Subterranean termites mainly live underground or in protected areas such as galleries in wood. There is always at least one queen and many more “secondary reproductives” are usually present. Most people never see a queen, but may have seen swarmers or workers. The total number of individuals in a colony of subterranean termites may total more than a million. Imagine a million insects attacking your house!
Workers are small white insects. They are blind and very sensitive to heat, cold, and dry air. This sensitivity is why they build shelter tubes or “mud tubes.” In fact, they need to maintain an atmosphere of nearly 100% humidity. Sometimes finding shelter tubes, a little smaller diameter than a pencil, is the first sign of a termite infestation. Workers are just that…the workers of the colony. They find new food sources (vegetation or wood containing cellulose). Upon finding a food source, the termites put down a chemical signal or pheromone to lead the other workers to the feeding site.
Termits do not “attack” your house or building. They forage and find food sources, commonly in moist areas. Termites do a very good job of breaking down cellulose in the soil. When they discover your house or other buildings, they become a real pest and that is where ProTech Termite and Pest Control comes in. In most areas of the country, depending on the species, healthy subterranean termite colonies will “swarm” or send out winged reproductive termites to start new colonies in the spring. The swarmers are darker in color, some species almost black, and have four wings. One favorite question is how to tell termites from ants. First, ants generally do not swarm the same time as termites, but it can happen.
The following is a description to how to tell termites from ants: 1) Termites swarm at very limited times of the year while ants swarm throughout the year depending on species. 2) The body of the termite swarmer is about 3/8” long while the body of an ant will vary in size depending on the species. 3) Termites have four wings of equal size while ants have four wings; two smaller and two larger. 4) Termites have a straight waist while ants have a pinched waist. 5) Termites have straight antennae while ants have elbowed antennae. And 6) Termites are clumsy fliers while ants are good fliers.
Termites in Mulch
Termites feed on wood or other cellulose material. Most kinds of mulch are mainly or totally made of chopped or shredded wood, which is excellent termite food. So it’s only natural that termites are often found in mulch. The moisture, food source, and protection within the mulch make ideal conditions for the survival of termites. Hardwood bark seems to be less attractive than softer woods such as pine nuggets. Termites in mulch alone does not mean that the structure is infested or that any previous termite treatment has failed. Termites in mulch tells us that the termites are near the structure and you might want to have a treatment. It is usually not an emergency, but finding live termites in mulch should be viewed as an early warning and that termites may infest the structure if it is not protected. When homeowners find termites in mulch ProTech Termite and Pest Control should be called to see if termites are in or on the structure, and to offer a plan and cost to correct or prevent termite infestation.