Termite Information

Before you read all the great information we pillaged from the rest of the internet, take a look at what we commonly see during inspections.

This is a termite tunnel. Don't confuse it with ant tunnels that are also fairly common to the area. An ant tunnel will break apart easily and immediately when you touch it. Termite tunnels are made of hard mud; they will be more difficult to break away. When they do break in your hand, you should check to see if there are live termites inside. They generally look like the unattractive little white ones in the picture shown below (scroll down). Termites can obviously cause significant damage to your home. Even if you do not find live termites in the tunnel, you should have the house professionally evaluated. It is a very small price to pay considering the alternative.

Home Inspection

Subterranean termites cause more damage to wood in service than any other insect. Although no figures exist for their impact on log homes, they are a serious concern, especially in regions of high risk.
Several different species of subterranean termites exist, but they are all social insects which live in underground colonies but are often active in wood above ground. Termite activities include excavating galleries and consuming wood.

Each colony contains three forms or castes of termite:

o  Soldiers have large heads and jaws. They protect the colony. 
o Workers are responsible for the damage, tearing loose tiny wood particles with heavy jaws. The bodies of workers produce food for the entire colony. Termites cannot actually digest wood; it's ground into powder in the termite's crop, then digested by protozoa in the termite's digestive track. Workers are usually hidden.
o Reproductives are the winged form of termite which appear in colonies at least two years old. When conditions are right, usually in early spring, reproductives swarm, leaving the colony and flying to a new location where they shed their wings, mate and establish a new colony.

Termite damage is seldom visible and inspection requires looking for clues indicating infestation.
Locations to check:

o Wood structures close to the ground.
o Joists.
o Girders.
o Sills.
o Posts.
o Porch framing.
o Basement window frames.
o Crawlspaces or basements with high humidity.
o Wood with high moisture levels.
Visible evidence of infestation:
o Mud tubes attached to vertical surfaces such as foundation walls and piers, especially near areas with high moisture levels.
o Discolored wood, blistered paint and other signs of damaged wood.
o Look for small hard fecal pellets.
o Any termites inside a home (check window sills for winged termites).
o Heavily excavated wood may become so thin at the surface that holes appear. Termites seal these holes with a mud-like substance.
Piles of pellets below holes.
o Piles of wings, which indicate a recent infestation.

Carpenter Ants
Carpenter ants are large (usually) black ants which live in colonies. Depending on form and species, they range from 1/4” to 1/2” in length. Ants in this size range may be found in the same nest, since size varies among workers.
While carpenter ants don't sting, their bites can be painful.

Carpenter ants are found across North America, in the West at elevations up to 9,000 feet, and in the Central and Eastern regions to approximately 5,500 feet. In the Pacific Northwest and in some areas of the northern Midwest they are considered to be a problem equal to termites.

Very common in forests, they are more likely to infest homes near large trees or native chaparral, although infestations occasionally occur in urban neighborhoods. Although some species excavate tunnels into dry wood, most prefer moist, decay-softened logs and must have high humidity in their nesting area.
Life Cycle
· Reproductive carpenter ants ( winged males and females ) leave the nest as early as January if the nest is in a heated structure. Those living outside in logs and stumps will not swarm until about early May. The fertilized queens must then find wet wood to establish a new nest.
· Colonies require approximately 2 years to mature to the point at which winged forms develop and swarm to establish a new colony.
· As with termites, ants have worker and larval forms.
· Primary nests may be in moist, outside areas with secondary nests in home logs excavated by ants.
Winged ants appear similar to winged termites. Here is the difference:
Signs of carpenter ant infestation include the large, black ants running about the house, or swarms of the winged reproductives in or on the house (usually in the spring); piles of fibrous, sawdust-like borings which the ants have expelled through slit-like openings in the infested wood; the slit-like openings themselves in woodwork, especially in window or door casings; or a faint rustling in walls, floors, and woodwork
· A few ants found inside a home don't necessarily indicate an infestation. Ants seen between spring and summer may indicate outdoor nests. Seeing ants between February and March may indicate an indoor nest.
· Ant tunnels contain no frass and have a smooth, almost polished appearance.
· Frass may be visible on or beneath logs.
· Frass often contains insect parts.

Nesting Locations
Locations are listed here in order of nesting preference*:
         1. Inside walls.
         2. In ceilings.
         3. Under siding.
         4. In wood in contact with soil.
         5. Near gutter structures (especially at tile roofs).
         6. Hollow doors.
         7. Floors.
         8. Window sills.

* Results of a survey involving 30 pest control operators in the U.S. and Canada.
The nest may be behind a drawer in a dresser or cabinet, or behind books in a library. In an area that is seldom disturbed, such as an attic, the nest may be exposed to view, as on the plaster laths between 2 ceiling joists.