If you spot tiny holes in wood or drywall somewhere in your home or garage, you might suspect termites as the culprit. It’s important to learn how to identify termite holes so you can determine whether that is what you are seeing, and if so, decide what steps to take to remedy the problem. It’s also smart to learn how to identify termites themselves, as well as common signs of termite activity, so you’ll know as early as possible when a problem is developing. Termites are known to cause extensive, not to mention costly, structural damage to people’s homes—to the tune of over two billion dollars’ worth each year in the United States alone.
Termite holes, also known as termite exit holes or kick-out holes, are tiny openings created when termites tunnel through wood, mud or drywall to the outside. These holes are usually no more than an eighth of an inch in diameter, and they typically don’t stay open, or visible, for long. Almost as soon as they are created, they are closed off again, either by bits of chewed wood or by termite feces. Termites often create these exit holes just before mating season, and adult termites use them to exit the colony so they can reproduce and grow the colony.
To know whether the holes you’ve seen are termite holes, you should also know what termites themselves look like. They are winged insects that look something like large ants with wings. In fact, there are winged ants that are easily confused with termites; this is yet another reason for homeowners to arm themselves with knowledge about termites, so they know what they’re dealing with if they spot a swarm of insects in or around the home. Fortunately, termites and ants are visibly distinct from each other, if you know what to look for.
Ants have three rounded body segments, which together create a separate head and small “waist,” while termite bodies have only two segments that come together in a straight shape from the head down to the end of the body. Furthermore, ants’ antennae are bent like elbows, while termites’ antennae are short and straight. Ants have two sets of wings that are not the same length, while termites’ two sets of wings are equally long.
Common signs of termites include mud tubes, which are straw-like tunnels that subterranean termites build out of dirt to connect their underground colonies with the wood they feed on for sustenance. Mud tubes are often found near ground level on a home’s foundation. Another common sign of termites is a pile of termite wings; when adult termites shed their wings, it indicates that they have mated and founded a new colony. In fact, termites are most often seen during swarming season, when adult, winged termites leave the nest to found a new colony and reproduce.
Termites typically swarm in warm, wet weather, usually after a rainstorm. These insects live out most of their lives in darkness, either in their underground colonies or inside their mud tubes and the wood they feed on. When they swarm, they head toward any light they see; this is why they’re often seen swarming around windows, doors or light fixtures. This is also why their shed wing piles are often found on window sills or near exterior doors.
While new termite colonies tend to grow slowly and can take years to become established, once they are established, a colony of subterranean termites can number in the hundreds of thousands or even in the millions. Shed termite wings and termite holes are both signs of an established colony nearby, so spotting either one means it’s time to contact a pest control specialist who can identify the source and scope of the infestation and determine the best ways to control it.
Drywood termite colonies are typically smaller than subterranean colonies; they are more likely to number in the hundreds or thousands once established. Still, it’s important to eliminate these pests as soon as you find evidence of their presence, since they can cause such damage if left untreated. Taking a do-it-yourself approach often doesn’t go well for many people who try to deal with termites on their own. In many cases, these tactics don’t work and these repeated attempts only prolong the problem. Enlisting help from a reputable pest management specialist is the best way to have the issue treated both thoroughly and efficiently.
If you have found termites on your property, you probably have a lot of other questions, such as what attracted these pests to your home and yard, and is there anything you can do to get rid of them? Keep reading to find out.
What Causes Termites?
Many people wonder why their property might be vulnerable to termite activity. The truth is that there are three different kinds of termites that typically invade people’s homes, and all three types are opportunistic insects. This means they take advantage of homes that have the right conditions for their survival, such as wood that touches soil, or wood that is near a leaky pipe or other water source. If termites are allowed to build colonies and reproduce, these insect pests can cause major problems over time.
Subterranean termites are the most common type of termite in America, and they need access to both organic material containing cellulose and moisture to survive. These termites build colonies underground in the soil, in spaces that have access to water and also to cellulose. Unfortunately, cellulose can be found in many different materials that are used to build homes. This means subterranean termites can eat drywall, wood, foam and even plastic.
Wood that comes into contact with the ground, such as wooden fencing, decking, sheds or other structures, is vulnerable to subterranean termite infestations, especially if there is water nearby. A dripping faucet, piles of leaves that stay wet after rainfall or a low spot on the ground that collects rainwater will do. These are perfect conditions for these invasive insects to thrive.
Drywood termites are another type of termite found in America, and they don’t need as much moisture as subterranean termites to survive. This variety of termites typically builds colonies in aboveground spaces with access to wood, such as attics and garages. Drywood termites swarm just like subterranean termites do, and they also create termite holes in the wood they consume. These voracious insects consume wood across the grain rather than with it, which means that they weaken the wood’s structure over time. Trees and even homes and garages have been known to collapse due to drywood termite infestations.
Dampwood termites are a third type of termite found in America, mostly in wetter regions of the country. They are often both larger and lighter in color than their subterranean and drywood cousins. As their name suggests, these termites need moisture and humidity to survive; this is why they use their fecal matter to plug the holes they create in the wood they consume, to preserve the humidity inside the wood.
Dampwood termites can live their entire lives inside the wood they eat. In nature, dampwood termites infest fallen logs or dead trees, but they have also been known to infest wooden areas inside homes that are humid due to plumbing leaks or drainage issues. If you find dampwood termites living in your home, it can indicate not just a pest control problem but a leak or other moisture problem as well.
Any type of termite found in or near the home should be dealt with comprehensively and decisively by a termite control professional who has access to methods that are scientifically proven to control pest infestations. Homeowners can also take preventative steps to deter termites from invading their homes or property, such as keeping outdoor spaces clear of dead trees, branches and brush; storing firewood well away from the home, garage and other wooden structures and resolving any indoor or outdoor water leaks or drainage issues that might draw subterranean termites. Hiring a termite specialist to perform annual inspections will also head off problems before they grow out of control.
Does Bleach Kill Termites?
Bleach seems to help control a variety of household problems, so many people with DIY sensibilities might wonder: Does bleach kill termites? Unfortunately, while pouring or spraying bleach onto termites can kill them, it will only kill the ones you can see and reach. In the case of an established colony that has termites living underground, inside wood or within hard-to-reach spots like attics or crawl spaces, bleach is not an effective means of getting rid of the termites. Furthermore, bleach can damage wood as well as anything else it comes into contact with, and it can be dangerous for bleach to be absorbed into groundwater.
Some people try to turn to other home remedies, such as researching what animals eat termites. Unfortunately, controlling termites takes much more than household products or environmental factors.
That said, people can certainly take steps to prevent these pests from infesting their homes and properties. Clearing away brush, tree stumps and dead branches will limit the outdoor spaces where termites might try to build a colony. Termites also like mulch, so take care not to pile it near your home. Leveling low spots in the ground, raking up dead leaves and fixing any water leaks or drainage problems will cut off termites’ access to water, which is necessary to the survival of subterranean termites. And sealing exposed wood, such as the wood used in building fences or decks, will help to keep termites away.
Even with these preventative steps, however, termites can still become a problem in your home, attic or garage, or elsewhere on your property. Since established termite colonies can number in the thousands or even millions, properly controlling an infestation requires a comprehensive approach that is best executed by a qualified pest control specialist. Once a termite colony has been removed and any structural damage has been repaired, it’s also wise to follow up with regular termite inspections to ensure that the problem doesn’t return.
ABC Can Eliminate Termites and Prevent Their Return
Properly controlling a termite infestation requires scientifically proven methods. At ABC Home & Commercial Services, we have treatments that are scientifically-backed, so you can have peace of mind that your problem has been properly controlled. Additionally, we offer ongoing pest management, so you don’t have to worry about future pest problems.