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Termite Damage 101: What You Should Know

termites do billions of dollars of damage to homes.

Termites do billions of dollars of damage each year.

Central Florida offers a perfect environment for termites. Because so many Orlando-area homes are near waterways and ponds, and we have frequent rain showers, moisture-loving termites have a welcoming habitat in which to make their homes.

Termite Basics

Termites are small social insects that live in large colonies and feed on organic matter. They are particularly attracted to wood and paper. They are dark in color, with 3/8 of an inch long torsos, and wings of equal length (as compared to ants, which have pinched torsos and unequal-length wings).

Some termites, including the native subterranean termites and Formosan termites, prefer to live in or close to the soil or near sources of moisture. This includes areas around home foundations as well as areas of buildings with moisture from dripping pipes, air conditioner drains or within gutters. Because so much of the Orlando area is damp, this means there are lots of places termites can become established.

New Termite Species Pose a Serious Threat to Homes

Florida is an ideal home for termites, but in 2015 scientists at the University of Florida discovered that two non-native termite species are mating in South Florida. This hybrid termite builds colonies twice as fast as the previous species, leading to increased damage potential. The good news for Orlando and Central Florida is that scientists don’t yet know if this hybrid variety can survive our fluctuating temperatures.

How do you know if you have a termite infestation?

You see swarms of termites near your home.
Breeding pairs are often drawn to lights at night, and because they don’t fly far from their colonies, seeing a swarm suggests that an active infestation nearby.

Termite mud tubes.

The presences of mud shelter tubes, which are hollow tubes that allow termites to travel between their nests and their food supply, is a big red flag.

Damaged wood.

Wood damage is hard to detect because termites usually burrow deep into the wood, but sometimes their damage will be visible on the outside. Tip: To test for hollow areas that suggest damage, you can tap lightly on wood using a screwdriver handle.

Evidence of wood particles or pellets (fecal material).

Most pest infestations can be determined by signs of activity, like droppings / feces. Note that only some species of termite expel pellets.

Damage to building insulation.

Some types of insulation have a paper cover that termites love to eat, and they may tunnel through insulation that otherwise has no nutritional value so that they can reach moisture and new food sources, like wooden piers.

In central Florida, termites cause significant damage to property. It’s worth keeping an eye on all wooden structures and outdoor fixtures for infestations or damage, including but not limited to:

  • privacy fencing, particularly along the ground
  • outdoor decking, patios, and playscapes
  • the roof, especially under shingles
  • foundations
  • landscape shrubbery and trees; Some termites like new growth, while others may become established in dead wood, making limbs more brittle
  • siding
  • piles of debris and building materials or firewood
  • wood mulch in gardens and landscaping

What to do if you suspect you have a termite infestation.

Termite colonies can be difficult to locate and eradicate fully. If you suspect your home has termite damage, or you’ve seen evidence of active termite activity (including swarming behavior), your best bet is to call out a professional to inspect your property.

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