TERMITES ON LONG ISLAND
Although termite species vary throughout the United States, the Eastern Subterranean Termite is the only species that attacks homes, buildings, and other structures on Long Island.
What are Subterranean Termites?
Subterranean termites have existed for over 55 million years and they are arguably the greatest economic pest threat in the United States. In fact, termites cause billions of dollars in damage each year to homes, commercial buildings, and other structures in the U.S.…damage that is not covered by most insurance. In addition to structural damage, termites also damage other items by eating books, paper documents, and even photographs.
Subterranean termites are social insects that live in underground colonies. There can be millions of termites in any one colony, but most homeowners never see them until a pest management professional confirms that they have penetrated and damaged your home.
Termites are natural decomposers, making them very important organisms. These voracious little buggers are vital to the health of our forests because they recycle dead and decaying trees into new soil. Termites also aerate and improve soil as they build and travel through their tunnels underground. Unfortunately for us, the primary food source for subterranean termites is wood, which is what our homes are made with.
The proper identification and control of subterranean termites is best left to the professionals. If you see or suspect termites inside your home, or around your property, please contact us to get a free inspection and discuss treatment options.
Eastern Subterranean Termites
As mentioned above, the Eastern Subterranean Termite is the only termite species that attacks homes, buildings, and other structures on Long Island. Eastern subterranean termites are social insects that live in underground colonies, and their nests are typically between 4-18 inches below the surface.
Each eastern subterranean termite colony is comprised of three different castes (distinct social classes); reproductives (kings, queens and secondaries), workers, and soldiers. This distinct division of labor is vital for the colony to survive as each caste performs a specific colony function. More information about eastern subterranean termite colonies and each caste is below.
Reproductive Termites - Swarmers
In early spring, typically between March and May, many homeowners on Long Island get overwhelmed by the sudden emergence of a large number of winged insects inside their home, or from the soil outside their home. This occurrence is most likely a swarm of subterranean termites, and they are new termite kings and queens who must leave their parent colony to mate and establish new colonies of their own.
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What is a Termite Swarm?
A termite swarm is also referred to as a "nuptial flight," which is a mating ritual they have in common with other insects, including ants and social bees. Once a termite colony reaches a certain capacity, it needs to expand or it cannot sustain itself. For most termite colonies, swarms are produced once a year. When the time is right is in the late summer, the termite queen will produce hundreds or even thousands of swarmers, also called "alates," with the sole purpose of releasing them for colony expansion the following spring. When temperature and humidity levels are optimal, usually between March and May on Long Island, winged reproductive termites emerge from their underground colonies to begin their nuptial flight.
Termite swarmers are both male and female, and the number bred each year varies based on colony size and other factors. Swarmer's are dark-colored and the only caste of the colony with wings and functional eyes. They live in the soil near the surface of their colony until conditions are right to take flight. Swarming preparations are made by all termite colonies within the same area at about the same time.
A termite swarm typically begins with one heavy emergence of swarmers the first day with smaller amounts of swarmers stumbling around over the following few days. Swarming is a natural occurrence that is vital for the survival of termites. However, termite swarms that occur inside homes are unsightly and a strong indication that an active colony has penetrated a structure, or is close by.
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The Subterranean Termite Queen
The subterranean termite queen is darker in color than worker and soldier termites, has wings and functioning eyes. After mating with her king in a safe place, the new queen quickly begins developing her first batch of eggs. As she produces more eggs, her abdomen grows larger to compensate for the development of her ovaries. As her ovaries enlarge, the segments of her body stretch farther apart showing white membranes between the segments of her abdomen, which gives the queen a bubbled, striped appearance.
A fully developed subterranean termite queen will stretch until she is about 1/2 inch in length, making her appear enormous compared to the other castes in a colony. A queen termite has a long lifespan, living for 25 years or longer, with peak egg production for up to 10 years after she mates for the first time.
The Subterranean Termite King
The life of a king termite is spent entirely underground, and he retains his royal stature within the colony, second only to the queen. Other than mating with the queen and releasing pheromones (chemical signals) to direct the castes, the king termite has no other duties in the colony.
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The Subterranean Termite Worker
Subterranean termite workers are tiny, only measuring about a 1/8 of an inch to about a 1/4 inch in size, depending on age. They are a pale, creamy-white color, and have no wings or eyes. Termite workers are both male and female, but they cannot reproduce. The body of a termite worker is soft, but its mandibles (mouth-parts) are very hard, giving them the talent of chewing through wood. It is believed that individual worker termites can live for up to five years.
Subterranean termite workers perform all of the physical labor for the colony and are responsible for the damage found in homes and other structures. They are the only caste in a colony that feeds on wood. They also care for the young, repair the nest, build travel tunnels, locate food, and feed and groom each other, as well as the other members of the colony. The youngest termite workers typically perform the basic domestic tasks like feeding, grooming and caring for the young, while the older (and more expendable) workers must take on the more hazardous work of foraging for food and building nests.
Since adult subterranean termite workers are responsible for feeding the colony, they are always traveling away from the nest in multiple directions searching of food (wood) and ways to bring it back. Subterranean termite workers require moisture to survive, making them vulnerable to dehydration, so they build and travel through dark, humid tunnels (also referred to as "mud tubes" or "shelter tubes"). They make these tunnels out of tiny particles of soil and wood, and they glue them together with their saliva and fecal matter. These tunnels maintain the proper moisture content so their soft bodies don't dry out from exposure to the air outside. Tunnels also protect worker termites from predators (mostly ants).
Even though subterranean termite workers don't have eyes, they can still detect the difference between light and dark. Once termite workers detect light, they will do everything they can to return to the dark as quickly as possible to avoid death by predators or dehydration.
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Termite shelter/mud tubes on a foundation wall in a basement.
The Subterranean Termite Soldier
Subterranean termite soldiers are about the same size as worker termites (about a 1/4 inch long), and they are also blind, soft-bodied and wingless. The distinct difference in appearance between a worker and a soldier termite is that the soldier termite has a larger, elongated, yellowish-brown head, with a pair of large jaws (mandibles) that are more adapted for fighting. However, the large mandibles prevent the soldiers from feeding themselves, so they must rely on the workers to physically feed them.
Subterranean termite soldiers defend and protect the colony from predators, which are mostly ants. When termite mud tubes or feeding galleries are breached by invaders, a pheromone is created to alert soldiers to rush to the attack site. The soldier termites mass around the break site, plug it with their heads, and use there large jaws to puncture, slice and kill the invaders. Unfortunately, subterranean termite soldiers make up only about one to two percent of the colony, so they can be easily overwhelmed if ants attack in large numbers, which they often do.
In addition to defending the colony, subterranean termite soldiers also use their oversized and hardened heads to plug breaches in mud tubes that extend from the soil to a food source above ground. Once plugged by the soldiers, these breaches in the mud tube walls are quickly patched by workers.
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Termite Protection Long Island
There are essentially two methods for treating a structure for termites; liquid chemical treatment and termite baiting. Both of these treatment methods are very different, yet both are effective at controlling termites.
The traditional method of termite treatment is a liquid chemical treatment using a pesticide that creates an invisible chemical barrier between the structure and the ground. This method was the industry standard for decades until the first termite bait was registered in the United States in the mid-90's. A liquid termite treatment involves the injection of chemical to the soil that surrounds a structure.
To learn more about liquid chemical termite treatment, click here.
The most common alternative method of termite treatment is to install a baiting system around the structure that is designed to attract termites and slowly poison them as they eat the bait. The baiting system approach calls for specialized stations to be installed in the soil around the exterior foundation of a structure with no (or a bare minimum) of liquid pesticide applied. These stations are monitored according to the label to determine if termites have infested the station(s) and if further action is required.
To learn more about termite baiting systems, click here.
Paramount has the knowledge and expertise to safely and effectively protect every type of structure from termites. It all begins with an inspection of your property to gather the information we need to design a solution and present you with the options in a pleasant and professional manner. Termite control is one of our specialties and we only use the most advanced methods and materials available today. In addition, all of our termite management programs are backed by a re-treatment warranty protecting your home against re-infestation.
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