Termites are small, white, soft bodied insects that live in colonies which can contain over one million individuals. These colonies are well organized, with a king and queen, workers, soldiers, and swarmers. The workers do all of the damage, the soldiers defend the colony, and the swarmers are winged termites that fly off to start their own colonies. Termites will feed on anything containing cellulose; books, boxes, picture frames, carpet backing, drywall, and structural timbers. No type of home is safe from termites; they need only a crack the thickness of a sheet of paper to gain access. A termite’s sole function on earth is to recycle cellulose, and to these blind insects, a house is nothing but dead wood.
The most common type of termite is subterranean, which means the insects live underground. They obtain moisture from the soil and use soil for tubes through which they travel in search of food. The most destructive termite is the Formosan subterranean termite, an introduced species that has larger colonies and can do more damage in a shorter period of time than our native species. The Formosan's swarmers are reddish in color and tend to swarm in the hundreds. All subterranean termites can be controlled by traditional soil treatments, or with a baiting system. Many times, however, significant damage has been done before termites are detected. For this reason, preventative treatments and regular inspections by a pest professional are recommended.
Another type of termite found along coastal areas of South Carolina is the drywood termite. Drywood termites do not have the same moisture requirements as subterranean termites and do not live in the soil. Because of this difference, they can be more difficult to control. If drywood termites are found in more than one area of a house, fumigation may be necessary to get rid of them. To fumigate, the house must be covered with tarps and filled with a lethal gas. Fumigation is very costly and intrusive, but effective.
What can you do to make your house less vulnerable to termite attack?
- Eliminate all wood in contact with the ground.
- Remove all wood debris from under and around the house.
- Keep trees and bushes trimmed back from the foundation.
- Do not use an excessive amount of mulch.
- Correct any moisture problems under and around the house.
- Provide good ventilation in the crawlspace.
- Have your home regularly inspected by a professional pest control company.
The South Carolina coast is known for termites. For more information on termites and how to protect your new or used home with a termite bond visit www.TrustTerminix.com or call 1-800-Terminix.