We’re just going to say it—termite infestations are the worst type of infestations you can have. These forever-hungry pests aren’t satisfied until they’ve caused thousands of dollars worth of damage (over five billion dollars worth of destruction every year actually). And unfortunately for us, termites love the warm Charlotte-area climate. But don’t worry, we’re here to help protect your home and businesses. In any fight, it helps to know your enemy. Here’s everything you need to know about termites in the Charlotte area, including the most common types, what they look like, how to prevent and treat them, and more.
Charlotte Termite Types
The most common termites in Charlotte are Eastern subterranean termites and drywood termites.
The warm, moist environment in Charlotte is ideal for subterranean termites. These common termites live under the soil where they look for food, but also live in protected above-ground tunnels called mud tubes. Their colony is made up of three different types of termites—workers, soldiers and reproductive termites. Soldiers have a rectangular-shaped head with large mouthparts and defend the colony. Workers are usually cream colored and do whatever it takes to maintain the colony and feed the other termites. A large, healthy termite colony produces thousands of swarmers, usually in the spring. After swarming from the colony, males and females pair up, break off their wings, and search for a suitable place to start a new colony. This is typically near a food source, such as a rotten log or stump, on the ground. They become the queen and king of a new colony.
Drywood termites live in the wood they feed on and are mainly problematic in coastal areas. Although some species can show up just about anywhere. Drywood termites are different sizes depending on their caste. They are usually pale brown, though it can vary between dark brown and light, yellowish-tan. Alates, or winged termites can be clear or smokey gray in color. As with other species of termites, drywood termites are organized in a caste system. Once a queen finds a good spot for a colony (often in the rafters of a home), she chooses a mate (or king) and begins laying eggs. The eggs hatch and the nymphs eat (and damage) wood and care for the rest of the colony. As the termite colony ages, some of the termites develop into reproductive or soldier castes. Reproductive termites will grow wings, swarm, and go off to form new colonies. Soldier termites protect the established colony from ants, other termites and various threats. Like other species of termites, this species eats cellulose, which is found in wood and other plants. This is what makes wooden structures so appealing to them and why they are found in homes, fences and trees.
Drywood termite colonies are much smaller than subterranean colonies and it takes them a long time to do significant amounts of damage. Since they don’t come from the soil, there will be no dirt or mud tubes associated with their damage. Drywood termites require a specialized treatment whenever they become an issue.
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Signs & Damage of Termites
There are several signs to be on the lookout for if you think you might have a termite infestation.
Mud tubes are a clear sign of termites. Because termites travel from the soil to food sources through mud tubes, these pencil-sized structures may be found on foundation walls, joists, or ceilings. They can also be seen wherever the ground meets your house or any other possible wood food source like a tree or shed.
If termites do eat the outside of furniture or wooden walls, then they’ll create a series of chaotic looking tunnels. This is a common occurrence in antique furniture.
Drywood termites nest inside of wood. While tunneling and eating the wood they’re infesting, they create galleries to travel through. To keep these tunnels clean, they make holes where they remove their excrement, which essentially creates mounds of pellets that resemble sawdust or coffee grounds.
Blistered or Hollow Wood and Sagging Floors
Infested timber usually looks fine from the outside but is weak and unstable. Buckling floors or wood that sound hollow when tapped may suggest termite problems underneath. Subterranean termites can also cause damage to the subfloor, which can make your floors sag, appearing as if they have water damage. Wood damaged by termites is honeycombed in appearance with layered hollow sections packed with mud and partially digested wood. Besides structural wood, termites also eat cardboard boxes, wood paneling, and anything containing cellulose. This makes a variety of items found around the home a perfect meal for a termite.
Swarming and Shed Wings
If you see reproductives (swarmers) flying about, an infestation could be nearby. You also may find discarded termite wings near closed windows, doors, and other home-access points. When they land, termites intentionally twist their wings off because they will never need them again. Ouch!
When termites eat wood, any paint on that wood can crack because the wood’s become distorted. Keep your eyes peeled for this.
How to Prevent Termites
There are a few things you can do to discourage termites from coming onto your property:
- Get rid of old tree stumps or rotten fences.
- Move wood piles as far as possible from your home.
- Keep mulch away from your foundation.
- Repair any leaky water faucets or pipes in your home.
- Eliminate wood to soil contact.
- Seal all cracks on the exterior of your home, no matter how small.
- Keep bushes or landscaping at least 2 feet away from the edge of the home.
- Keep drainage systems unblocked and routed away from the home.
- Schedule yearly inspections and monitor frequently.
How to Get Rid of Termites in Charlotte, NC
If you think you have termites, we highly recommend you call a Terminix professional. Things like flooding the soil, using liquid repellents and bait stations may work for a short period of time, but they won’t solve the problem. Different species of termites respond to different types of treatments, and proper identification is critical for the fastest, safest removal.