Termites are related to cockroaches, yet show a social behavior similar to that of ants and bees. Their food is mainly the wood of trees and the woody tissues of other plants, In their natural habitats, they convert dead wood into humus that enriches the soil, But when they encounter timber utilized by man, termites are a potential threat. If the wood is untreated, and has no natural resistance to termite attack, the insects will destroy the timber, reducing it to humus and causing serious damage to property and amenity. Termites have been found in every state in the US with the exception of Alaska.
The important behavioral feature of termites which separates them from most other insects is that many individuals live together in a communal nest; they help one another in a way which superficially resembles they way people live and work together. We therefore call the termites “social” insects. Some individuals in the termite nest, in fact, are entirely dependent on others and would soon die is not fed or otherwise cared for.
Termites are almost unique among insects, and indeed among all the lower animals, in having a male which assists the female with initial nest building, and where the two sexes stay together for their entire lives. A mature queen in a colony can lay thousands of eggs each year, helping the colony (and its destruction to your home) grow exponentially. She can also live up to 10 years!
There are more than 2000 species of termites in the world. For most practical purposes they can be grouped into three main categories: “subterranean”, “damp wood” and “dry wood”. Subterranean termites are those which build their nests in the soil or on the sides of trees or transmission poles and rely principally on the soil for moisture. In their search for food above ground they construct covered runways of “shelter tubes” because they are prone to desiccation when exposed to the air.
Damp wood termites live in old tree stumps, rotting logs and pieces of buried timber (either structural or waste left by the builders). Once established however, they can move into sound wood in the structure of the building.
Dry wood termites live entirely within dry wood and unlike the other groups are less dependent on an external source of moisture. Because of this, they are able to survive above ground in most timbers and do not need access to the soil.
The natural food of termites is cellulose, the major component of the cell walls of trees and other plants… When trees die and fall to the forest floor, nutrients required for re growth of the forest remain locked inside the cellulose cell walls until they are broken down by insects and fungi.
There is now often an unavoidable clash of interests between man and termites: so much dependence has been placed on timber that we do not wish to change completely to other forms of building material. In fact timber has many advantages over other materials: for example, it is easy to cut and shape, it has great strength for its weight and size, and it is aesthetically pleasing to look at and to touch. Furthermore, in less well developed countries, timber may be the only material available for building purposes.
Termites may attack timber anywhere in a building from below floor level to the highest point in the roof. The workers of most subterranean species enter from the soil, either directly into timber, through cracks in concrete flooring or by construction shelter tubes over brick or concrete footers and walls. Dry wood termite workers simply forage directly into wood adjacent to their nests.
Most emphasis in discussion of termite damage is given to attacks on timber and wood-based products, and undoubtedly this is where the largest economic losses occur. However, other materials are frequently damaged and losses are sometimes substantial.
Underground cables are at considerable risk in termite infested areas. Rubber and plastic coverings may be stripped to the conducting wires, resulting in water penetration and short circuits. In some cases, even lead sheathing 2 mm thick may be punctured. Above ground cables may also be attacked by termites, usually when the cable is fastened to infested timber. Domestic cable radio and TV is becoming widespread and therefore damage to associated transmission lines is increasing.
Various metals and plastics, concrete and plaster, leather, rubber and linoleum have reportedly been damaged by termites, and clearly anything softer than the insect mandibles can be perforated.
Because of the decline in the world stock of quality timber, it makes sense to protect wood in use from the ravages of termites. This will be cheaper than buying new timber for replacement, and in years to come it may be the only way to retain the use of timber as a building material.
At present there is no legislation to force home owners to have their property treated, however, people have been taught to look for termites and signs of damage, and this awareness of the problem means that treatment can often be carried out before extensive damage occurs.
Proper identification of termites is important when deciding on the control methods to be used. It is necessary to determine whether the termites are subterranean, damp wood or dry wood.
Other wood destroying insects include powder post beetles, old house borers, dry wood swarmer, and subterranean swarmers.
Wood Destroying Insect Inspections During The Home Buying Process
Most all banks and other lending institutions are well informed of the dangers of termite infestation. In fact most all require that any property of which they are going to lend money against must be inspected for wood destroying insects prior to closing. Furthermore, if termites or other wood destroying insects are discovered during a pre-purchased inspection, they will require the home be treated and any structural damage repaired prior to closing.
In a real estate transaction it is very important to hire an inspector that is not in the business of treating for wood destroying insects. It is imperative to look for someone who does not have a financial interest in finding termites and then treating for them. The purpose of any inspection in the home buying process (including a termite inspection) is to provide a clear untainted view of the conditions that exist at the premises on the date of the inspection. The last thing you need is someone sighting a problem that doesn’t really exist. A clear, professional unbiased inspection will help you to make a more informed real estate decision.
Upon taking ownership of the house you may later choose to employ a termite treatment company to re-inspect the premises annually. Often more professional companies will offer a maintenance program that includes a single fee for annual inspections and any necessary treatment that arrives upon these inspections.
How do I know If I’ve Got More Guests Coming To Dinner Than Anticipated?
Are wondering if you can check yourself for these uninvited guests? Inspection for termites and other wood destroying insects is best left to licensed professionals trained to detect the sometimes very subtle signs of infestation. However if you care to do some of your own investigating, here are some tell tale signs.
Treatment is best left to individuals licensed to carry and use the proper treatment materials, however there are some interim steps you can take to make your home less inviting to wood destroying insects. For starters, these inspects like and need moisture so here are so steps to take.
Inspect Your Home Before Settlement
A Free Termite Report is Included With Every Home Inspection
Find our Home Inspection listing on Thumbtack
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