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Why Desert Subterranean Termite Infestations Are Usually More Extensive And More Likely To Result In Structural Failure Than Infestations Established By Other Termite Pests

There are three types of termites in the world, and a variety of species belonging to each type can be found in Arizona. These termite groups are known as subterranean, drywood and dampwood termites, and while dampwood termites occasionally infest decayed and excessively moist finished woods, they very rarely inflict costly damage to structural lumber in Arizona homes. However, subterranean and drywood termite pests establish infestations within the structural wood components of Arizona homes frequently and all year round in Phoenix, Tucson, Yuma and other urban and suburban centers located in the Sonoran Desert. Of the 30 termite species inhabiting the US, a whopping 17 are known to inflict structural damage to homes and buildings in Arizona. Surprisingly, only three of these pest species are responsible for the majority of annual termite damage reported in the state. These termite pest species include Heterotermes aureus, Reticulitermes tibialis, and Incisitermes minor, and they are commonly known as desert subterranean, arid-land subterranean, and western drywood termites, respectively.

Just as their name suggests, subterranean termites live in colonies located in moist soil beneath the ground, and mature subterranean termite colonies can grow to contain between 50,000 and two million individuals, the vast majority of which are workers. Workers carry out a variety of duties including nest construction, foraging, feeding their nestmates, and establishing satellite colonies. Drywood termites, on the other hand, live in colonies located within above ground wood sources, and these colonies are much smaller, as they grow to contain only a few thousand individuals at maturity. Subterranean termite infestations are usually far more destructive than drywood termite infestations due to the much larger size of their colonies. Also, large subterranean termite colonies are composed of several interconnected nesting sites that can span areas larger than a football field. Desert subterranean termite infestations see workers excavate many long tunnels through multiple lumber boards, and the damage they inflict is unique for its shredded appearance. In most desert subterranean termite infestation cases, substructural wood components, subflooring, beams and joists are often the first to sustain damage by foraging workers. This species is notable for being the only subterranean termite pest species in the US that is capable of initiating infestations in structural wood components located far away from the ground surface. Other subterranean termite pest species establish infestations that rarely see workers advance beyond the first floor of structures.

Have you ever lived in a home that had an active termite infestation?

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How Drywood Termite Control Methods Fared In Scientific Tests

The western drywood termite (Incisitermes minor) is the most common, destructive and economically costly drywood termite pest species in the western US, as well as the entire country. Like all drywood termite species, the western drywood termite lives in colonies that are entirely contained within single above-ground wood items such as logs, fallen branches, and structural wood in homes and buildings. In addition to lumber components in structures, western drywood termites frequently infest individual lumber boards, wooden furniture, and other finished wood items that are regularly shipped across the country and overseas. Because of this, western drywood termites are frequently found in states and regions well outside of their native southwestern habitat range.

Western drywood termites dwell primarily in urban and suburban areas where colonies are most often found in dead portions of trees, branches, brush, firewood stacks in yards, and structural wood in homes. Controlling drywood termites has always been a challenge, and numerous preventative and remedial drywood termite control methods have been thoroughly studied and introduced to the market over the decades. Although many studies have demonstrated the efficacy of several non-toxic methods of controlling western drywood termites, the use of chemically treated lumber for home construction, and both local and whole-structure fumigations remain the most common.

Public demand for non-toxic pest control tactics has prompted the pest control industry to explore alternative drywood termite treatment methods. These methods include high-heat treatments, liquid nitrogen freeze treatments, and even electrocution. Studies have shown that whole-structure high-heat treatments result in the extermination of well over 90 percent of western drywood termite pests infesting indoor structural wood. While high-heat treatments can result in property damage, such as the warping of plastic pipes and lumber components, damage is minimal and can be avoided with proper preparations.

Unless infested lumber is accessible, liquid nitrogen spot treatments require pest control professionals to drill tiny holes through walls and other materials in order to inject the liquid into infested structural wood components located within inaccessible areas. These holes are inconspicuous and can be filled in with appropriate products, and while more research on freeze treatments for drywood termite control are needed, initial tests were promising. Early research on the efficacy of electrocution, however, proved inadequate for drywood termite control, and electrocution resulted in significant damage to the structural wood components being treated.

Have you ever had your home fumigated?


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Why Many Residents Spot Termite Swarms Near Their Home Within A Year Following A Perimeter Treatment On Their Property

Colonies of subterranean and drywood termites contain numerous individuals that are divided into different groups, or “castes.” The worker caste accounts for the vast majority of individuals within a subterranean termite colony, and they are responsible for foraging, nest construction, and feeding and grooming nestmates. Drywood termite colonies are contained entirely within single wood items, making their habitat and food source one and the same. This makes foraging unnecessary and impossible, as drywood termites never leave the wood items that they colonize. However, nest expansion, nestmate feeding and other laborious tasks are carried out by nymphs, which are similar to workers in subterranean termite colonies.

Both subterranean and drywood termite colonies contain a soldier caste responsible for defending the colony, and of course, all termite colonies contain a queen and king. After a few years of colony maturation, queens produce alates, which are winged reproductives that take flight for a few months each year in order to establish new colonies as queen and king. Homeowners often become alarmed upon witnessing termites swarming within and near their home, especially when swarms are witnessed near homes that have recently undergone a perimeter barrier treatment for the purpose of preventing subterranean termite infestations.

In Arizona, both subterranean termites and drywood termites frequently infest homes, but subterranean termites inflict the greatest amount of damage to homes annually. When it comes to drywood termites, only alates leave the colony, and therefore, only alates initiate infestations in structural wood. Subterranean termite alates, establish new colonies in soil, and almost never in wood; instead, workers infest wood after encountering homes while foraging. The application of termiticide liquid beneath the ground around the perimeter of homes prevents workers from tunneling onto properties.

Oddly enough, it is not uncommon for homeowners to witness termite swarms occur near their home shortly after having a perimeter treatment applied to their property. This can lead homeowners to believe that their home remains vulnerable to termites, and this natural response is referred to as a “panic swarm” in the pest control industry. However, it should be known that the application of termiticide below the ground can put stress on nearby subterranean termite colonies that become exposed to the toxins. In order to ensure survival in these circumstances, swarming rates may increase as a biological response to environmental stress. Swarms should only be of concern when they occur indoors.


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How Different Types Of Barrier Systems Can Protect Homes From Subterranean Termite Attacks

Given the relatively high number of destructive termite species that inhabit southern Arizona, homeowners in the state will likely experience termite pest issues at some point. This is especially true for residents who own homes that have never been pretreated for subterranean termite pests. Pretreatments involve the pre-construction application of soil termiticides beneath foundations and around the perimeter of homes. In fact, home-builders are legally obligated to pretreat the soil beneath and around homes before and during construction in most states.

While preconstruction termiticide soil treatments are not required by Arizona law, the Federal Housing Administration and the VA Housing and Urban Development Department will not approve mortgage loans unless the house being purchased was pretreated for subterranean termite pests. In some states, physical barriers, such as metal shields and particle barriers, can serve as an alternative to chemical barrier systems. Although physical barriers are significantly more expensive than standard chemical barriers, the former is a popular choice for those wishing to avoid synthetic insecticides.

Copper termite shields have become popular as a termite prevention method around homes in some parts of the world, but the cost of installation and materials can be pricey. Copper shields are installed on top of foundation or stem walls to deny subterranean termites access to structural wood in homes. Some homeowners opt for termite mesh barriers, which are applied within the stem walls of foundations, or they can be wrapped around pipe protrusions to protect homes from hungry subterranean termites.

While subterranean termite workers are capable of chipping away at cement, plastic, brick masonry, and many other materials in order to reach indoor structural wood, workers are unable to penetrate mesh and copper barrier products. Mesh barriers have become popular in Australia, Hawaii, and in several other US states, but they have yet to catch on in Arizona. In addition to being an environmentally friendly option, physical barriers provide long lasting protection from termite attacks, but erosion and other landscape disturbances may become an issue with these products.

Have you ever considered having physical barriers installed around your home to prevent termite pest infestations?


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The Western Drywood Termite Inflicts 250 Million Dollars In Structural Damage Annually In The Southwest Alone

More than 20 termite species have been documented as inhabiting Arizona, several of which are known pests of structural wood within homes and buildings. Arizona is home to all three groups of termites known as subterranean, drywood and dampwood. Subterranean termites live in large below-ground colonies that are often composed of several secondary nests that surround the original primary nest where the queen and her eggs reside. These networks of interconnected colonies can span areas larger than a football field below the ground in urban and suburban areas.

Dampwood termite pest species inflict very little structural damage to Arizona homes, making them relatively unimportant as economically damaging pests. Drywood termites are not problematic in most areas of the country, but in the southwest they are almost as destructive as subterranean termites. Since drywood termite colonies are contained entirely within single above ground wood items, like logs and fallen branches, they contain far fewer individuals than subterranean termite colonies. While subterranean termites inflict 80 percent of all termite damage reported in the US annually, the western drywood termite alone inflicts more than one quarter of one billion dollars in structural damage in the southwest every year.

Workers that leave subterranean termite colonies to forage are responsible for initiating infestations within homes. Given their below-ground habitat, subterranean termite workers typically damage substructural wood members that are close to the ground. Their intolerance for dry outside air requires them to build air-tight mud tubes out of a hardening mix of soil, excrement, saliva, and bits of wood. These mud tubes are often found on the exterior foundation walls of infested homes, and they serve as the most common indication that a subterranean termite infestation has been established.

Since only winged reproductive drywood termites (alates) leave colonies to swarm, only they can initiate drywood termite infestations. Since alates are airborne, they can initiate infestations virtually anywhere on or within a home without leaving signs of their presence. This makes drywood termite infestations difficult to both detect and prevent, but some interesting detection methods have been developed, such as infrared imaging devices, acoustic and odor emission detectors, and even termite-sniffing dogs. Housing codes require homes to be built with lumber that has been treated to resist decay and termite attacks, but these protective treatments decay over time, and very few methods of preventing drywood termite infestations have been developed.

Are you aware of any reliable methods of preventing drywood termite infestations?

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How Homeowners Can Determine If Termites Will Attack Structural Wood

How Homeowners Can Determine If The Termites Found Eating Plant Roots, Or Swarming Within Or Near Homes Are Pests That Will Attack Structural Wood

More than 3,000 termite species have been documented worldwide, and all of these species belong to one of three groups. These three groups are known as subterranean, drywood and dampwood termites. Many species from each of these groups can be found in the US, some of which are pests that infest and damage structural wood within homes and other types of woodwork. Subterranean termites live in colonies below the ground where workers regularly leave the nest to gather food sources. Mature subterranean termite colonies contain tens of thousands to a little more than one million individual termites. Unlike subterranean termites, drywood and dampwood termites live in much smaller colonies that are contained entirely within single above-ground wood items, such as logs, fallen branches, and of course, woodwork. In other words, drywood and dampwood termites constantly inhabit their food source, and only swarming alates leave the nest to establish new colonies, sometimes within homes.

Paraneotermes simplicicornis is the only dampwood termite species that is considered a structural pest in Arizona, but this species, like most dampwood termites, does not inflict much damage to homes. This is because dampwood termites can only feed on excessively moist wood sources like decaying logs. Most structural wood in homes are not nearly moist enough to sustain a dampwood termite colony, but they sometimes find sufficiently moist wood to infest within old homes, or homes where plumbing or rainwater leaks have dampened structural wood. P. simplicornis, or the “desert dampwood termite,” as it is more commonly known, is technically a drywood species, but they exhibit behaviors that are also similar to those of subterranean termites. For example, desert dampwood termites build their nests in shallow soil where they retain moisture by feeding on sap that they extract from the roots of living or partially living shrubs and citrus trees. Naturally, finding termite-damaged trees or shrubs often gives homeowners that impression that their house is next on the menu. If possible, the nymphs (akin to workers) should be extracted from damaged tree roots and identified. If they have distinctly spotted abdomens, then they are desert dampwood termites that will likely not cause damage to homes. These termites swarm between May and September in Arizona, particularly one day after heavy rainfall. When swarms occur within or near homes, the dead alates that collect on the ground should be identified. If alates are more than an inch long and are dark brown, they are likely desert dampwood termite alates that should not be feared.

Have you ever found termite damaged landscape plants in your yard?

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How Drywood Termite Control Methods Have Evolved Over The Course Of History

It is difficult to determine when in human history termites started to become economically damaging insect pests, but evidence suggests that termite pest issues pre-date the advent of modern timber-framed homes. Archeological evidence and cave drawings indicate that indigenous Australian aborigines were not strangers to termite damage, as they exploited the insect’s wood-eating habits to create a musical instrument known as a didgeridoo. During the 17th century, biologists began choosing names for termite species that reflected their habit of damaging wood. For example, one of the earliest names for a termite species was Termes destructor, which translates to “destroyer of wood.” However, research publications that describe termites as pests of woodwork did not appear until the 19th century.

The earliest examples of research literature on termite pests focus mainly on subterranean termites, and not drywood or dampwood termites. The first research publications that documented drywood termite species in North America appeared in the 1920s, and this decade saw the establishment of the first termite-control organization in California. By the 1930s, a global research organization was formed for the purpose of describing termite species and the damage they cause. The research conducted by members of this organization was published in a book about the management of termite pests, and several chapters were devoted solely to drywood termites.

The earliest pest control company that managed drywood termite pest issues emerged in southern California back in 1905. The first recorded use of fumigants for insect pest control date back to the 1870s, and fumigants were used by early pest control companies to eradicate drywood termite infestations. Surprisingly, fumigations are still the most common method of drywood termite control, but today, spot treatments are frequently used as an alternative to full-structure fumigations.

While control methods for most insect pests have evolved considerably since the establishment of the pest control industry, there has been relatively little innovation when it comes to drywood termite control. This is mostly due to the difficulty in detecting and eliminating drywood termite infestations. Since drywood termite colonies permanently inhabit the inner cavities of wood where they cannot be seen or accessed, there are only so many ways of controlling the pests. Over the last century, numerous drywood termite control methods have been proposed and tested including high heat treatments using propane heaters, freeze treatments using liquid nitrogen, electrocution using the patented “electro gun,” and even microwaves.

Have you ever suspected your home of being infested with drywood termites?



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How Does The Government Protect New Homes From Subterranean Termite Attacks In Arizona?

How Does The Government Protect New Homes From Subterranean Termite Attacks In Arizona?

Subterranean termites inflict more property destruction than drywood and dampwood termites in all US states. While two drywood termite species, the dark and light western drywood termites, are economically significant pests of structural wood in Arizona, arid-land and desert subterranean termites are both responsible for the majority of damaging infestations discovered in Arizona homes annually. Unlike drywood and dampwood termites, subterranean termite colonies are located beneath the ground where workers tunnel through soil in search of cellulose-rich food sources, such as dead roots, stumps, sticks, and other forms of fibrous plant matter. In Arizona where suburban developments continue to expand onto open areas of desert land where subterranean termites are abundant, protecting homes from infestations is a must, and a legal requirement.

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA), the Veterans Administration of Housing and Urban Development (VA HUD), and state and local laws in Arizona require new homes to undergo preventative termite soil treatments before and/or during construction. Only properly licensed pest control professionals are legally allowed to apply termiticide barrier treatments to soil on properties where homes will be built. State regulation requires pest control companies to control any subterranean termite pest issues that may occur on the properties that they had pretreated for a period of three years following the initial soil termiticide application. If the owners of a new Arizona home wish to have an additional structure built onto their home, such as another room, a patio, or any project that disturbs the soil or involves cutting into the concrete slab, the owners must first notify the pest control company that pre-treated the home. If the owners of an Arizona home experience subterranean termite pest issues on their property within the three year time frame following the initial pre-treatment, they can contact the company that performed the pre-treatment for additional services. If homeowners do not know which pest control company pre-treated their property, the home’s builder or general contractor can provide the necessary information.

Have you ever experienced subterranean termite pest issues after moving into a fairly new home?



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Termite Warning Signs | Phoenix Termite Control

Termite Warning Signs | Phoenix Termite Control

Magic Pest offers the following signs that termites may be present in a home:

  1. Mud tubes (used by termites to reach a food source) on the exterior of the home.
  2. Soft wood in the home that sounds hollow when tapped.
  3. Darkening or blistering of wood structures.
  4. Cracked or bubbling paint.
  5. Small piles of feces that resemble sawdust near a termite nest.
  6. Discarded wings near doors or on windowsills, indicating swarmers have entered the home or swarmers themselves, which are often mistaken for flying ants.

Phoenix Termite Control Experts. Call Today For A Free Inspection!

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Exterminating Drywood Termites

Exterminating Drywood Termites With Microwaves That Boil The Insect’s Internal Bodily Fluids

These days a lot of research goes into developing new pest control methods that can effectively kill cryptic insect pest species that sometimes survive traditional pest control treatments. This is certainly the case when it comes to eliminating invasive insect pests, such as red-imported fire ants, tawny crazy ants, and Formosan subterranean termites. However, several native insect pests remain extremely difficult to eliminate from infested homes despite significant advances in pest control technology. Termites are the most common insect pests that remain a challenge to eradicate from infested homes, and this is especially the case when it comes to drywood termite species.

Subterranean termites have long been the most common and the most economically damaging group of wood-infesting pests in the US, as well as the rest of the world. All termites are divided into three groups that are known as subterranean, drywood and dampwood termites. As pests of economic importance, dampwood termites are largely insignificant, while subterranean termites inflict 80 percent of all termite damage per year within the US. The other 20 percent of property damage is mostly inflicted by drywood termite species. Considering the high cost of subterranean termite pest activity, it is in the best interest of pest control researchers to focus on eradicating and preventing subterranean termite infestations as opposed to drywood termite infestations. That being said, the southwest US is the only region of the country that sees a disproportionate amount of drywood termite damage to houses and finished wood items.

Subterranean termite infestations can be prevented with termiticide and physical barriers that are applied beneath the ground-soil surrounding properties, and infested homes rarely contain more than one colony nesting site within structural wood. Drywood termites, on the other hand, can nest deep within structural wood and they can establish multiple colonies within a home. Currently, whole-structure fumigation is the preferred method of drywood termite eradication within homes, and several spot-treatment methods have been put to use with varying results. One bizarre spot-treatment that is used by very few pest control professionals involves placing a microwave emitting device against a wall in order to cook drywood termites nesting within structural wood in wall voids. This method causes the fluids within the cells of termites to boil, which destroys cell membranes and rapidly results in death. Unfortunately, the heat from these devices may damage wallpaper, plaster and structural wood.

Have you ever had your home fumigated for a drywood termite infestation?