By Bruce Ryser, Market Specialist
Causing billions of dollars in damage and treatment costs each year, subterranean termites are a serious pest management problem. Here are the facts:
• Some colonies can contain as many as 1 million or more members.
• Termites normally expand colonies by swarming.
• Native subterranean termites usually swarm during the day following rainfall.
• Mud shelter tubes are an indication of infestation.
• Termites live in colonies where labor is divided among a caste system, including workers, reproductives and soldiers.
• Workers build shelter tubes and gather food, as well as feed soldiers and reproductives. Soldiers simply defend the colony.
• Primary reproductives are winged adults, best known as swarmers, which normally emerge from colonies in the spring. Male (king) and female (queen) pair up, lose their wings and excavate a chamber in the soil. The queen lays a small batch of eggs that she rears, so colonies initially start out very small.
• They usually nest in the soil to obtain moisture, and easily attack wood in contact with the ground. But termites can reach wood not directly in contact with the ground by building mud shelter tubes to protect themselves from drying out in the sun or air.
• Shelter tubes usually enter a structure through expansion joints and cracks in concrete slabs or where utilities enter the house.