Termites are one of the most feared pests for homeowners. Fortunately, they are not that common here in Wisconsin, as most termite species prefer warmer climates. Only one species of termite, the subterranean termite, is actually native to Wisconsin, while the drywood termite has also been found in the state on occasion. However, while both of these termite species have been found in Wisconsin, carpenter ants are more like to be the cause of damage if a termite infestation is suspected.
Can homeowners detect termites?
Yes and no. Unless there are obvious signs of an infestation, you probably won’t detect termites. Termites hide from sight, even during feeding. Colonies will work 24 hours a day 7 days a week, and most infestations will go undiscovered until serious damage is already done. If you feel that you may have termites, call us and we will evaluate the problem. Some signs of an active infestation include discarded wings, hollow wood, cracked paint and sawdust-like droppings, but the most obvious are mud tubes that appear to hollow out the wood.
Termites have a monarchy-like structure for reproductive functions of the colony, meaning a king and queen are almost exclusively responsible for producing new colony members. These colonies can range in size from 100 individuals to over a million! However, there is only one queen per colony, and she can lay thousands to tens of thousands of eggs in her lifetime. The species of termites found in Wisconsin are what are considered lower termites, meaning they feed on cellulose. These lower termites actually have protozoa in their digestive tracts that can convert the cellulose into usable food.
Subterranean termites cause 95% of all termite damage in North America. They are the most destructive insect pests of wood in the United States and cause more than $2 billion in property damage each year, more than damaged caused by fires and windstorms combined! These termites live in colonies underground, hence their name. They build out from their colonies in search of food, both through underground tunnels and by creating mud tubes above ground. Preferred food items include anything containing cellulose, such as paper, fiberboard, and even some fabrics.
The worker termites, which are about 1/8 inch long and have no wings, make up the majority of the population within a termite colony. They are white to cream in color. Soldiers are also wingless and white in color, but they have large brown heads and large jaws. These termites’ sole purpose is to protect the colony. King and queen subterranean termites are dark brown to black in color and have two pairs of wings about twice the length of their body.
Drywood termites are actually not native to Wisconsin but can be found here in instances where wood or furniture has been brought in from out of state. These termites are especially secretive, and therefore very hard to detect. They live deep inside wood, except during swarming periods, and are most likely to be discovered during repair work on homes where they have taken up residence. Fairly small in terms of colony size, there are usually less than 1000 individuals within a colony.
Drywood worker termites have six legs, soft bodies and are pale brown in color. They can have four equal sized wings and are approximately 1/2 inch in length. Soldier termites are colorless aside from their square, black heads. The king and queen, both dark brown in color, feed the young on predigested food until they are able to feed themselves. These termites also feed on cellulose. Often, piles of sawdust-like pellets are the only sign of an infestation.
Did You Know?
Termite queens can live to be up to 50 years old!