Few insect problems are so dreaded as a termite infestation. This is because everybody knows that a termite infestation means major trouble for your home. Of course, termites are known for their wood destroying capabilities. This page will educate you about some of the termites common to Michigan, signs of a termite infestations, and Creature Control’s termite control services.
Michigan’s Termites & Termite Biology
Termites are divided into three major termite groups: subterranean, drywood and dampwood. In Michigan we come across the Eastern Subterranean Termite almost exclusively. Any other species found are generally introduced from another location (commonly drywood termites with infested furniture) and is usually a rarity.
There are three “castes” of a termite colony: workers are approximately 6 mm long, light-colored and wingless; soldiers have elongated heads with mandibles; reproductives are dark-colored and have two pair of equal-length wings.
Other factors that will help identify subterranean termites are:
- Alates (Reproductive swarmers): Dark-brown to black in color, about ¼ to ½ inch long with two pairs of wings that are very close to being equal in length.
- Workers: No wings, about ¼ inch or less in length and cream colored.
- Soldiers: No wings, large mandibles (or jaws), termite colony defenders, creamy-white in color, they also have heads brownish in color.
- Appearance of damaged wood: Since subterranean termites build their nests underground, damaged wood usually has an accumulation of soil or mud within the tunnels of the wood they are eating. Since subterranean termites only eat the softwood, damaged wood appears to be layered, the result of the workers not eating the hardwood portion. In addition, subterranean termites feed “with the grain” rather than across the grain, as do drywood termites.
- Location of the nest: As their termite name suggests, the nest is usually found below ground. Nests may be found above ground, but only when sufficient moisture conditions are available to support an above-ground nest and the colony is old and well established.
Termite Behavior, Diet & Habitat
Termites live in colonies underground, from which they build tunnels in search of food. The tunnels shelter them from predators and allow them to be able to reach food above the ground level by building mud tubes. They also need constant moisture which the tubes provide as well.
A termites diet consists of wood and other cellulose materials. They have a Protozoa that lives inside there body that allows them to digest and take nutrients from the consumed cellulose. Note that the manner termites destroy wood is different from carpenter ants; both insects destroy wood by chewing it, but termites actually digest the wood whereas carpenter ants chew the wood, mix it with their saliva, and use the resulting pulp to create their tunnels.
Different rates of growth from egg stage to adult will depend on the individual termite species. There is one primary queen per colony, which can lay tens of thousands of eggs in her lifetime. Eggs can also can be laid by supplementary reproductives, but only in an established colony.
Signs of a Subterranean Termite Infestation
The surest sign a homeowner may get of a termite infestation is the presence of swarmers.
A subterranean termite infestation begins when warm temperatures and heavy rainfall trigger an established colony to send out a swarm of winged termites. Swarms consist of winged reproductive males and females which leave to establish their own new colony sites. Subterranean termite colonies are usually active for three to five years before winged reproductives appear. Winged reproductive termites are often mistaken for flying ants, but are smaller than ants and have straight, rather than bent, antennae. Termites have a broad waist compared to a slender waist of an ant which can be the quickest way of identification. Termite swarmers have four wings that are all the same size. Ant swarmers have two large wings in front and two smaller wings behind. After mating, swarmer termites land and shed their wings, leaving them in piles that resemble fish scales. If there are piles of wings on windowsills of your home, check to see if they are all the same size. They could be termite wings especially if they are all the same size.
Distribution of Subterranean Termites
Subterranean termites are found throughout the United States (except Alaska) but are generally very scarce in the colder states. They generally occur in greater numbers in warm, southern states. They are most common in the humid, subtropical south between Florida and South Carolina.
Creature Control has several ways to handle a termite infestation. Our pest control specialists can inject the wood of your home with termiticide treatments to eradicate termites, as well as use termite bait stations to provide ongoing deterrence.
Call Creature Control at 800-441-1519 for professional, competitively priced termite control.