Western subterranean termites are found along the pacific coast
to western Mexico and east into Idaho and Nevada. Termites are social
insects, which live in large colonies. There are three castes: reproductives,
workers, and soldiers. Termite antennae have bead-like segments.
The winged reproductives (swarmers) have a pair of long wings (equal
in size) attached to the last two thoracic segments. The wings are
broken off after swarming. The abdomen is broadly joined at the
thorax unlike the narrow abdominal attachment found on ants.
The winged reproductives
are dark brown to almost black and about 3/8-inch long. The wings
are brownish gray with a few hairs and two dark veins on the leading
edge. They have a very small pore (i.e., fontanelle) on their heads.
The soldiers are wingless with white bodies, rectangular yellow-brown
heads that are two times longer than their width, and large mandibles,
which lack teeth.
Biology: Subterranean termite colonies usually are located in the
soil from which the workers build mud tubes to structural wood where
they then feed. Subterranean termite colonies are always connected
to the soil and/or close to a moisture source.
cellulose in wood with the aid of special organisms within their
digestive system. The workers prefer to feed on fungus-infected
wood but readily feed on undamaged wood as well. The foraging workers
feed immature workers, reproductives, and soldiers with food materials
from their mouths and anuses.
A mature queen
produces 5,000 to 10,000 eggs per year. An average colony consists
of 60,000 to 250,000 individuals but colonies numbering in the millions
are possible. A queen might live for up to 30 years and workers
as long as five years.
Q: If treated,
how long will it last?
A: Studies conducted by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture suggest that
all of the registered termiticides should control termites for at
least five years if they are applied at label concentrations and
rates. The actual length of control, for a given structure, will
depend on such factors as thoroughness of the application, the prevailing
environmental conditions, and density of termites in the area. If
termites continue to be present the year following treatment, it's
probably not from degradation of the termiticide -- but because
termites have found an untreated gap in the chemical barrier.
Q: Will the
termite chemical harm my family or pets?
A: Termiticides are tested extensively for adverse effects on health.
Before a product can be used, numerous studies must be conducted
by the manufacturer and independently evaluated by the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency. Based on the current body of research, these
registered termiticides present no significant hazard to humans,
pets or the environment when applied according to label directions.
In spite of the negligible health risk from a termite treatment,
people with lingering
concerns should consult their physician.
entire house need to be treated -- or can I just do a "spot
treatment" in areas where I see termites?
A: Subterranean termite colonies can be very large; a single colony
may contain a million or more individuals. Termite workers (the
life stage doing the damage) can also forage considerable distances
in some cases, the entire length of a football field. This means
that the termite colony or colonies responsible for damage may actually
be in a neighbor's yard, rather than beneath the house which is
infested. For these reasons, localized or "spot" treatments
are generally a gamble, except in cases of retreatment. Most reputable
pest control firms will not guarantee or offer a limited guarantees
for spot treatments, since it is likely that termites will eventually
find other points of entry into the structure.
Subterranean termite infestations may go unnoticed until the winged
reproductives "swarm" from or inside the structure. The
presence of swarmers is a good sign that a well-established colony
is in the house and/or its immediate vicinity. Other evidence of
infestation is wood damage, i.e., the spring, or soft, wood is eaten
out leaving paper-thin walls between the galleries, and the presence
of mud tubes. Control of subterranean termites begins with:
- A thorough
inspection to determine the extent of the infestation
- It is necessary
to sound structural timbers with a screwdriver or other sharp
instrument in order to find galleries
of a plan of control
- Provide a
barrier between the colony in the soil and the wood in the structure
to be protected.
- Remove scrap
wood, firewood, and any other wood materials that are in contact
with the soil.
- Fix any Water
around the structure should be designed so that there is no accumulation
of water near the foundation.
Treatment with Tim-Bor® (disodium octaborate tetrahydrate)
a product made by U.S. Borax, kills the termites and protects treated
wood from attack by making wood members indigestible to termites.
Tim-Bor penetrates into the wood by vapor pressure and moisture.
Several applications ( up to maximum of 4) to exposed unfinished
wood members will provide layers of protection.