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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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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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Top 10 Termite Prevention Tips

Top 10 Termite Prevention Tips | Phoenix Termite Control

  1. Eliminate or reduce moisture in and around the home, which termites need to thrive.
  2. Repair leaking faucets, water pipes and exterior AC units.
  3. Repair fascia, soffits and rotted roof shingles.
  4. Replace weather stripping and loose mortar around basement foundation and windows.
  5. Divert water away from the house through properly functioning downspouts, gutters and splash blocks.
  6. Routinely inspect the foundation of a home for signs of mud tubes (used by termites to reach a food source), uneven or bubbling paint and wood that sounds hollow when tapped.
  7. Monitor all exterior areas of wood, including windows, doorframes and skirting boards for any noticeable changes.
  8. Maintain an 18-inch gap between soil and any wood portions of your home.
  9. Consider scheduling a professional inspection annually. Wood-boring insect damage is not covered by homeowners’ insurance policies.
  10. Store firewood at least 20 feet away from the house.

Termites cannot be controlled with do-it-yourself measures. If you s

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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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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?

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A Massive Art Exhibition Is Allowing Visitors To Explore Termite Habitats From A Termite’s Perspective

You probably have not heard many artists claim to have been inspired by insects, let alone termites, but one famous artist, Nicholas Mangan, is an exception in this regard. Mangan has recently contributed an art display to the Taipei Fine Arts Museum as a part of the museum’s exhibit titled: Post Nature–A Museum as an Ecosystem. Most of Mangan’s work highlights aspects of the ecosystem that many people are unfamiliar with. For example, Mangan’s latest exhibit focuses on the positive effect that termites have on the ecosystem.

Mangan is calling his exhibit Termite Economics, and it consists of 3D printed models of different termite habitats, including nesting mounds, earthen tunnel networks and dwelling chambers within blocks of wood. All of his 3D models were constructed from plaster, dirt, synthetic polymer paint, and plywood. In addition to the habitat models, Mangan also commissioned drone footage of particular regions of Australia’s arid landscape where termites are known to be active. This footage is played on a continuous loop in order to provide spectators with a termite’s point of view as it navigates terrain and approaches its nest. The footage is played on a computer that is situated amongst Mangan’s models. This exhibition was inspired by current termite research being conducted by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, or CSIRO.

Researchers working for CSIRO are currently studying how subterranean termites can lead humans toward rare mineral sources that are located far below the ground where they cannot be viewed by humans. Mangan believes that CSIRO research shows how social cooperation among termites allows the insects to achieve feats that are beyond human capabilities, such as complicated mound architecture, and in this case, mining, so to speak. Mangan’s exhibit allows people to understand how the mining and world-building capability of termites reflects manmade economic systems and social hierarchies. For Mangan, a termite colony is like a tiny universe that closely resembles human sociality.

Do you believe that termite sociality is similar to human sociality?

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Which Termite Species Are Arizona Homeowners Most Likely To Encounter During The Summer Season

Which Termite Species Are Arizona Homeowners Most Likely To Encounter During The Summer Season

Entomologists and pest control experts consider termites to be Arizona’s number one urban insect pest. Numerous termite species inhabit the state, but there are three particular subterranean termite species that Arizona residents are most likely to encounter within their homes. The arid land subterranean termites habitat in Arizona is largely limited to the southwestern portion of the state. These termites are an important ecological component to the Sonoran desert ecosystem where they are often found infesting creosote and greasewood bushes. One of the main reasons why the rate of termite infestations is high in Arizona is because housing developments are constructed over these desert landscapes. The desert subterranean termite is, perhaps, the most common termite pest found infesting Arizona homes, but they are not as abundant in urban and suburban areas of the state as Gnathamitermes perplexus termites are. Despite this, the little-known Gnathamitermes perplexus termite species rarely infests homes.

The Gnathamitermes perplexus termite species is considered a “true” desert termite species for their habit of consuming a variety of desert plant species. These termites even consume dead grass, weeds and palm trees, and in some cases, these termites are found infesting fence posts, utility posts, mailboxes and in rare cases, a home’s structural wood. Although Gnathamitermes perplexus is the most abundant termite species inhabiting southern Arizona, they rarely infest homes. Both the body length of mature adult swarmers of this species and their wingspan grow to be around three fourths of an inch in length. These termites are brown and color and can be seen swarmin during the daylight hours after a heavy rainstorm. These termites are quite similar in appearance to desert subterranean termites, but soldiers belonging to the  Gnathamitermes perplexus are unique for possessing a lone tooth within their curved jaws. This tooth is looked for when identifying termites in Arizona.

Have you ever found a termite, or several, eating dead grass or plant matter?



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Dampwood Termites In Arizona Can Attack Living Citrus Trees And Spread Fungal Decay

Arizona is home to a wide variety of termite species from the subterranean, drywood and dampwood groups. The most economically costly termites in Arizona, subterranean termites, have adapted to foraging below the hard and dry desert soil, and drywood termites, most notably the western drywood termite, is right at home in Arizona, as these termites, as their name suggests, both live within and feed upon single pieces of dry wood with low moisture levels. Unlike most termite species in the United States, Subterranean termites in Arizona and drywood termites in general do not require excessive amounts of water in order to survive. However, this is not the case when it comes to dampwood termites, as these aptly named termites only feed on wood sources with relatively high moisture levels. It is for this reason that dampwood termite species are particularly abundant along the rainy west coast, particularly in the state of Washington. It is often claimed that dampwood termites do not exist within Arizona and other parts of the arid Sonoran Desert, but this is false, as Arizona is home to three dampwood termite species. Unlike most termite species, dampwood termites in Arizona infest living trees, especially citrus trees, and some studies show that dampwood termites can facilitate the spread of fungal decay to new sources of wood.

One Arizona termite species, the desert dampwood termite, is a misnomer, as this species is actually a soil-dwelling subterranean termite species. The most widespread and damaging dampwood species in Arizona is the Arizona dampwood termite, while the Pacific dampwood termite and the Nevada dampwood termite are encountered far less often in the state. Dampwood termites are much larger than their subterranean and drywood counterparts, as swarming alates grow to be 2 inches in length, and soldiers and workers grow to be an inch and a half and an inch in length, respectively. Much like drywood termites, dampwood termites don’t typically dwell within soil, but they often infest damp wood that makes contact with soil, and similar to subterranean termites, dampwood termites often infest wooden posts at or below the soil’s surface in order to retain moisture. Although dampwood termites are not a serious concern in Arizona, they can annoy homeowners when they infest baseboards and waterlogged wood sources around homes. In order to retain the high amount of water they need to survive, dampwood termites extract water from the sap of citrus trees, which often damages the trees. Since dampwood termites prefer to feed on moist, decayed and waterlogged wood, they often consume wood that has grown fungi. After feeding on fungi-infested wood, it has been suggested that dampwood termites spread fungal spores to new wood sources.

Have you ever found wet wood that appeared to be damaged by termites?