Termites 101

It is estimated that there are over 4,000 different species of termites worldwide. These insects have been around for over 300 million years and are most closely related to cockroaches.

Termites’ purpose is to feed on wood and break it down to a cellular level so it can be reused by nature; the trouble comes when termites start feeding on the structural wood in your home, business or other building.

Termite Quick Facts

  • Each year, approximately 600,000 homes experience termite damage
  • Approximately $5 billion are spent on termite damage repair and control annually
  • Homeowners spend an average minimum of $3,000 on termite damage repair
  • Annually, termites cause more damage to homes in the U.S. than fires, floods, hurricanes and tornados combined

Termite Overview

Termites are considered “social” insects because they live together in colonies. Within a colony, there are three distinct types—referred to as “castes”—of termites.

  • Workers are responsible for building the nest, fetching food and feeding the soldiers and reproductives
  • Soldiers’ single job is to protect the colony from intruders
  • Reproductives, also referred to as alates or swarmers, leave the colony upon maturity and attempt to establish new colonies around new food sources

The difference between the wings of swarming carpenter ants and termites.

Subterranean Termites

Subterranean termites and their various sub-varieties are the most prevalent in the U.S.

Subterranean termites are so named because they primarily live underground. These termites require a moist environment to live and thrive, and their colonies are built below the soil. Colonies are established near a food source—typically wood that is below ground or in contact with the ground. However, these termites can live above ground as long as they have a moisture source.

In order to travel from the colony to an above ground food source, subterranean termites construct mud tubes, which are made from bits of soil, saliva and fecal matter.

Eastern Subterranean Termite

In the southeastern U.S.—particularly Georgia and Florida—one species in particular causes the most damage to homes and businesses: the Eastern Subterranean Termite.

An Eastern Subterranean Termite colony can range in size from 55,000 to 5 million termites. The average size is 300,000.

In our region of the country, there is an average of 10 to 13 termite colonies per acre of land. In other words, chances are high that a termite colony already exists on your property. This is why it’s important for homeowners to be aware of the conditions that are conducive to termite activity in your home as well as the warning signs of a potential termite problem.

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