Termites have been around for over 120 million years. They are social insects and live in colonies which are usually located in the ground or in wood. Most termites feed on cellulose from wood and wood by-products. When termites feed on wooden structures, they become pests.
The type of termite that is found in areas such as Delaware, Pennsylvania and Maryland are the Eastern Subterranean Termite. The eastern subterranean termite is the most common type of subterranean termites whose swarming flights begin in early December and last until the end of May.
Subterranean termites typically dwell in the soil and work through it to reach wood above ground. Soil is a desirable home for termites because it serves as a source of moisture that protects them from drying out, shields them from predators and is used as a building material for shelter tubes above ground. Termites build shelter tubes up a foundation or across other surfaces to gain access to wood.
Signs of a subterranean termite infestation include swarms of winged reproductives in the spring, summer, or fall, the presence of shelter tubes, and evidence of tunneling in wood. Shelter tubes (sometimes called mud tubes) are the most commonly seen evidence of a subterranean termite infestation. These earth-hardened tubes are made by workers using saliva mixed with soil and bits of wood or even drywall. There are four types of tubes:
working tubes are constructed from the nest in the soil to wooden structures and they may travel up concrete or stone foundations;
exploratory and migratory tubes arise from the soil but do not connect to wood structures;
drop tubes extend from wooden structures back to the soil; and
swarm tubes for new and swarming reproductive kings and queens to emerge from and fly away during swarm season.
If you break termite tubes open, you may see live workers and soldiers running through the tubes. The darkening or blistering of structural wood members is another possible indication of an infestation; wood in damaged areas is typically thin at the surface and easily punctured with a knife or screwdriver. Finding live termites foraging within wood is a sure sign of an active infestation.
The excavations that termites make in wood are hollow, completely enclosed, more or less longitudinal cavities. Some species deposit light-brown excrement within cavities. Feeding in wood by subterranean termites generally follows the grain of wood; these species attack the softer spring wood and leave the harder, less digestible summer wood. Many times this distinctive pattern of wood damage alone can be used to positively distinguish subterranean termite activity from that of other species.
Liquid applications of pesticides are most often used for subterranean termite control and applied to the soil either in drenches or by injection. Our pest management professionals have special training because of the hazards involved in applying insecticides to the soil around and under buildings. In addition to pesticides, we also use termite baits, which are slow-acting insecticides consumed during feeding and shared within the colony, bait is delivered within a cellulose or wood matrix infused with the active ingredient and installed underground at regular intervals around a structure. This method of controlling termites is very appealing because it doesn’t require extensive site preparation, such as trenching, or extensive application of insecticides to the soil or structure, and because the most effective baits use insect growth regulators (IGRs) to suppress or destroy the entire colony. IGRs have very low toxicity to humans and their pets. The most effective bait products, however, are available for professional use only.