Termite Identification and Termite Information for Northern New Jersey Residents
Several termite species are found in the U.S., but the subterranean termite poses the greatest risk to northern New Jersey homeowners. Termites cause more than $5 billion in property damage annually, inflicting significant structural damage to more than 600,000 U.S. homes every year. An estimated 90% of the termite damage in America is caused by subterranean termites. No bigger than a grain of rice, these voracious insects are stealth invaders, tunneling into your home from below ground to feast on foundation timbers, floor joists, porch pillars, sub flooring, door and window frames, even hardwood floors.
Living in huge underground social colonies that can number in the hundreds of thousands and even millions, a mature colony of just 60,000 termites can devour more than two lineal feet of pine 2 x 4's in a single year. Living and feeding out of sight, termites can go undetected for years, doing significant structural damage to your northern New Jersey home. Once discovered, their secretive nature and highly-honed survival instincts can make it extremely difficult to locate and eliminate the entire termite colony. Do-it-yourself attempts at extermination will only cause termites to abandon their present site and attack another area of your home, making their elimination even more difficult. Successful termite extermination requires expert knowledge and experience and should only be performed by a professional termite expert like Heritage Pest Control.
Are Termites Active in Northern New Jersey?
The eastern subterranean termite (Reticulitermes flavipes) is the most common termite in the United States, ranging from southern Canada, south into Mexico and from the Atlantic seaboard, west to the Rocky Mountains. The only termite found in northern New Jersey, this voracious pest can be expected to invade one in five New Jersey homes, according to the New Jersey Pest Management Association.
How to Identify Termites
Like most social insects, termites are dependent on each other for survival and live by a strict caste system. Nymphs develop into reproductives, workers or soldiers. Each insect performs a distinct role in the survival of the colony.
• Reproductives. Colonies are initiated and populated by kings and queens, the primary reproductives. Queens are enormous egg-laying machines with outside bodies nearly 1/2 inch long that dwarf their subjects. Living 25 to 30 years compared to two years for worker termites, queens may produce as many as 2,000 eggs per day and more than 10,000 a year. While king termites remain normal size, they share the queen's longer life span. The queen and king spend their lives in the colony's central chamber fed and tended by worker termites.
• Swarmers (secondary reproductives). When a colony grows too large for the available resources, special winged reproductives, called alates, are produced and begin to swarm. These future queens and kings have functional eyes and two pairs of long, oval grayish wings. Dark brown and larger than worker termites, alates are about 3/8 inch long including their wings. You can differentiate termites from swarming ants with which they are often confused with by their wings. Termites have wings of equal size while ants have a front wing that is distinctly larger than their hind wing.
In northern New Jersey termites generally swarm from March to May. Hundreds of winged termites emerge from the ground in milling puddles to fly off in search of new food and water sources. While not adept fliers, they can be carried over large areas by the wind. Alates pair off, shed their wings on landing and burrow into the ground to establish a new termite colony.
• Workers. The largest caste, worker termites are 1/8 inch long or about the size of a match head with soft, creamy-colored, translucent bodies and short legs. Blind and sterile, they work 24 hours a day gathering food, constructing tunnels, repairing and enlarging the nest, grooming each other, feeding the colony and caring for the nymphs. It is the worker termites that cause damage to your home. Using a symbiotic protozoa in their gut, workers digest wood, turning it into a liquefied food that they regurgitate from their mouth or anus and feed to the rest of the colony.
• Soldiers. The colony's defenders, soldiers are 1/4 inch long with orange rectangular armored heads as long as their bodies. From a special gland on their forehead, soldier termites can emit a sticky latex substance that they use to ensnare ants and other enemies which they then crush with their mandibular pinchers. When termite activity is exposed, it is the soldier ants you see rushing out to defend the breach while workers make repairs.
Active year round, termites live in the soil below the frost line. Termites require a warm, moist environment with a constant source of moisture and a cellulose-based food source. While termites prefer to feed on wood, particularly Douglas fir, a common structural timber, they will also consume books, photographs, cardboard and stored papers. Unlike carpenter ants, termites cannot live in wood due to the lack of humidity. They must return to the soil to replenish body moisture.
Termites can enter your home through cracks less than 1/16 inch wide and often enter through areas inaccessible to regular inspection such as concrete slabs, expansion joints and under patio slabs or porch stairs. They are attracted to wet foundations and crawl spaces with leaky pipes. They are most commonly discovered in unfinished basements, door sills and jambs, window and door moldings sub flooring, floor joists, crawl spaces, hardwood floors and garage door jams. Mature colonies may harbor hundreds of thousands of workers and often attack a home from several entry points.
Usually termite swarms in the spring are a homeowner's first indication of a termite problem. You may find hundreds of winged termites milling around in "puddles" in your lawn or in garden areas near foundation walls. Termites that swarm indoors will be attracted to light and may congregate near doors or windows. Tiny oval wings littering windowsills or caught in spider webs are signs of a termite problem. Unfortunately for the homeowner, it generally takes two to four years of growth before a termite colony becomes large enough to generate a swarm. Swarming termites are an indication of a well-established termite colony on your property.
As they are foraging for food, subterranean termites may also build mud tubes across obstacles to protect themselves from dehydration, sunburn and predators. While discovery of mud tubes is rare in northern New Jersey, homeowners may find mud trails in basements or crawl spaces that warrant inspection for termite activity.
Termite damage may also be discovered be a homeowner in the course of home repairs. Subterranean termites do not devour an entire piece of wood. They eat out the soft spring wood, leaving the harder, indigestible summer wood, creating a honeycombed shell. Termites pack the chewed out galleries with mud to maintain the humidity important to their survival. These fragile shells sometimes rupture, exposing termite activity. If you do discover termite activity, call a professional termite control expert immediately. Disruption to a termite colony can cause termites to move their field of operation, making them even more difficult to eliminate.
How to Protect Your Home against Termites
We use three effective types of termite control: Exterra Termite Interception and Baiting System, Halo Electronic Termite Detection, and Termidor Liquid Application. All three are safe, effective methods of eliminating termite infestations but require expert knowledge and specialized equipment for successful application or monitoring. When implemented by Heritage Pest Control's highly trained termite experts, we have had an extremely successful retreat incidence of less than 1% with excellent colony elimination results. For complete information about termite control, visit our Termite Control page.
All three forms of termite control take advantage of the natural social behavior of termites. The lethal properties of these termite control systems are transmitted throughout the termite colony during feeding by infected worker termites and through the constant mutual grooming of colony members. All members of the colony are soon affected and the colony, including the queen, dies.
Things you can do to help protect your home from a termite invasion include:
- Eliminate wood to soil contact including gardening mulch contact with wood or shingle siding, window frames or thresholds.
- Trim landscaping so it does not touch the house.
- Use only treated wood for deck and fence posts and for landscaping timers.
- Relocate firewood piles off the ground and away from structures.
- Remove wood debris from around foundation areas and crawl spaces.
- Repair water leaks caused by plumbing, gutters, roof or air conditioner overflow.
- Direct excess water runoff away from foundation walls.
- Use a dehumidifier in damp basements.
The only way to get rid of termites is with the help of a professional pest control service with an expertise in termite elimination. Disturbing the site of a termite infestation makes it more difficult to successfully treat and eliminate the colony.
Termite Inspections and Termite Protection Plans
If your home or business property has been treated for termites, regular follow-up inspections should be performed for at least the first two years following termite treatment to guard against repeat infestation. If you are buying a home or business it is smart to have a termite inspection done before buying by a professional such as Heritage Pest Control, to assure your new home or building is termite-free. We do provide inspection only services on request.
For clients who work with Heritage Pest Control, a seasonal Home Protection Plan can help monitor for termite activity and stop infestations before they damage your home. If you suspect you have termites, contact the termite experts at Heritage Pest Control. Don't allow termites to further damage your home!