Sounds almost like a title for an article in Scientific American - "Major Termite Infestation and a Really Big Queen."
This house is 250 years old, a duplex, which was common then, and had been lived in by an elderly gentlemen. A son is living there now, trying to get the house ready for sale.
Also, a common building technique in that era was a cellar. It has been modernized over the years, with additional posts and a concrete floor, but still, it was and is a cellar.
I love historic homes and to see the building techniques. Especially interesting is the milling of the wood - hand hewn, hand cut and fitted, and joined with nails that were NOT made in a factory.
Also common on houses that have been lived in by folks that do not do maintenance inspections is the threat and eventual infestation of termites.
The outside wall of this house has a brick sidewalk, which is settled and directing water directly toward the house.
Water enters the house right at the top edge of these joists.
And this house has been a feast for the local subterranean termites.
Many joists were so infested.
I may be the first person to critically look at this house in many years.
My client, a forensic structural engineer, is more than familiar with this problem. He considered it a big deal.
So did I! But I am not the termite guy. All I can do is point it out.
Especially surprising was this!
Seldom is the queen of a termite colony so brazen.
This photo shows that she has her own entrance carved out for easy movement about the house.
Obviously from here she probably has a bath, and then goes into the kitchen to fix meals, and can easily get to the master closet to try on clothing. It's said she is especially attracted to shoes.
This species, the Reticulitermes Flavipes Humongous, gets especially territorial like this, and considers the house its own.
The queen of this order, the Isoptera, of the now-accepted epifamily Termitoidae, is known to reach weights of 12-15 pounds. Once in the kitchen, understandably, she eats a lot! She is a big girl!
Tapping in to vibrations, she can hear when the house is vacant, the human occupants gone to work or play, and enters with impunity. She does so by herself, with workers and soldiers waiting behind the wall.
Scientists are yet to determine how long she can live outside the colony before drying out, so it is thought that she is most attracted to the water in bathrooms before making her way elsewhere.
This looks to be a problem of the highest order.
My recommendation: one common problem in historic homes in this area is termite infestation. Owners have to be especially diligent as regards drainage and water control, and I'm told should consider prophylactic termite treatments. As to these huge queens, well, if you see one please keep your distance.
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC
Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia