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Four Of The Five Most Economically Damaging Subterranean Termite Species In The US Can Be Found In Residential Areas Of Central Texas

Dozens of termite species have been documented in the US, but only a minority are known as being destructive to structural lumber and other finished wood items. All termite species are divided into three distinct groups known as  Subterranean, drywood and dampwood termites. Species belonging to all three of these termite groups can be found in certain regions of the US, but subterranean termites are the most widespread, and therefore, the most economically damaging group of termites in the country. Five subterranean termite pest species are known as damaging pests in the US, and they account for at least 90 percent of all annual termite control costs in the US, which exceeds 3 billion dollars. Of these five species, four can be found in residential and urban areas of Waco.

Based on surveys carried out in three different counties in central Texas, colonies belonging to R. flavipes, R. virginicus, R. tibialis, R. hageni, and Coptotermes Fomanosus can be found in central Texas. These species are commonly known as eastern, dark southern, midwestern, arid land, light southern, and invasive Formosan subterranean termites, respectively. However, invasive Formosan subterranean termite colonies are very rarely spotted in the wild by field researchers in and around Waco, and the pests almost never infest homes in Mclennan County. With the exception of Formosan subterranean termites, four subterranean termite species in central Texas belong to the native Reticulitermes genus. These species cannot be discerned easily by visual inspection alone due to their morphological similarities that result from their shared evolutionary histories. However, recent genetic research studies indicate that colonies belonging to the dark and light southern termite species may be particularly abundant in central Texas, while eastern, and midwestern species are widely distributed across the state.

Have you ever noticed signs of a termite presence on your property?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Termite Signs: Mud Tube Formation

WacoPestControl

How Can A Termite Colony Survive After Losing Nearly All Of Its Worker And Soldier Inhabitants

Since termites are among the most ancient of insect groups, these small, but hardy insects have evolved many adaptations that have allowed them to survive even the harshest of environmental conditions. Subterranean, drywood and dampwood termites live in colonies that produce groups of swarming reproductive termites known as “alates.” Alates emerge from existing mature colonies during a specific time frame each year, but this time frame varies by species. The continued existence of termites on this planet depends on the ability of reproductive alates to find a mate and start a new colony as queen and king, but a typical termite swarm is comprised of thousands of alates, and only a few, or possibly none at all, will survive long enough to start a new colony. When a large number of alates, workers and soldiers from a mature colony die off, queens can produce an alternate class of reproductives in order to restore a colony’s strength and ensure its continued survival.

Generally, a subterranean termite colony contains workers, soldiers and the royal pair (queen and king). Workers are responsible for locating food sources, building nests, and grooming offspring. Soldiers exist to defend their colony, particularly the royal pair, from predatory attacks. The queen and king constantly reproduce in order to build a mature and self-sufficient colony. Queens lay around 1,000 eggs per day, and they release pheromones that determine whether larvae will mature into workers or soldiers. After a period of time lasting anywhere from one to ten years, depending on the species and the external conditions around a nest, a colony will mature to the point where queens must produce reproductive alates.

When a colony nest becomes damaged due to a predatory attack, an environmental event, or from construction projects, a large proportion of a colony’s inhabitants may die. When such events occur, a colony may not be able to survive, so in order to rapidly repopulate a nest with more workers and soldiers, queens release pheromones that prompt asexual workers and nymphs to develop into secondary and tertiary reproductives. These backup reproductives are capable of producing more workers and soldiers for a colony in need, but unlike reproductive alates, secondary and tertiary reproductives do not have wings, and therefore, cannot swarm. This makes sense, as backup reproductives are not produced for the purpose of establishing additional colonies as future queens and kings, but rather to provide much needed labor when the number of workers or soldiers within a colony becomes dangerously low. No matter how many termites are killed within an indoor colony, pest control professionals must always destroy the queen in order to fully eliminate an infestation.

Have you ever examined structural lumber that had been infested with termites?

WacoPestControl

Which Drywood Termite Species Is The Greatest Threat To Homeowners In Texas

Termite damage repairs and control costs in the United States exceeds five billion dollars per year, and subterranean termites are responsible for inflicting the greatest amount of property damage within the United States. The most damaging subterranean termite species in the country include eastern subterranean termites, dark southern subterranean termites, and light southern subterranean termites. The most voracious subterranean termite species in the country may be the non-native Formosan subterranean termite, which established an invasive population in southeast Texas and other areas along the Gulf Coast several decades ago. These termites consume wood at a much faster rate than native subterranean termite species, but this is due to the larger size of Formosan colonies, and not necessarily because Formosans are faster eaters. While drywood termite species cannot be found, or do not pose a significant economic threat in most areas of the US, they are tremendously destructive insect pests to structures in Texas. Multiple drywood termite species infest structures in Texas, but the western drywood termite species is by far the most damaging of all.

Unlike subterranean termites, which infest homes from the ground up, drywood termites do not make contact with the ground soil, and they dwell entirely within natural and finished wood sources. Drywood termite infestations are less common than subterranean infestations, as drywood termite colonies do not contain workers that forage away from their nests; instead, drywood termites infest homes as swarming alates. These reproductive swarmers emerge from nests each year during the spring or summer, which does not give these termites many opportunities to locate houses to infest. Indoor swarms indicate that a colony must be present within the structure, and these swarms are often the first sign of an active infestation. Since drywood termite colonies require a few years of maturation before reproductive swarming alates can be produced, indoor swarms indicate that the infestation has been active for quite some time. Swarming alates are poor flyers and many are not able to fly as far as ten feet upon emerging from a nest, but mediocre flyers can travel as far as 75 to 100 feet, and the strongest flyers can travel as far as 250 feet. If a male and female pair of reproductive alates land on a home’s roof, siding or on an indoor structural wood source, they will mate and start a new colony as queen and king.

Have you ever witnessed a termite swarm?

WacoPestControl

Do Drywood Termites Inflict Visible Damage To The Surface Of Wood?

It is hard to accurately estimate the number of termites currently existing on the planet, but experts claim that there exists 1,000 pounds of termites for every one person on the planet. Considering how much a tiny termite must weigh, this comes out to be a massive number of individual termites. In fact, the total number of individual termites in the world far exceeds the total number of individual ants. So how is it that ants are encountered everywhere outdoors while the vast majority of people have never seen a single termite?

Most people are aware that subterranean termites dwell below the ground, just as their name suggests. Drywood and dampwood termites dwell solely within single items of natural and finished wood sources, with the exception of reproductive termites (alates) that swarm from their enclosed colonies each year. Given their cryptic habitat, termites are one of the most difficult insect pests to detect within infested homes, as well as within the natural environment. Rather than stumbling across individual termites within a home, subterranean termite infestations become apparent when their mud tubes are found along a home’s foundation. Drywood termite infestations are more difficult to notice, as these termites do not leave a mud trail in their wake. Many drywood termite infestations first become apparent after small “exit holes” are found on the surface of wood.

Once a colony of drywood termites become mature enough to produce swarming alates, which can take years, the destructive insects create holes on the surface of lumber in order to allow swarming alates to exit the colony. These swarming alates then fly to a new territory where males and females establish a new colony as king and queen. Exit holes are also used to discard feces that would otherwise collect within the internal wood cavities where colonies are located. Therefore, drywood termite infestations are noticed either by the presence of termite feces that collect on the ground beneath infested wood items or by the presence of exit holes, or both. Unfortunately, these signs are hard to notice, as termite fecal pellets, known as “frass,” are often mistaken for sawdust piles, and termite exit holes are smaller than ⅛ of an inch. Upon closer inspection, however, frass takes the form of hexagonal shapes. Just be sure to where gloves before thoroughly examining any material suspected of being frass.

Have you ever found exit holes in wood or termite frass within your home?

WacoPestControl

Drywood Termite Infestations

The annual economic cost of drywood termite infestations within structures in the US exceeds half of one billion dollars annually. This is certainly a massive dollar amount, but if the economic cost of subterranean termite damage is added to this figure, the annual cost of termite infestations in the US reaches 5 billion dollars or more annually. This is not surprising considering that the eastern subterranean termite, and other subterranean termite species in the US are more widely distributed than drywood termite species. Also, drywood termite colonies mature at a relatively slow rate, and they contain far fewer individual termites compared to subterranean termite colonies. Therefore, when considering the United States as a whole, drywood termites are relatively insignificant pests, but this is certainly not the case in the south, especially in Texas.

Both the eastern subterranean termite and the Formosan subterranean termite are the two most damaging termite species in Texas. The third most destructive termite species in the state, the southeastern drywood termite, mainly infests structures and single wood items in the southeastern portion of the state, but drywood termites can be found throughout Texas. Other drywood termite species in the state include the western drywood termite and the west Indian powderpost termite, the latter of which is a non-native species from the Caribbean that established in invasive habitat in the southern US states several decades ago.

All three of Texas’ three major drywood termite species maintain a habitat in the southeast, but they are frequently found all over the state, as these pests often infest wood items that are transported to new areas. To illustrate how easily these pests are transported to new regions within infested wood items, it should be mentioned that a 12 year old termite colony was recently found in a couch within a Minnesota home. This couch was shipped to Minnesota from the southern states where it became infested around a decade ago. When drywood termites infest an individual wood item, the infested item is placed within a chamber where it is heated to 120 degrees for at least four hours. This period of time allows high heat to penetrate deep within wood where drywood termites are active.

Have you ever witnessed a drywood termite swarm emerge within a home?

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Termites Wreak Havoc On Historically Significant Government Buildings

Numerous timber-made structures of historical significance are still inhabited today in Beaumont. Unfortunately, Beaumont’s location in eastern Texas means that termites of several species are also abundant in the city. Multiple subterranean termite species can be found in the region, including the most economically damaging species, the eastern subterranean termite, and the highly destructive invasive species known as the Formosan subterranean termite. Naturally, the high number of termites in eastern Texas wreak havoc on Beaumont’s many historically significant structures. Several large scale restoration projects have saved many of the town’s buildings from termite destruction over the years. For example, during the spring of 2016, the Jefferson County Courthouse in Beaumont underwent renovations in order to correct extensive damage inflicted by termites. The termite damage even reached the fourth floor of the courthouse, and renovations were not easy due to the unique style of decorative wood found throughout the structure.

The Jefferson County Courthouse was built during the 1930s at a cost of one million dollars. At the time this was a relatively high price for constructing a building, but the building’s majestic black walnut paneling was considered to be worth the high price, even during the depression era. The termite infestation had plagued the courthouse for what must have been decades, as termite damage inflicted to the expensive wood paneling in the commissioners court had been apparent for years to anyone who entered the fourth floor. Heavily damaged veneer, missing panels and deep termite tracks indicated Formosan subterranean termite activity. However, most of the termite damage had been inflicted to the soft longleaf and yellow pine timber-frame below the cosmetic wood paneling. One judge who had worked in the building claimed that he often had to brush sawdust-like wood carvings off his pants on a regular basis for years due to termite workers plowing through the wood above him. Another judge who worked in the building made a similar comment, only he recalled wood shavings landing directly on his head while presiding at his bench. Despite assurances from local pest control professionals that the building had been cleared of all termites, the judges still frequently visited the location during the renovation in order to see for themselves that the termite activity had truly ceased. Local regulations required the renovation company to find wood replacements that matched the original wood as closely as possible. Although this was a tall order, the courthouse was eventually restored to its original state.

Have you ever seen heavy termite damage within a home or building?

 

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Why And How Pest Control Professionals Use Integrated Pest Management Guidelines To Combat Termite Pests

Termites consist of subterranean, drywood and dampwood species. Dampwood termites are the least destructive termite species, as these termites can only infest wood that has an exceedingly high moisture content. The Pacific northwest sees the greatest amount of dampwood termite damage in the US, and the desert dampwood termite is the only dampwood species found in Texas. Drywood termite species are not widespread in the US, but they are abundant and highly destructive in the southern states, particularly the southwest. At least 14 termite species have been documented in Texas, of these, four are drywood termites. The most economically damaging drywood termite species in Texas is the desert drywood termite. The most economically costly termites in the US, subterranean termites, account for 80 percent of all termite damage costs per year in the country. Several subterranean termite species can be found in Texas, including the eastern subterranean termite, the arid-land subterranean termites, and the invasive Formosan subterranean termite.

For decades, fumigants and soil termiticides were the only termite treatment options available, as termites were late to be added to the integrated pest management program (IPM), which sees pest infestations addressed in a number of practical and environmentally friendly ways, as opposed to relying solely on insecticides to eliminate pests. IPM also stresses preventative pest control treatment methods in order to control pests around structures. Today, termite infestations can be prevented with soil barriers, including termiticide barriers and physical barriers, like stainless steel mesh. IPM practices also aim to manage pest infestations by modifying the indoor and outdoor environment on properties to make conditions less conducive to pest populations. Many researchers had long hoped that termite pests would be addressed with the IPM guidelines, but it was not until the invasive Fomrosan subterranean termite species became a mutli-billion dollar a year pest in the US that industry professionals realized that a broader array of tactics would be necessary to control termite pests in the US. This led to termite control research that enabled pest control professionals to combat termites in more practical, eco-friendly, and more efficient ways. For example, instead of relying on insecticides, pest control researchers now know that high-moisture conditions caused by pipe leaks, clogged gutters, or faulty rainwater drainage systems often make homes more attractive to termite pests. By simply removing a moisture source, a home can be made unlivable for termites, causing the pests to abandon a structure.

Have you ever found termites in your lawn grass?

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You Won’t Believe What Caused An Elderly Woman’s Lifelong Houston Home To Become Ravaged By Termites

Termite infestations are common in all areas of Texas, particularly in the east and southeast where the invasive Formosan subterranean termite species has been expanding its habitat in urban and suburban areas for decades. Unlike most subterranean termite species, Formosan subterranean termites are able to infest trees where they may travel along branches that make contact with houses. Ever since the Formosan subterranean termite became a common pest in Texas, experts have noted the invasive termite’s ability to infest homes by using tree branches as a sort of bridge that allows them to access roofs and wood siding.

While subterranean termites usually require regular contact with soil in order to retain water, Formsosans can maintain permanent infestations within trees, and on roofs as long as sufficiently damp natural and structural-timber can be found. Many older homes in Texas contain structural-timber that has become damp over the years, which is why Formosan subterranean termites are often found infesting a home’s upper levels and/or roof without ever making ground contact. More than two years ago, an eldelry woman’s Houston home became infested after a termite-riddled branch snapped and fell through her home, smashing a hole through her roof. Now, her entire home is infested with termites, causing the structure to literally fall apart around her.

Mary Dunham moved into her Houston home 70 year ago, but due to the termite-related structural damage her home sustained a couple of years ago, the city of Houston ordered the home to be demolished. In response, Mary applied for assistance through the City of Houston’s housing program, and she qualified in May of 2018. However, help never came, and Mary’s home continued to fall apart around her. Luckily, a local news station covered Mary’s story, which prompted her to be bumped to the top of the housing assistance priority list after the mayor himself surveyed the damage. Mary’s old home will still have to be demolished, but the city has agreed to build her a brand new house. While Mary will certainly miss her lifelong home, she admits that she is eager to move into her new termite-free house.

Have you ever found a tree that had become heavily infested with termites?

 

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Termites Have Been Found In Homes And Buildings Only 4 Days After Construction 

Every year in the United States termites cause well over one billion dollars in property damage alone, far more than the economic cost of tornadoes, hurricanes and all wind storms combined. Having a termite inspection conducted in and around a home is not expensive, but having an active termite infestation eradicated from a home can be costly depending on the extent of the infestation and the degree of damage inflicted. Unfortunately, the entire eastern half of Texas is located in a geographic zone where termite activity is categorized as “very heavy,” while the western half is categorized as “heavy to moderate.” The high termite activity in eastern Texas is largely due to the well established presence of the invasive Formosans subterranean termite, which is considered the most destructive termite species in the world. Also, the Gulf Coast area is a hotbed for termite activity, as all termite species rely on copious amounts of water and high-moisture conditions in order to survive, which explains why the destructive insects thrive in southeast Texas. It is recommended that residents of east Texas have two termite inspections conducted on their property per year in order to avoid the economic burden of a termite infestation, while residents of west Texas should have one termite inspection conducted per year.

Many residents are under the impression that only old homes are vulnerable to termite attacks. While it is true that older homes are particularly vulnerable to termite attacks, termite infestations have occurred in Texas homes during construction, and it is not uncommon for homes in southeast Texas to become infested a mere four days after construction is complete. In some cases, an old home may be better protected from termite infestations than a new home, as old homes that are bordered by a termiticide barrier are less likely to become infested than a new home that is lacking such a barrier. While drywood termites are less common than subterranean termites in Texas, the former can be more difficult to detect and eradicate from a home. Subterranean termites can often be eradicated from a home with wood treatments or bait stations, but drywood infestations often require fumigations, as spot treatments can be a gamble. The only sure method of ridding a home of termites is to have a wood-penetrating fumigation carried out, but this is only a last resort, and recently developed termite control methods have proven effective while being far less of an inconvenience for the occupants of an infested home.

 

If your home became infested with termites which sort of eradication method would you prefer?