This month includes Termite Awareness Week so it's that time of year for South Florida homeowners to brush up on their knowledge of termites. According to the University of Florida's (UF) Institute of Agricultural Sciences Department, six invasive species of termites in the South Florida area, along with Florida's native population of subterranean, drywood and dampwood termites, are on a trajectory to infest about half of the structures in Florida by 2040. These six invasive species include the formidable Formosan and Asian subterranean termites that build much larger colonies than native termites and are responsible for most of the five-billion-dollar termite damage toll worldwide. The kicker is that most homeowners' insurance doesn't cover termite damage.

Termites can do a lot of damage before you know you have a problem

Because termites enter your home from wood to ground contact, you may not be aware that these destructive pests have invaded your home and may be causing structural damage as well as cosmetic damage to your most valuable asset. Drywood termites live in the wood inside your home and do not need an external water source to survive as their bodies have adapted to only need the water in the wood they eat to live healthy hungry lives inside walls, attics, window soffits, and furniture.

Subterranean termites live in the soil outside your home

Subterranean termites, however, live in the ground in your yard. Building mud tubes from their network of nests, subterranean termites tunnel into your home and transport the wood in your home to the hungry termite population in their nests. While native subterranean termite colonies can number in the thousands, Formosan and Asian termites have many more mouths to feed, their termite colonies can do more extensive damage in less time than our native subterranean termites or drywood termites.

Asian and Formosan subterranean termites will eat anything that smacks of wood

Most native termites do not eat live wood but invasive Asian subterranean termites will infest trees and slowly starve them from the inside out by cutting through their vascular systems. In the last few hurricanes to hit Florida, several live oaks toppled due to the work of Asian subterranean termites. Researchers found that Asian termites will also infest slash pines, one of South Florida's native species. These invasive subterranean termites also show an affinity for utility poles and boats and will even eat through plastic to get to the wood underneath.

What do termites look like?

  • Drywood termites: Ranging in size from ¼ to ? inches long, adult worker termites vary in color from almost white to a cream color. Drywood termite soldiers, slightly longer than the workers appear darker ranging from cream to brown and sport strong mandibles in addition to a distinctive tarsal claw. The reproductive alates appear brown to black with two sets of equal length wings. Alates swarm as part of the mating ritual from February through March, usually after a rainstorm in the morning or at dusk.
  • Native subterranean termites: Ranging from ¼ to ? inches long, workers appear white to creamy in color. Soldiers resemble workers in size and color but have pronounced brownish heads and strong mandibles. Primary alates vary in color from coal black to pale yellow-brown. Secondary and tertiary reproductive termites appear white to cream colored. Swarming occurs during spring and early summer.
  • Formosan subterranean termites: At about ? an inch long, workers appear cream colored and soldiers with elongated brown heads have pronounced mandibles. The primary alates range from brown to black with wings. Swarming takes place usually from April to July at dusk on calm, humid evenings.
  • Asian subterranean termites: Very similar to Formosan subterranean termites, with teardrop shaped elongated heads, Asian alates are slightly smaller than Formosans, with a dark brown head, prothorax, and top of abdomen. Alates swarm from February to April.

Signs of termite activity

  • Walls and floors that seem to sound hollow when tapped.
  • Buckling floors and walls that may appear water damaged.
  • Evidence of piles of frass, or drywood termite excrement, in six-sided barrel shapes.
  • Loose bathroom fixtures and mirrors due to termites eating drywall paper.
  • Loose kitchen tiles due to termites attacking subflooring.
  • Mud tubes running from the ground up your home's exterior walls.
  • Hollow sounding utility poles with evidence of mud tubes.
  • Wings deposited on windowsills.
  • Swarming inside your home.

South Florida homeowners can take precautions to discourage termite activity

  • Keep mulch 6-8 inches off of your foundation.
  • Stack firewood 20 feet away from your house.
  • Correct any wood to ground contact areas.
  • Eliminate any water leakage issues.
  • Clean gutters regularly.
  • Seal any cracks and crevices in your foundation.

Get proactive, contact a professional

In South Florida, where termites seem to be inevitable, homeowners are fortunate to have many resources at their fingertips to prevent, control, and eliminate termites. Get ahead of the game and contact a trusted professional pest control company. At Hulett, we offer free termite inspections and a variety of termite control programs. Protecting your biggest investment should be your top priority and our entomologist trained, certified and licensed technicians make protecting your home our priority. Hulett's locally owned and operated company spans three generations as a leading pest control company in the South Florida area. We guarantee you'll be satisfied with one of Hulett's Healthy Home Termite Treatment options and will find a solution that solves your termite problem. Because preventing a termite infestation is a lot easier than dealing with one, Just Call Hulett!