How to Identify the Different Types of Termites
There are around 2,000 types of termites, an insect that has existed since dinosaurs roamed. In the West, the three types of termites you’re most likely to encounter are:
- Subterranean termites These are the most common type across the country, Fredericks says. They live in soil and use mud shelter tubes—tunnels made from mud and soil—to travel up to the wooden parts of a structure;
- Drywood termites They’re found in warmer, coastal regions in California, as well as other temperate states. “They do not require contact with soil in order to survive,” Fredericks says. “They make their colony within their food source, which is the wood itself;”
- Dampwood termites These are common in the West and Southwest, says Fredericks. They do not create mud shelter tubes, nor do they climb. They’re an issue when there is earth-to-wood contact and moisture—think: a pile of firewood on the ground or your garden bench.
Termites form colonies, which can contain thousands of termites, and cooperate to find food and care for their young. These colonies can live and grow for years.
There’s no off-season for termites—they’re always eating. “They work non-stop, doing damage,” Fredericks says. If you associate termites with springtime, that’s likely because colonies produce swarmers—winged adults—in warmer weather. These flying termites can be seen leaving the nest to reproduce and hunt for new homes.
How to Prevent Termites
For homeowners, preventing termites from getting in is key. Here are some easy strategies to make your home less enticing.
Store firewood away from your home. Keep all untreated wood at least 20 feet away, recommends Fredericks. That’s true for mulch, too, he says. Not only is it often made from wood chips (food for termites), but if it’s piled near the foundation or siding, the mulch can disguise termites’ entry points to your home.
Reduce moisture. Your goal should be to minimize moisture around your home, says Andrew Greess, owner and CEO of QSPRAY.com, a supplier of professional pest control equipment. Termites need water nearby to survive. Make sure that downspouts and the grading around your property divert rain and snow melt away from the foundation, and reduce unnecessary moisture inside too. “Promptly fix any other sources of excess moisture, such as leaky faucets,” Greess says.
Keep siding above the ground. “Your house’s siding should start six inches above the ground; only the concrete foundation should touch the soil,” Greess says.