These are social insects that live in nests or colonies in the soil. They build shelter tubes to protect the colony from other insects and from the environment (heat & cold). This “Shelter Tube” acts as a central heating and cooling system for the above ground colony. It brings cool moist air throughout the tunnel system during hot dry periods and warm moist air during cold dry periods. This can be achieved because termites tunnel deep below the affected surface soil. When rising up from the soil they will attach the shelter tube to the side of a concrete slab and enter the home through small openings in the mortar or through weep holes (common in the Houston area) where they have access to the wooden framing members of the structure. They may also perform the same maneuver following piers underneath a home (very common in much older Houston area homes – pre 1970’s).
SIGNS OF AN INFESTATION
Termite Swarm: After 2 to 4 years a subterranean termite colony may be mature enough to produce “swarmers” (winged primary reproductives). These termite “swarmers” leave the colony in large numbers during the spring and early summer months. Swarming may occur in the Houston area at any time of the year due to certain environmental conditions. The traditional season for us however is generally April through June and may be preceeded by a morning rain with light winds. The number of “swarmers” produced is proportional to the age and size of the colony.
If this should occur, while it can be intimidating to a property owner we simply suggest collecting a few for our technicians to positively identify and then vacuum the rest. The action of the vacuum will likely kill them and you can dispose of the remaining “swarmers” into a trash bag.
Termite Mud: When termites have successfully entered a structure they begin consuming wood (cellulose) for their nurishment and that of the queen and juveniles. They will eat and tunnel through framing members, trim work, door casings, wood flooring, cabinets, carpet fibers (if natural fibers), sheetrock paper, wall paper, newspaper, books, linens and anything else you can think of with natural cellulose. When in search of additional food they know virtually no boundary.
Cracking/Crumbling Paint: This could be a sign of tunneling activity described above and should be examined by a trained professional. Termites may actually penetrate the skin of your enamel paint on trim work. Don’t take a chance thinking it’s just a bad paint job or defective wood – get it checked today!
Pellets: Note that these are only produced by Drywood Termites! They are excrement pellets and are approximately 1/32” long, rather blount on one end and pointed on the other. The pellets will have a similar color to the wood the Drywood Termites have been consuming.