What are termites?
Termites are small insects that can eat and digest wood. They live in large colonies much the same as ants do. Because they can eat wood and often attack in large numbers they can seriously damage the things we make out of wood . . . such as our homes and many of the things we keep inside them.
If you are concerned about termites it is important that you understand a few things about them. The first step is to learn what kind of termites you are dealing with . . .
Three kinds of termites
If you have termites in your home or business it is likely they are either subterranean termites or drywood termites.
Termites have a very large family tree. There are over 2,000 species of termites worldwide. The 2,000 species are divided into three main groups:
Subterranean termites build their nests underground. (Approx. 1,500 species worldwide.)
The queen and king remain in the underground colony while the termite workers are constantly foraging for food. They construct an elaborate system of underground tunnels leading from the nest to their various food sources. An old subterranean termite colony may contain hundreds of thousands of workers and forage in an area approaching the size of a football field! Because of the numbers of insects involved and their ability to survive in a wider range of climates, subterranean termites are generally considered the most destructive in terms of property damage.
Colonies start with a mated pair that burrows into exposed woodwork where they build their nest inside the wood. Over time as the colony grows they may forage into connected wood members and eventually do significant damage to framing members of a building. Drywood termite colonies tend to remain fairly small (less than 6,000 - 8,000 members).
These are the largest of the termites in terms of body size. Their winged reproductives may look much like a very large drywood termite swarmer. They build their nests in wood that remains damp throughout the year. They must remain inside the damp wood because they are so vulnerable to dehydration. If exposed to the open air they will usually dehydrate and die in very short time. Dampwood termites are rarely a problem to homeowners.
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