Every year at the end of summer / beginning of fall, winged termite reproductives swarm. The swarmers are terrible fliers and they pose little risk to most homes, but they can still be worrisome.
They are large insects, about the size of Carpenter Ant swarmers, and they are a dark reddish brown color. They have two sets of equal length wings, while ants have two sets of wings that are of unequal length. Once the winged termites land and start walking around they typically lose their wings.
See the picture of a dampwood termite swarmer for reference.
We have two types of termites in our area: Subterranean Termites and Dampwood Termites. I will address Subs, in a later post.
Dampwood Termites are considered a wood destroying organism. Like moisture ants, they are a secondary damage producer and as their name suggests they occur in areas where there is damp wood. An insect’s idea of damp is different than what you and I might consider damp.
A missing vapor barrier under your home can allow gallons of water to evaporate into the structural wood under your home every day. Closing off your sub area vents can do the same. This is enough moisture to encourage termite activity. A drier venting underneath or a plumbing leak can lead to termites too. Any where there is wood in contact with soil or ground covers is an area where there is enough moisture. Missing or damaged moisture seals in bathrooms or damaged or leaking gutter and downspouts are major culprits.
Another common problem area is around porches and patios. Often exterior concrete features are poured up against the siding of the structure. Even if the siding isn’t made of wood this traps moisture against a structure in three ways, moisture condensing up from below, moisture wicking over from porous concrete which absorbs water when it rains, and in some areas, rain water will seep down into the crack between the concrete and the structure – where it can take months to dissipate.
A home should be inspected every few for conditions which create excessive moisture conditions. Not only do these conditions attract termites, and ants of various species, they create the same exact conditions needed by wood rot – a set of living organisms that destroy more wood than all the wood damaging insects combined. The repair costs for all types of wood destroying organisms is often cited as exceeding the costs of all natural disasters combined.
The usual treatment recommendation for Dampwood termites involves moisture remediation and rot repair, although like moisture ants a treatment may be recommended if it is the best interests of the home.
Treatments usually involve the use of boric acid type materials such Bora-Care and Tim-Bor, both of which are considered to be Green Pest Control alternatives that kill all types of rot and have some light, but effective insecticidal properties.
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