The springtime of the year promises great change, new growth, and fun activities as people focus on the end of a long, arduous winter. The days become longer and warming temperatures cause flowers to begin poking through the surface of the ground. Thoughts of landscaping, gardening and spring projects are foremost in everyone’s minds. However, not all things associated with the approach of spring are as pleasant as gardens and flowers.
There are multiple types of insects who show up in large numbers every spring. Among those are the carpenter ants and termites. They become increasingly active with the approach of warmer days of sunshine. It is also at this time of year that the mature colonies of ants and termites will release their reproductive members. These reproducers are equipped with wings and are more commonly referred to as swarmers. The act of swarming occurs when these winged reproductive members of the colony come out of their nest en masse and begin to mate. The female or queen will then fly to a new location, shed her wings, lay her eggs and begin a new colony.
Having the presence of flying insects in the home is never a good sign as this more than likely means that you have winged carpenter ants or termites in your house. At first glance the winged carpenter ants and the winged termite swarmers look alike, making it difficult to tell them apart. However, there are enough distinct differences that will help you accurately identify which pest has invaded your home.
When comparing ants vs termites, the first thing to do is to look at their antennae. The termite has straight, beaded antennae while the ant has an antenna that is bent at a 90-degree angle.
Examine their wings. The termite has 4 wings of equal length. The ant has 4 wings as well but they are of unequal length.
Take a close look at the body shape of the insect. The body of the termite is rather straight while the ant has a very thin waist.
While these three points of comparison should help you identify which flying pest is in your home, you can also examine the color of the insect. The termite will be a grey or creamy white color. The flying ant will be black, dark brown, red or a combination of those colors. It is extremely important to be able to distinguish between swarming termites and swarming ants as treatment and control measures differ greatly between the two species.
The question has also been asked if carpenter ants or termites are dangerous to humans. Termites only eat wood and pose no danger to humans. On the other hand, carpenter ants have been known to inflict multiple bites on people who disturb or get into their nest. When a carpenter ant bites, they actually bite out small chunks of skin. These areas can become infected and call for the need for antibiotics. Carpenter ants have actually been known to carry impetigo but the threat of carpenter ant bites is very small and not a typical occurrence in New York.
While carpenter ants are not as destructive as termites they still pose a threat to the safety and well being of your home. The carpenter ant does not eat wood like termites but they do carve holes and tunnel through the wood to build their nest, causing frame damage and weakened structures. Total eradication of carpenter ants will almost always require the services of a professional pest management company. However, there are some things a homeowner can do to help prevent infestation.
Carefully inspect the exterior of the home for any structural components that have contact with the earth.
Replace any decayed or damaged wood that has been exposed to constant moisture. This could be deck and steps or an eve board to which rain gutters are connected.
Seal any potential points of entry. This includes cracks around windows, holes in screens and utility line entrances.
Keep mulch a few inches away from foundation and store firewood several feet away from the building.
The kitchen is a heavy traffic area for ants. Remove any access to food by storing leftover food in sealed containers. Thoroughly clean any spills or crumbs.
Once you have made a thorough examination of the flying insect and determine it to be a termite, you can be sure that it will more than likely be a subterranean termite. Even though this may come as a surprise to most people, the subterranean termite plays an important role in our ecosystem. Outdoors, in a natural environment, they break down cellulose into usable nutrients. The benefit of all this is that these nutrients are then recycled into the soil as humus. The destruction of the subterranean termite only occurs when they move into homes, businesses and commercial buildings and begin devouring the wooden structure of these buildings. The termite is often referred to as the silent destroyer because their activity is out of sight or behind the scene. They burrow into the wood, wallboard, and trim and begin eating from the inside out. Most of the time the damage is done before the homeowner realizes that termites have invaded his home. It is estimated that billions of dollars of termite damage occur every year in addition to drastically reducing the value of the home.
The subterranean termites live in colonies underground. The colony is made up of three forms or castes of termite: reproductive, workers, and soldiers. The function of the reproductive termite is self-evident. They develop wings as they mature. The winged insects are referred to as swarmers or alates. These swarming insects mate, fly to a new location, shed their wings and the female lays her eggs and starts a new colony of termites.
The termite worker makes up the largest caste of termites in the colony. These wingless insects virtually do all the work. They forage for food for themselves as well as for the other castes. They take care of the queen and build tunnels and shelters. Their mouths are very hard and strong, making it possible for them to chew through wood and cause damage. The structural damage is a result of the activities of the worker termite.
The soldier termites are the defense mechanism of the colony. They ward off other insects, ants and even other termites that try to invade their colony. The soldier termite cannot forage for food or feed himself and depends on the worker to feed him.
Many things must be taken into consideration when determining or estimating the size of a termite colony. One must consider location, the availability of food as well as environmental conditions such as temperature and moisture. Some colonies remain small while others multiply into several thousand termites.
Carpenter ants will forage on a variety of things from dead and living insects to nectar, fruit, and most any other household foods. They usually come into the home while searching for additional nesting sights but the nest they build indoors is just a satellite nest from the larger parent nest located outside. The parent nest is usually in a dead tree, stump, landscaping material or woodpile. While the carpenter ant doesn’t consume wood like the termite, the damage is done with their extensive network of tunnels. These tunnels or galleries are usually started in areas that have been damaged from water exposure and wood decay like one may expect around window ledges or door thresholds.
Just as there are some preventive tips for controlling carpenter ants, there are protective steps homeowners and business owners can take to reduce the exposure or risks of attracting termites to their buildings. Landscaping and construction features can literally attract termites into your home or business. A better understanding of the biological makeup and habits of termites will equip you with the knowledge necessary for prevention measures.
Subterranean termites must have a constant supply of moisture to survive. Slope your yard away from buildings and eliminate any standing water. Make sure you have good drainage, eliminating constant wet soil.
The subterranean termite is closely associated with the soil, building their colonies underground with intricately detailed tunnels. They use mud to build above ground tunnels up the sides of the foundation and building. This mud tunnel stays moist and helps keep the termite from drying out as they travel from the earth to the home. Keep all wooden parts of the house at least 6 inches above the ground and destroy any mud trails or tunnels.
Never store firewood close to the foundation. Do not stack lumber under the crawlspace of your home. These are great attractants and easy access for termites.
Inspect your window ledges, basement floor and other areas of the home for any shed wings, as these are a sure sign of the presence of termites or flying ants.
Total eradication of termites will require the services of professionally trained technicians. In addition to effective and traditional termite treatment, Parkway Pest Services are authorized operators of the Sentricon® Termite Colony Elimination System. This is an eco-friendly termite control option that has proven to be extremely effective. It, in a simple form, is a termite baiting system and requires no drilling, trenching or digging. The idea is for termite baiting stations to be strategically placed around the structure of the building. Termites will find the bait and carry it back to the rest of the colony, resulting in successful eradication.
In summary, learn to identify which pest has invaded your home. Stay knowledgeable of preventive tips to keep your home free of ants, termites and other household pests. At any time you experience an invasion of these pests call for professional pest control services.