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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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Which Structural Woods Do Termites Prefer To Infest Within Homes

Which Structural Woods Do Termites Prefer To Infest Within Homes, And How Do Subterranean And Drywood Termites Know Which Wood Sources Provide Optimal Nourishment?

Several damaging species of subterranean, drywood and dampwood termites infest homes and buildings all year round in Arizona. Species from both the dampwood and drywood termite groups live in colonies that are contained entirely within single above-ground wood items. Generally, drywood termites establish infestations within sources of sound and dry wood, and this is especially the case when it comes to the western drywood termite, which is the most destructive drywood termite pest species in the country.

Unlike drywood termites, dampwood termites establish infestations exclusively within decayed wood items that have become heavily saturated with moisture. Due to their preference for feeding on rotting and waterlogged wood sources, dampwood termites are not found infesting structural wood within homes as often as they are found infesting open-air wood sources that have already sustained damage from rainwater. Dampwood termites frequently infest wood fences, utility poles, patio-wood, and occasionally, infestations are found in hardwood flooring located above consistently damp crawl space environments.

Subterranean termites dwell beneath the ground where mature colonies can contain anywhere between 50,000 and two million individual termites, making them much larger than the drywood and dampwood termite colonies found within single pieces of wood. Subterranean termite workers generally infest relatively moist substructural wood components that are located in close proximity to their ground-soil habitat. Workers digest moist and rotting wood more rapidly than sound dry wood, but unlike dampwood termites, subterranean termites do not rely solely on moist wood for their water needs, as workers can return to the moist soil in order to hydrate as needed.

Since pest species from all three termite groups feed within interior wood cavities where they remain hidden from view, infested wood usually appears undamaged. However, termite damaged wood will produce a hollow sound when tapped, and the surface of heavily infested wood will collapse in response to exterior pressure. Drywood termite nymphs possess particularly strong and durable jaws that allow them to chew into dense and hard summerwood portions of lumber as well as softer springwood portions. Subterranean termite workers, on the other hand, cannot readily chew into summerwood, and they also have a difficult time digesting hard wood particles. Subterranean termites are usually found infesting sill plates, beams, joists and other moist substructural lumber components near the ground-soil, but drywood termite infestations can be found anywhere on a home’s interior timber-frame or exterior wood paneling. Drywood termite alates frequently initiate new colonies within attics, behind wood siding, and below roof shingles. Unlike subterranean termites, drywood termite infestations are also commonly found in wood furniture.

Have you ever discovered a drywood termite infestation within wood furniture?

 

 

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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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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 Do Pest Control Professionals Pinpoint Subterranean Termite Infestations Within Homes, And How Do They Determine If A Home Is Vulnerable To Infestations?

All termite species can be divided into three separate groups known as subterranean, drywood and dampwood termites. As their name suggests, subterranean termites dwell below the ground where workers regularly leave their nest in order to locate food sources. While workers forage through soil, they often stumble upon the base of timber-framed houses located in residential areas. Subterranean termites rely heavily on the constant hydration they receive from moist soil, and exposure to the dry outside air will cause them to dessicate and die. In order to safely access above ground structural wood within homes, workers build airtight “shelter tubes” that connect the moist ground soil with indoor structural wood sources.

Although shelter tubes allow subterranean termites to return to the moist soil whenever they require hydration, subterranean termites generally avoid infesting dry structural wood that is bereft of moisture; instead, subterranean termites prefer to infest structural wood with at least a 20 percent moisture content. During termite inspections, licensed professionals carry a moisture meter, which they use to measure the moisture content of structural wood components. Moisture meters can also be used to measure the moisture content of joists, sills, rafters and other irregularly shaped pieces of wood that are commonly damaged by subterranean termites. Many moisture meters work by inserting pins into wood in order to generate moisture readings, but some meters can remotely measure the moisture content of wood without having to inflict pinholes.

Moisture meters are also useful for gauging the moisture content of the surrounding air. In homes where no moisture problems exist, the moisture content within heated living areas should be between 5 and 10 percent, and between 12 and 19 percent in unheated areas, such as crawl spaces. Moisture readings above 20 percent make homes vulnerable to subterranean termite infestations, and a thorough inspection of wood should be carried out in all indoor areas where moisture levels exceed this figure. In some cases, wood that has become excessively moist must be replaced, and in other cases, setting up a dehumidifier within high-moisture areas within a home can effectively reduce moisture levels. Unusually high moisture levels within homes are often caused by plumbing leaks, improper outdoor drainage systems and rainwater leaks.

Can plumbing or rainwater leaks be found in your home?

 

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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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Due To The Troubling Results Of A Recent Study, The Controversy Concerning Termite Infestations Within Homes That Contain Spray-Foam Insulation Can Now Be Put To Rest

Due To The Troubling Results Of A Recent Study, The Controversy Concerning Termite Infestations Within Homes That Contain Spray-Foam Insulation Can Now Be Put To Rest

Three years ago, American entomologists published reports describing the termite-related hazards associated with the presence of spray polyurethane-foam insulation within homes. This form of insulation is often referred to simply as “spray-foam insulation,” and it is becoming increasingly popular as an alternative to typical wall insulation throughout the US. Spray-foam insulation (SFI) is relatively cheap and easy to install within new homes and old homes where original insulation has become warn, ineffective, and in need of replacement. However, SFI may not be the most economical choice in the long run, as numerous urban entomologists, pest control professionals, and inspectors have claimed that the foam hinders their ability to visually detect indoor termite infestations and related wood damage. Therefore, homes containing SFI are vulnerable to termite infestations, as it makes homes next to impossible to inspect, let alone treat.

SFI is applied within crawl spaces, attics and wall voids, which are three indoor areas where termite infestations and associated wood damage is most commonly found. In response to this industry-wide claim on the part of pest control professionals and other experts, the executive director of the Spray Polyurethane-Foam Alliance (SPFA) has claimed that pest control professionals only fail to detect termite infestations within homes containing SFI due to their primitive termite-detection methods. The executive director specifically stated that termite infestations could be effectively detected within SFI homes using acoustic detection devices, microwave devices, infrared monitors, air emission-detectors, and/or termite-sniffing dogs. Since the pest control industry is always interested in adopting more convenient methods of termite-detection within homes, several university and government entomologists had multiple 20 year veterans of the pest control industry inspect an infested basement for termite pests and damage.

One group of pest control professionals were tasked with using typical visual inspection tools to find the termite pests,  while another group relied on the above-mentioned “advanced” inspection tools. With the exception of one moisture meter, which is already a common inspection tool, neither a visual inspection nor an inspection involving the devices led the professionals to the active infestation or damaged wood sites. Also, since subterranean termites thrive in moist conditions, moisture meters may indicate where the pests are most likely located, but a moisture meter alone is not sufficient to detect termite pests. Unsurprisingly, the infestation was rapidly found following the removal of the SFI.

Does your home contain spray-foam insulation?

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The Commonly Overlooked Dampwood Termite Species That Is Known For Damaging Wood Fences And Indoor Flooring

The Commonly Overlooked Dampwood Termite Species That Is Known For Damaging Wood Fences And Indoor Flooring

Nearly 20 termite species have been documented within Arizona, around half of which are known to damage woodwork. The termite species found in Arizona belong to all three groups of termites, which are known as subterranean, drywood and dampwood termites. In the United States as a whole, subterranean termites are by far the most common termite pests of structural wood, as around 80 percent of all infestations reported annually involve subterranean termites. Subterranean termites are also the most common termite pests in Arizona, but multiple drywood species in the state frequently inflict damage to structures as well. The desert and arid-land subterranean termites, and the western and light-western drywood termite species are the most destructive wood-infesting pests in Arizona. However, only one dampwood termite species in Arizona is considered a pest of structural wood.

Paraneotermes simplicicornis, or the “desert dampwood termite,” is not, despite its common name, technically a dampwood termite species, as they belong to the Kalotermitidae family, which are drywood termites. Generally, both drywood and dampwood termite species nest within single wood items located above ground, such as logs, fallen branches, and tree stumps, but the desert dampwood termite species is unique for dwelling within soil where they feed on structural lumber in contact with the ground and roots from both live and dead trees. Since desert dampwood termites can only feed on wood in contact with soil, they rarely inflict damage to structural wood within homes; instead, these termites tend to inflict heavy damage to wood fences, wood posts and dirt-filled porches. That being said, desert dampwood termites have been known to infest wood flooring within old homes that contain lumber components that make ground contact. Swarming alates from desert dampwood termite colonies emerge at around dusk from May through September in Arizona. While these swarms are not necessarily associated with monsoon season, they tend to emerge in the evening after heavy rainstorms.

Have you ever discovered termite damage on your landscape plants?

 

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Where Are Western Drywood Termite Colonies Most Commonly Found Within Urban And Suburban Areas?

Incisitermes minor, or the western drywood termite, as the species is more commonly known, is the most commonly encountered and most destructive drywood termite pest in southern Arizona. Unlike subterranean termite species, which prefer to infest moist and decayed wood, drywood termites are capable of infesting dry and sound wood, just as their name suggests. However, given their desert habitat, western drywood termites have adapted to thrive on wood sources that are particularly dry, making even newly constructed homes vulnerable to attacks by this species. Any structural wood with a moisture content greater than 7 percent can be readily infested by western drywood termites.

In the natural habitat, western drywood termite colonies are most abundant within wooded areas, river washes and canyons where trees can be found. Colonies are frequently recovered from dead portions of willow, cottonwood, oak, and sycamore trees, and these termites are often found infesting tree stumps, logs, and large branches that have fallen to the ground in rural, urban and residential areas. Due to the western drywood termite’s aggressive feeding habits, they are often found infesting natural wood sources on properties, which may afford homeowners adequate time to prevent the destructive pests from establishing an indoor infestation.

On urban and suburban properties where trees are not abundant, western drywood termites are commonly found infesting rose, Pyracantha, and oleander bushes near structures. In urban and suburban areas where trees can be found, these termite pests prefer to feed on alder, almond, apricot, ash, avocado, carob, cherry, citrus, elderberry, mulberry, ornamental pear, peach, plum, and walnut trees. In addition to infesting dry and sound structural lumber within homes, these pests are also frequently found infesting indoor items that are made of finished wood, particularly furniture. In southern Arizona, western drywood termite alates swarm during the months of May through August, and alates are well known for flying through attic vents where they establish colonies within attics and other indoor areas that can be accessed through attics, such as wall voids and ceiling voids.

Are the lumber components in your home treated with chemicals that repel drywood termite pests?