Each year, many households in Maryland become infested by a variety of wood destroying insects, the most notable being termites. If left unchecked they can cause serious structural damage to a home. In fact, in the United States, termites do more damage to homes annually than all reported fires, tornadoes, hurricanes and windstorms combined.
The termite species that is indigenous to Maryland is the Eastern Subterranean Termite (Reticulitermes flavipes). As its name implies, it lives beneath the soil. Termites, like ants and bees, are social insects and live in colonies. The termite colony is comprised of several castes including a queen, soldiers, winged reproductives (swarmers) and workers. The winged reproductives, or swarmers, are the form most commonly seen by homeowners. Ant colonies also release winged reproductives (flying ants). Many times termite infestations go unchecked when a homeowner mistakes termite swarmers for flying ants.
While termite swarmers are a nuisance, they do not cause damage. Their sole function is to find a mate and begin a new colony. The “worker” caste makes up the bulk of the termite colony and is the only individual in the colony that forages for food and is directly responsible for causing damage to wood and cellulose containing materials. They have no eyes or wings and are soft-bodied, whitish in color and approximately 1/4 inch in length.
The soldiers also have no eyes or wings. They do, however, have enlarged jaws called mandibles which they use to defend the termite colony. They are otherwise similar in appearance to the workers of the colony, whitish in color but their head is enlarged and sometimes brown in color.
Termites are different from almost all other insects in that they can convert the cellulose in wood products back into sugar and utilize it as a food source. In nature, termites are beneficial as they help convert dead wood and other materials containing cellulose into humus. Some other types of insects, such as powderpost beetles and old house borers, eat wood but cannot convert the cellulose to sugar. They receive nourishment from the sugars and starch which the tree stored during its growth. Still other insects, such as carpenter ants and carpenter bees, get no food whatever from the wood but simply excavate holes and cavities in the wood to provide protective shelter. Source
Eastern Subterranean Termites are a serious issue in Maryland. The average cost of termite related damages in the US equals over 5 billion dollars annually. Termites cause more damage to homes in the US than fires, floods, storms and severe winds combined.
Termite colonies range from three to six million termites each. Each termite colony can make tunnels underground stretching up to 100 yards from the main colony. Homeowners need to know the five things to do to prevent termites in their home:
- Get your house inspected by a licensed pest control company. Using a state licensed company will get you a state certified pest control technician with experience in termite inspections. In Baltimore, certification for termite inspections requires being licensed with the MDA (Maryland Department of Agriculture).
- Check for leaks from outside spigots, roof leaks and downspouts leaks. These types of leaks will attract termites to your home.
- Removing any rooted wood from around your home, such as firewood, molding and old mulch, will help prevent termites from finding your home.
- Cracks around your home can give easy access to termites. Termites can fit through a hole half the size of a match head. Having a contractor fix and seal cracks in the foundation helps prevent these pests from entering your home.
- A preventative treatment will give you the peace of mind that your home is well protected by a professional company using the best practices and products. Here at On The Fly, our company uses Termidor HE, America’s #1 termiticide.