new construction begins, a termite attack may take place. They enter structures through gaps and vents, natural cracks, window and door frames. However they can even penetrate flat wood surfaces. A drywood termite attack may even cause large buildings to lean or fall.
The very first sign of drywood termite infestation is small piles of fecal pellets which surround their habitats. Another sign is the presence of alates near window sills and lights. One more sign of their infestation is the presence of their discarded winds near window sills or caught up in cobwebs
Dampwood termites are normally larger in size than other termite species. They have a large head and a narrow brownish body. They have six legs, wings and antennae. Dampwood termites feed on very moist wood. Hence they are usually found in damp and deteriorating wood found on the ground. Infact any condition which leads to moisture build-up in wood like leaky plumbing or poor gutters, welcomes dampwood termites. They make a numb of chambers or galleries which are connected by smooth tunnels. Dampwood termites are hard to spot because they usually hide themselves to prevent moisture loss. Their fecal pellets are found in their infested structures or around the sides of the galleries, forming clumps due to presence of moisture. Dampwood termites may also affect dry wood which is adjacent to damp wood.
The damage caused by dampwood termites is than that of drywood termites. It is usually not noticed because the wood that they damage looks clean and smooth. They damage the wood which is in contact with soil, or exposed to roof leaks and rainfall. But once the source of moisture is removed, they decline.
Small swarms of flying termites and fecal pellets are a proof of dampwood termite infestation. They leave behind small mounds of fecal pellets, which are moist and ill-defined.
The damage caused by subterranean termites appears similar to water damage. Some signs of the damage are buckling wood, swollen floors, puffed ceilings, and visible mazes on walls and furniture. The worst affected areas give away a pungent smell.
The first and the most obvious sign of subterranean termite infestation is the presence of mud tubes. These mud tubes are flattened and muddy looking about the width of a pencil. Another sign of their being is the presence of dark areas or blisters in wooden floors. The damaged wood sounds hollow and can be easily broken into galleries