Eastern Subterranean Termite, Reticulitermes flavipes
The eastern subterranean termite is the most common and widely distributed termite in North America. It occurs in Canada and southward through the eastern United States and into Mexico and west to Arizona and Utah. This is Colorado’s most common and destructive termite.
The three most recognizable forms (castes) of the eastern subterranean termite are the swarmers (winged reproductives), soldiers and workers.
Are about 3/8 of an inch long including wings, dark brown to almost black and have 2 pairs of translucent (slightly milky to slightly smoky) wings. The front and hind wings are of equal size.
Are about 1/4 of an inch long and have an elongated, amber-colored head armed with long jaws. The body is translucent white and the legs are rather short.
Are 3/16 to 1/4 an inch long, translucent white with a nearly round amber head and have rather short legs.
Subterranean termites eat only soft wood and leave the lignin-containing hard wood which they cannot effectively digest. Hence, damaged wood appears to be layered. Also, soil and fecal smears are typically found in the galleries.
A typical mature colony may consist of 60,000 to several hundred thousand workers. Sixty thousand workers can eat 1/5 ounce of wood each day. At this rate, such a colony could completely consume 20 linear feet of 2 x 4 board in 1 year. However, there may be several colonies associated with a single building and several wood sources being utilized by/or consumed by any given colony.
Eastern subterranean termites have 3 castes: worker, soldier and reproductive (primary and supplementary). Colony founding via swarmers (alates) proceeds with the swarmers associating in pairs, breaking off their wings and burrowing into the soil. Here they mate and only a few eggs are produced the first year. When the queen is mature she will produce about 5,000 to 10,000 eggs a year. The queen may live up to 30 years and workers may live up to 5 years.
Several years are required before the colony reaches the typical mature size of 60,000 or more workers. Under ideal conditions, a few swarmers may be produced after 3 to 4 years. Swarming typically occurs during the spring but it may possibly be followed by one or more smaller swarms until winter. Swarming occurs during the daytime, typically during the morning of the day following a warm rain.
Colony distribution is patchy, because they are usually spread in infested wood and wood products such as lumber and firewood. Colony size is much larger, with colonies of 2 to 3 million foragers not uncommon. These large colonies forage over an area of about 3-12,000 square feet. They actively feed in tree stumps, fenceposts, buried debris, and your home.
Eastern subterranean termite colonies are usually located in the ground. They are usually located below the frost line, but above the water table and rock formations. Mud (shelter) tubes are built to bridge areas of adverse conditions between the colony and food sources. They can enter structures through cracks less than 1/16 of an inch wide. However, if a constant source of moisture is available (like leaky pipes); colonies (called secondary colonies) can exist above ground and without ground contact. Also, true aerial colonies (having no ground contact) are known to exist.
Professional Post Construction Control
Control of an existing infestation may involve up to two (2) methods: (1) Mug-A-Bug technicians can apply a chemical barrier between the termite colony and the wood of the structure using a residual termiticide liquid treatment of the soil and grade material abutting and beneath the foundation; (2) Structural wood and other cellulose-containing components of houses and other buildings can be treated with a penetrating residual liquid preservative (Borates) having insecticidal qualities.
Pre-Construction Preventative Control
May involve one of two (2) methods: (1) A liquid termiticide barrier treatment can be applied to the soil beneath and beside the foundation during the building construction process. This is called a preconstruction treatment. (2) A physical barrier of specially laminated plastic sheeting or stainless steel mesh can be spread across the foundation site after the footer and foundation walls are in place but before the cement slab floor has stinging insect poured.
Homeowner Prevention Tips:
There are several things you can do as a home owner to help prevent or avoid termite infestations including:
- Stack all firewood, lumber or other wooden items several feet away from your home.
- Keep all wood supports of porches, patios, decks, or separate buildings more than one foot from contact with your home’s foundation; and use only pressure-treated wood for all construction which contacts the ground. Even treated wood has a limited protection period.
- Move all wood containing mulch (even cedar or redwood) and decorative wood chips at least one foot away from your foundation. Sand and stones can be just as attractive and they discourage pest (including termite) harborage next to your building.
- Repair any leaking water lines or fixtures, especially any which wet any wooden part(s) of your house. Repair any eaves, down spouts, gables, or shingles which allow wooden parts of your house to get wet even occasionally.
- Monitor moisture levels and take steps to reduce moisture build-up in any crawl spaces.
- Relocate any frequently watered garden or flower bed as far away from your home’s perimeter as you can.