Don't Let Termites Invade Your Lake Worth Home
Unfortunately, while termites are present across much of the United States, Florida’s warm, humid climate makes it a perfect breeding ground for termites year-round, but especially in the spring. If you live in Lake Worth, your home could be in the crosshairs, so prevention should always be a priority.
In this article, we’re going to take an in-depth look at the types of termites threatening Lake Worth residents, potential indicators of termite activity, and some steps you can take to keep your home termite-free for good.
Florida Termite Species
While there thousands of different individual termite species found all over the world, the two biggest threats to Lake Worth homes come from subterranean and drywood termites.
Subterranean termites characteristically make their nests in or around soil and damp wood or plant material, using the cellulose found inside for nourishment. While they spend most of their lives underground, they will occasionally surface for food - namely any wood products they can find (including walls, foundations, cardboard, paper, etc.), as well as plastics, insulation, plaster, asphalt, and even lead and copper sheeting.
Subterranean termites can be found across the globe, but three key species threaten Florida homeowners. While the native Eastern subterranean termite its foreign cousin the Formosan subterranean termite have been infesting Florida homes for decades, it has recently been joined by Asian subterranean termites after coming to the continent in the 2010’s.
Between their extensive tunneling and their healthy appetites, subterranean termites can be a force of absolute destruction in any home they find their way into. When they swarm in the spring, the aftermath isn’t a pretty sight.
In many ways, drywood termites are opposite their subterranean counterparts, primarily differing in their feeding and tunneling habits. Where subterranean termites prefer damp, damaged wood to make shelter inside, drywood termites prefer to tunnel inside sources of drywood.
Drywood termite colonies are smaller than their subterranean colonies, with populations typically growing to only a few thousand instead of the millions found inside a typical subterranean colony.
While this generally means that a drywood termite infestation isn’t as damaging as a subterranean infection, because they spend the entirety of their lives inside wood, a drywood termite infestation can be much more difficult to identify - so while they may not eat your home as quickly, they are capable of doing more damage over a longer period of time.
In Florida homes, drywood termites are often found in wooden playground sets, in wood piles, in wooden furniture and in wooden building frameworks.
What to Look For
Prevention is key in any pest control situation, but that’s never truer than when dealing with termites. Part of the reason termite infestations cause so much damage is because they often go on for months or even years before the homeowner becomes aware of the problem. By the time they know they have guests, they’ve already eaten them out of house and home - literally.
While live termites are rarely the first indicator of a spring termite infestation, there is no surer sign that your home is under attack than seeing the perpetrators with your own eyes - which is why it’s vital to know what to lookout for.
Termites follow a three-part life cycle in which they mature into one of three diverse castes, each serving a vital role within the colony. After hatching from an egg as a nymph, each termite in the colony will develop over time into either a worker, a soldier, or a reproductive based on the current needs of the colony.
- Termite eggs are incredibly small, with white pearlescent coloration. In subterranean colonies especially, the Queen can lay thousands of eggs a day. Termite eggs are well-protected, and since they are found deep inside the nest, most people rarely see termite eggs in person. After a few weeks, the egg will hatch, at which point a larvae (known as a nymph) will emerge.
- Termite nymphs are immature termites that have yet to undergo the transformation into their specific role. Nymphs are virtually identical to the worker termites most of them will grow into, only at about half the size. Like soldier and reproductive termites, termite nymphs cannot feed themselves and thus rely on worker termites to survive.
- Worker termites are small (about ⅛ inch long) and white in appearance. Worker termites are responsible for the day-to-day operations that keep the nest running, including foraging, tunneling, building and repairing the nest, tending to the young, and even feeding the other castes (who cannot feed themselves). Due to both their role in the colony and their sheer population size, worker termites are responsible for the vast majority of damage associated with termite infestations.
- Soldier termites are browner in coloration, with large heads and strong mandibles used to fight enemies of the nest. While rarer than worker termites, soldier termites are bigger and thus easier to identify, and since they are often found at entry points to the colony, finding a soldier termite can be one indication that you are near the nest’s location.
- Reproductive termites keep the colony alive by mating and creating more termites. Reproductive termites are distinctive for their black colartion and relatively large size (½ inch), which can sometimes cause them to be misidentified as ants. When certain nymphs in the colony reach maturity, they sprout wings and form mating flights in which two termites pair up and fly off in order to start a new colony. Once a suitable location has been found, their wings fall off and the pair retreat underground to start a new colony, never to resurface. Once the Queen has produced enough termites to bring the colony to a certain size, the pheromones she releases cause new reproductives to form, beginning the cycle anew.
Beyond live termites, there are also a number of tell-tale signs commonly found in and around Florida homes suffering under spring termite infestations, including:
- Signs of tunneling in or around the walls, floors, and foundation of the home, such as dirt buildup, sawdust, or mud tubes formed by subterranean termites
- Buckling, warped, or water-damaged wood at risk of termite infestation - or already under attack
- Hollow sounds when tapping on wooden walls, doors, or furniture indicating tunneling
- Frass (termite droppings), pellet-shaped droppings that drywood termites leave behind, often found in piles close to tunneling sites
- Jamming or sticking in wooden doors and windows as a result of termite damage
- Tapping noises in the wall as termites dig inside it, especially noticeable at night
- Discarded wings leftover from reproductive termites that have formed a colony nearby
So now you know what to look for, but where should you be looking? As you inspect your home, be sure to check in and around these hotspots:
- Wooden walls and flooring
- Shelves, drawers, cupboards
- Window sills
- Doors and door frames
- Wooden furniture
- Light fixtures
- Pipes, faucets, and other plumbing
- Around foundation of the home
- A/C units
- Garbage cans
- Dead trees and stumps
- Piles of mulch or wood chippings
- Fences and fence posts
- Gutters and downspouts
Spring Termite Prevention Tips for Lake Worth Residents
After a thorough inspection of your home for any signs of termites, you should have fairly good idea about whether or not you are experiencing an infestation, but the true scope of the damage could go unseen for months or even years afterward. For Florida homeowners, prevention is the only real option.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services stresses that homeowners employ preventive measures to curb termite presence, so whether or not you’ve found definitive proof of a infestation, use these strategies to keep termites from getting into your home this spring:
Eliminate Moisture: When it comes to termites, prevention is key, and that means making your home as inhospitable as possible. Subterranean termites thrive in moisture-rich environments, so your first step should be to eliminate any sources of excess moisture that could get their attention.
- Repair any leaky faucets, pipes, or A/C units throughout the house
- Use a dehumidifier to regulate excess moisture in areas like the attic, garage, and basement
- Ensure gutters and drains are flowing properly
- Find and remove any rotten or water-damaged wood in the house
Keep it Clean: Wood may be termites’ best-known target, but it’s not the only one. Keep in mind that termites in your home aren’t looking for wood itself but rather for the cellulose inside it, which can come in many forms. Termites will feed on any products derived from trees, not just wood, so take measures to deny them what they’re looking for.
- Discard of household clutter like unwanted cardboard boxes, newspaper piles, old photographs, or clothing
- Keep laundry (especially cotton-based clothing) off the ground and away from walls if possible
- Store items in the garage, attic, and basement in metal or plastic containers
Close it Off: Once you’ve made your home as unattractive to termites as possible, take measures to prevent them any easy ways inside. Not only can this step stop deny termites (and other pests) from direct access into the home, it’s also a vital part of keeping out excess moisture from rain or other sources.
- Fix any holes or tears you find in walls, doors, screens, siding, or the foundation that you find
- Get any holes in the roof, attic, fascia, soffits, or shingles professionally repaired
- Check for loose weatherstipping or mortar in the basement foundation and windows
- Keep doors and windows closed whenever not in use, and consider applying a metal mesh or screen where applicable
Clear the Yard: With the home secure, time to shift your focus to the outside. If termites make a home inside objects or clutter around your yard, it’s only a matter of time before they make their way inside, so remove anything that could become a target.
- Discard any debris in the yard that termites could forage into, including dead trees, stumps, scrap wood piles, and waste lumber
- Root out dead trees and plants and clear decaying foliage before it can become submerged into the soil
- Consider switching from wood-based mulch to rubber-based alternatives
Keep a Safe Distance: The closer plants and shrubs are to the home, the easier termites and other pests can use them as a bridge to get inside. Thick shrubbery around the walls can also make it more difficult to identify an infestation, so putting some distance between your house and any landscaping can also make an infestation easier to identify should one be present.
- Keep at least 12-18 inches between the home and any plants, shrubs, or soil
- Store firewood at least 20 feet from the home, elevated off the ground if possible
- If your home has already been treated for termites, don’t dig within a foot of the home as this could disturb the soil enough to allow termites to pass through
Routine Inspections: The main reason that termite infestations are as costly and damaging as they are is because they often go on for months or even years before the homeowner even knows there’s a problem. Just because you didn’t see anything last time doesn’t mean there couldn’t be something there today, so homeowners need to be constantly vigilant.
- Inspect your home at regular intervals for any signs of termite damage, especially in spring as the temperatures rise
- Keep an eye on the moisture levels in the attic and basement and use a dehumidifier if necessary
- Schedule a professional yearly inspection to ensure you’re protected
Why Professional Termite Treatment is Always Worth It
Termites can be incredibly difficult pest to treat, especially if you try to do it alone. Even if you know the warning signs, tracing the problem to its source and putting a stop to it is another story entirely. And even if you eliminate the infestation today, there’s no guarantee that it won’t be back in force later on. If you want real, lasting protection from termites and the destruction they cause, the safest option is always to get a professional treatment from a certified pest control company.
The team at Nozzle Nolen knows termites better than anyone else in the state of Florida. If your home is under attack from termites, or you fear it could come under attack in the future, contact us for an consultation or visit our residential pest control page to learn more about the different options Nozzle can provide.