Termite workers, soldiers, queens, swarmers
Termites are social insects. Their workers are best described as "little white things" or "little white ants" that are often found in damp, rotting wood. Termites have a strict caste system, which consists of worker termites, soldiers, winged reproductive termites, a queen termite, and a king termite.
Termite images, termite description
So I spent over two hours on this really nice piece on termites, only to try to spell check it and have it all dissappear into the activerainbarrel. Uhh, so frustrating. Well it only follows that computers are another nightmare of the inspection world. Whether it's trying to balance the needs of your clients or becoming obsessive spell checking your report, I often wonder whether the computer is a smart upgrade or another way to waste hours...
Anyway the blog was on insects, and mostly about termites and carpenter ants. Forgive any mis-spellings at this point I'm tired and can't bear the idea that I am re-writing this again.
They tell you not to sweat the small stuff, and yet these damn bugs are just that. They hide half the time and sneak around trying to quietly destroy anything made of wood or more specifically cellulose. There's few things worse then the pained look of a client whe they learn the home has an infestation.
Can you tell me honestly which one of these eats the most wood? Carpenter ants or termites? I'll hold off a few lines before I clue you in.
For most of us we must be very careful what we say about insects. In some states you must be licensed even to talk about them, in others no one cares. Many years ago I went through a very long and tedious course, a written and oral exam and secured my Supervisory license in Pests. What a job , and I must do continuing education annually to maintain the license. But it has kept me looking very carefully for these little home wreckers.
In any event the Realtor will probably ask you, whether you are licensed or not... "are they active?" and the more scary question..."what's the extent of the damage?" Be careful with that one! We are looking for suble signs of damage and yet they are tiny and secretive.
Of course you must also be aware that in the Northeast we deal with Carpenter ants and Subterranean termites, Down south they've got different creatures and in Africa they are so big...well the point is you better learn what lurks in your area and get smart about them, as most houses have termites or they are going to have them.
Termites near me eat plenty of wood, and they go down into the soil to get water. They build termite shelter tubes to stay moist and out of the sun. Most people do not even realize the home is being eaten and years can go by if no one knows what to look for. They bring the food and water to the nest which unlike the carpenter ant nest is usually out in the ground. The termites regurgitate and feed those not lucky enough to spend their days wandering back and forth.
Carpenter ants love wet wood and they hang out building nests in areas where they can forage for food. They like diswashers, under sinks in homes and will look for sweets and carry them back to the nest.
So the answer is Carpenter Ants do not eat wood... they damage it and build their nests in it but don't eat it.
Carpenter ant nests generally are clean galleries and look like the nest has been sanded. Termites leave debris in their galleries that looks like the shelter tubes...spit, poop and sand.
The colony is like the old feudal manor with everyone trying to do their own specialized job... some take care of the queen some get food and some protect the colony an others fix damaged tubes. The reproduction is interesting but I'll leave that for a friday night!
The damages are like everything else with homes...usually linked to water problems. Areas we look for are poor drainage or foolish landscaping. Trees too close, mulch heaped up against wood siding, lack of flashing details... etc.
I find termites and carpenter ants on the sills, band joists, around wood trim buried in the dirt or being splashed by dirty gutters or poor drainage. 9 times out of 10 look behind the stairs, under the entry doors, or near a wet basement area and golly...they're they are. Treatments for Ants are easy... remove the food, spray the ants several months in a row and maintain a warranty.
With termites it's trickier... The Old technology way was to create a chemical barrier around the home and if the bugs went through it , they would take it home to everyone else. The liability of pumping poison into a home was dicey , so now many of the really strong and very effective chemicals have been banned. The new stuff is environmentally friendly...that is after 5 years most of the active termidicide will be gone. So watch those warranties. Houses with wells in or close to the home cannot be treated with chemicals. Radiant floored homes are also very tricky to treat.
The new technology is baiting. Planting cylinders into the soil and monitoring termite visits. If they start eating the bait, then poisoned bait is added. This can work well but may not attract those already eating the home. So many homes are candidates for a combination of treatments. Drilling and adding borates is also popular. Borates are another termidicide.
Older homes may have other wood destroying insects that generally cause damage but may often not be particulary serious, structurally. They may be different types of beetles... powder post, long horn and wharf borers. Other homes may have damages caused by carpenter bees and woodpeckers. (yes, an orange headed bird, not an insect) Annoying nontheless.
Treatments for Carpenter ants- few hundred bucks. Not including wood repairs if needed.
Treatment for termites could be $1000-4000 depending on the problem , the damage, and the profit margin.
Always secure a warranty and arrange for annual inspection.
Our homes are particularly vulnerable to thes insects and being vigilant helps.
If you have additional questions go to the pesticide area of http://www.epa.gov/ or write to me .
Stay tuned for part 4...
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