This picture depicts the most common way to find out you have termites. In Maryland termites "swarm" out of their hiding places in the wood or soil in late Winter and Spring. The "Swarmers" are the adult termites leaving their nest to mate. They usually head towards sunlight or artificial light. Many die and are found on window sills or the floor near doors and windows. After swarming they spin around and break off their wings. The males and females then pair up and follow each other around two by two prior to mating. Sometimes the swarming takes place for just one or two hours. If you do not happen to be home when they swarm you may only find the "cast off" wings on a windowsill or floor below a window. If you've seen a lot of wings on your windowsill it's no need to panic.... just call 410-272-2847 for an inspection.,
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This is a close up picture of a swarmer termite. In the bug world they are also known as "alates". There are many species of termites but only three species are common in Maryland. All three of them are "subterranean" meaning they live below the soil. The swarmers range in size according to specie from about 1/4 inch long up to about 1/2 inch long including the wings.
In this picture look for three white, creamy colored insects. They are "worker" termites. The workers do all the damage, eating the wood. They are very vulnerable with a soft exoskeleton. They avoid the light by building "tunnels" to travel inside of. A protozoa in their body digests the wood, they then return to their "colony" usually in the soil, and excrete the digested wood for other termites in the colony to feed on.
This is a side view of a 2x8 floor joist that termites have eaten. Notice how they eat the wood in layers. They eat the "soft" grain of wood that grows in the springtime. This happens to be a piece of pine wood however, they will eat just about any kind of wood, hard or soft, and most wood byproducts and other cellulose materials. Wherever they have eaten wood the "soil" that they carry in their bodies for building "tunnels" will be left behind in the wood.
The thin brown lines in the center of this picture are "termite tunnels" also know as shelter tubes. They are the termite's highways. The worker termites build these to avoid exposure to the light and for protection from ants, their main natural enemy. (next to Fidelity Exterminating) The shelter tubes vary in size and length. They are generally about 1/4 inch in diameter and can be several feet long. The tunnel in this picture went from the basement floor all the way up to the wooden joist in the picture above, about 7 feet long..
This is a joist that has been damaged by termites. Notice the shelter tubes on the surface of the wood and their size, compared to the electrical wire. Termites have been known to eat into the cellulose materials of old electrical wire insulation and cause short circuits.
and there are other insects that damage wood too.....
Are you wondering how we control these critters?
This is a picture of termites eating the drywall. Many times they go undetected until you press on the slight grooves on the wall. The paint falls away to expose their tunnels.
This is a soldier termite. His main lot in life is to protect the workers and other termites from ants. Yes ants... They are a termites biggest enemy, next to Fidelity Exterminating. The soldiers do no eating of the wood, they leave that up to the workers, in fact they only eat wood that the workers have digested and passed on to them. Whenever a shelter tube is broken open it doesn't take long for the soldiers to get to the opening to "defend" the workers.
The most distinguishing difference between termites and flying ants is the pinched waist of the ant. That is usually very visible on the ant and of course is not visible on the termite. In Maryland all swarming termites have black bodies. Some ants are black however, many are yellow or brown, even red. If it's not black it's not a swarmer termite.
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Termites live in colonies. There are "Main Colonies" where the original queen termite resides. There are also "Sub Colonies" that split off from the main colony and co-exist on their own. "Supplementary Reproductives" mate and lay eggs in support of the colony. A supplementary rep. is pictured in the center of this picture. Note the tiny "nympal stage" termites. They have just hatched from eggs laid by the supplementary reproductives. Soldier termites are abundant in the colony, to protect the young from ants.
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This picture was taken in a crawl space where termites had constructed their tunnels freestanding from the joists. They had eaten through the wicker basket on the left side and when touched, the basket disintegrated. This house will require major repairs.