Although our inspections are often called “Termite” inspections, they are actually “Wood Destroying Organism” inspections, since we look for any organisms that may damage the structural integrity of a structure.
Below are brief descriptions of the most common wood destroying organisms found in southern California as well as some of the methods used to control them.
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Subterranean termites live in large colonies in the ground. They require access to a moisture source such as found in the ground. Typically, their colonies can number from 60,000 to 80,000 individuals. Thus their potential for destructiveness is amplified by their large colonies.
Subterranean termites are the most common termites in the United States. They are especially destructive in that they often go undetected because they enter a structures framing from the subarea, cracks in the concrete slab or earth-filled porches.
This type of termite typically swarms in the spring on a sunny day after a rain. These swarms (their method of creating new colonies) can happen quickly and unexpectedly. The swarmers (as pictured above) are black and slightly larger than an ant. After a swarm the termites will discard wings once they attempt to start a new colony. However a swarm inside a structure is a sign of a serious problems within the home. See our FAQ’s Page for what to do if you see a swarm.
Subterranean Termite Summary
- Location of Colony: Underground (may be under the structure or in the middle of the street)
- Signs of Infestation: Mud tubes, swarming, discarded wings
- Methods of Control: Correction of earth to wood contacts and excessive moisture conditions, soil chemical treatments, bait treatments, & protective wood treatments.
Drywood termites live in the wood they are feeding on. Therefore, they do not live elsewhere, such as in the ground or in a distant tree. Their name is indicative of their ability to live in what one might consider “dry” wood, as is found in a man made structure. Wood actually absorbs moisture from the air thus providing substantial moisture content to support this type of termite.
This type of termite is one of the most economically significant species in California and other southern states because of their ability to live and eat the wood in your home for years undetected.
Drywood termites typically swarm in late summer or early fall. Often in the late afternoon although, experience tells us there is no clear cut rule here. Swarming members of this type of termite are usually brown bodied with red heads and are generally larger than their subterranean relatives. Again, a swarm inside a structure is a sign of a serious infestation. Generally a swarm is commenced by a colony that is at least four years old. If you have signs of a swarm, contact a licensed company right away.
This species is not easily treated with do-it-yourself remedies. The damage caused by ineffective treatments could cost thousands of dollars to repair.
Drywood Termite Summary
- Location of Colony: In the wood members of the structure.
- Signs of Infestation: Pellets or droppings, swarming & discarded wings.
- Methods of Control: Fumigation (Vikane is the preferred fumigant), localized chemical treatment (for limited infestations only). Also foam, microwave, liquid nitrogen and heat are used as localized treatments for minor infestations.
This type of termite is similar to the drywood termite in that it lives in the wood and not in the soil as a subterranean termite. As their name implies, dampwood termites live in damp wood. Infestations of this species is often more common in damp areas such as foothills and ‘woodsy’ areas.
Since they require extensive moisture in the wood they infest, control is often acheived by removing the source of moisture. In exteme cases fumigation can be used to control this type of termite.
Dampwood Termite Summary
- Location of Colony: In the wood members of the structure.
- Signs of Infestation: Larger pellets, swarming. Dampwoods are the largest of all local species.
- Methods of Control: Control of moisture source, fumigation, localized chemical treatment (for limited infestations only).
Wood Boring Beetles
Beetles that infest and damage the wood in structures are a major concern, and in some areas may be as important a pest as either termites or fungus.
There are a number of families of wood infesting beetles which are found in structures. In Southern California wood destroying beetles are not as common as termites. Often, signs of inactive infestations can be found in existing wood members of a home since beetles infestations are common in wood but killed in the drying process. A licensed inspector can usually determine if infestation appears to be active or not. A good sign of active infestation is consistent wood frass (shavings or even powder like substance) being kicked out of wood members.
Treatment for wood boring beetles can very depending on the type of beetle infesting a structure and the extent of infestation. Control methods can include fumigation or localized chemical treatment similar to that of drywood termites. Beetles however require a much stronger dose of fumigant as well as the use of Methyl Bromide as a fumigant. Vikane is not an ovicide and thus not effective of controlling beetles.
Wood Boring Beetle Summary
- Location of Colony: In the wood members of the structure or even furniture.
- Signs of Infestation: Shavings ranging from sawdust to face powder like consistency and emergence holes ranging from 1/32″ to 3/8″.
- Methods of Control: Fumigation (Methyl Bromide), localized chemical treatment (for limited infestations only).
Wood Destroying Fungus
Wood Destroying Fungi are an extremely important cause of damage to structural members which are made from wood.
Loss of soundess in wood due to attack by these fungi is at least as important as that from termites and beetles, and possibly more so.
A basic definition of fungus is “a plant that does not contain chlorophyll”. Chlorophyll of green plants is what enables them to produce nutrients using sunlight as a power source. But fungi, lacking chlorophyll, must find some other means. For this they attack wood, which is composed primarily of cellulose, breaking the cellulose down to starches and then to the basic sugar molecules which can be utilized for their nutrition.
Usually a fungus infection results from moisture condition that should not exist. Plumbing leaks, roof leaks, clogged gutters and improperly placed sprinklers are common culprits. Once an infection is present, not only must the moisture source be stopped but the infected timber must be treated (surface fungus) or removed and replaced for more advance infections.
Fungus has often been referred to as wood cancer, since most infestations must be cut out or they will spread. The damage fungus infections can cause can be very, very costly. Serious damage can occur in just months and will often be more costly and serious than that of termites.
Wood Destroying Fungus Summary
- Location: In the wood members of the structure. Often in the eaves, rafters, patio covers, decks, walls around stall showers and subfloor.
- Signs of Infestation: Damaged soft spongy wood. Damaged wood crumbles when crushed between fingers. Wood which gives easily to probing.
- Methods of Control: Removal and replacement of infected wood. Treatment of surface fungus with fungicide (for very light infections).
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On other species of termites (i.e., formosans), carpenter ants, carpenter bees, specific types of wood destroying beetles and more… Call us!