Thursday, July 10, 2008

Ants vs Termites

Termites love to eat wood, destroy homes and eat up the trees that you just planted. It probably serves true that these annoying critters need to stay in the woods and leave our properties alone. However, we must be fair here and note that termites were here before we were. So, now it is a battle to the death between man vs insects!

Now I know that you just love those biting ants that love to creep up on your baseball bat that you left in the yard and wait for you to pick it up. So, let’s not mistake these lovely creatures with termites. So, how can you tell the difference between ants and termites?

Well first, there are a few things to note between the ant and termite reproductives. Termites go through a process known as gradual metamorphosis. In this, they will go through a typical insect cycle of egg, nymph and adult. We could sort of relate this to how humans go through babies, teenagers and adults. Termite nymphs, like teenagers, look like adults whereas the reproductives are darker bodied.

An ant, on the other hand, will start off as an egg, turn into a larvae, then a pupa and finally the adult stage. This is called a complete metamorphosis. To relate this to our human analogy, and to make it make a little more sense, we could say that we start as babies, turn into children, become teenagers and eventually make it to adulthood. The adult ants are not mistaken for other forms, if they look like an adult then they are.

Another mistake that can be made is the difference between the wings of the different species. They each have four wings, but termite wings are all the same size whereas ants will have two larger front wings and two smaller back ones. Also, if you notice a black dot on the wings, then it is an ant. Usually this dot can be found on the tip of the wings. You also might be able to note wing veins on ants, you won’t with termites. An additional note about termite wings is that they will easily fall off. So if you see a lot of leftover wings from a swarm of insects, then you probably have yourself a termite problem. Sorry bud.

There are a few other differences that you can note between termites and ants. The antennae of a termite are almost straight, whereas the one on an ant is elbowed or slightly curved. Also a termite’s wings are about twice as long as their bodies making them pretty distinguishable from ants. Also, if you notice the body of a termite is more bulky and wider, showing less of a segmented look. Ants tend to be more narrow and look segmented.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

What do Formosan Termites Look Like?

The final species that we will discuss in identifying is the Formosan termites. These termites are the most aggressive of all termites and are a little bigger than most other termites. They are very similar to subterranean termites in that they burrow underground and build tubes to run around in. However, they do require different treatment so it is important to distinguish these termites from others.

Formosan Termites come in a yellowish brown color. Like every other termite, they have 6 legs. They are shaped like a long and narrow oval like most other termites. Their size is bigger than other subterranean termites and usually average around ½”. They do have antennae and do fly. Look at the picture to further investigate the appearance of a Formosan termite.

Formosan termites live in mud tubes so that they are protected from their natural enemies like ants and to help keep them in a high moisture area. These termites like to live in the cracks of concrete foundations and can provide entry into your property. These termites are very aggressive, but not to humans. Instead, they are known to demolish wood very quickly. If you are diagnosed with Formosan termites then it is imperative that you seek attention right away.

To prevent these termites from entering your property, do not leave any pieces of rotted wood and stumps close to your house. Also make sure that you do not store any lumber on the ground next to places that you do not want to get invaded. You also want to make sure to keep moisture from building up around your house or storage sheds. If you have a faucet outside, make sure that you have some sort of drainage system in place to keep the dripping water away from your house.

Remember that Formosan termites are like all other termites and leave droppings after they eat. After all, everyone eats so everyone poops. The droppings of Formosan termites are slightly larger than subterranean termites and you can find them by poking holes in the ground where you suspect these termites hide at. According to Hawaii, these termites cost residents around 100$ million a year. Don’t let these critters get any of your money!

What do Subterranean Termites Look Like?

Ok so we know the importance of distinguishing between the species of termites, now we just need to know how to do that. I mean we all know that we should exercise to be healthier, but if someone didn’t teach us how to exercise then we’d still be fat asses. So, shall we begin explaining how to spot subterranean termites?

Subterranean termites are the termite species that have to have moisture-rich soil to survive. They live off of little mud tubes to get to their foods. These tube are an ideal way to travel because termites do not have eyes, therefore they rely heavily on their other senses to survive. By making these tunnels, they do not have to wait to figure out where the food is, they just follow the path. They will even burrow hundreds of feet to their food, so just because you see these tunnels and termites does not mean that you have found their nest.

Subterranean termites are a creamy brown color. Like other termites, they have 6 legs and have a long, narrow and oval shape. They are a relatively small form of termite getting around 1/8” in length. They do have antennae and they can fly. Like other termites, their wings are twice as long as their bodies.

A colony of Subterranean termites can get to be quite large and contain thousands of termites. You can clearly tell the difference between the different stages of subterranean termites by their appearance and function within the colony. The workers are the ones who forge for food and water for the colony. You will notice the soldiers guarding the colony to help the reproductives produce more termites. One interesting thing about Subterranean termites is that they construct shelter tubes to help care for the eggs and young.

These termites can do a lot of wood damage. These mud tubes are great for protecting them from their natural enemies known as ants and make it harder to spot them. If you suspect that you have some subterranean termites, do a quick test by destroying some mud tubes and see if they are rebuilt. If the test comes back positive, then consult a professional immediately.

How Do Drywood Termites Look?

So, you know that you have a termite problem in your yard. However, do you know exactly which type of termite that it is that you need to treat? It can be ineffective to treat your termite with the wrong termite treatment, so it is important to be accurate with your termite identification. For this post, I am going to tell you how to tell if the termite that you have spotted is a Drywood Termite.

Drywood termites are called Drywood because they do not need to live in an environment with a lot of ground moisture to survive. They mostly live in Southern California and along the Gulf Coast. It is important to note the difference between these termites and their counterpart, subterranean termites, for they require completely different treatments.

Drywood termites live within the wood itself and do not require soil contact. So an ideal living spot could be within a dead tree still standing or even your house or storage shed. They also have small colony sizes so they may not be easy to spot. One way to spot them is to look for their fecal material. Drywood termites leave “sand like” droppings. To spot these, kick out holes in the wood and see what falls out.

Drywood termites are a light brown color and have six legs. They are long and oval shaped and range from 3/8” to 1” in size. They do fly and have antennae. These termites aren’t the largest of termites and remember that they stay above ground to nest so they do not need soil. If you have termites festering in poles, limbs, fences or lumber then these are probably the ones attacking it.

If you want to prevent Drywood Termites from infesting your house, make sure that you use treated wood during construction. If you do not, then you should immediately coat it with something that will prevent your wood from getting infested.

If you find that you do have a problem with Drywood Termites, then you should probably seek a professional or attempt some DIY Termite Control treatment.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

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