Termites 101: A South Florida Homeowners Guide

A South Florida Homeowners Guide

South Florida is an attractive place to call home. It’s no wonder termites also love Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and other South Florida neighborhoods. In fact, termites are predicted to damage over 50% of South Florida structures by 2040, according to University of Florida researchers in a 2015 report.

What kinds of termites are we talking about here?

The four major types of termites that could infest your South Florida home are:

  • Asian subterranean termites are currently confined to South Florida.
  • Native Eastern subterranean termites can be found in most of the US.
  • Formosan termites are found in Florida, other southern states and Hawaii.
  • Sharing some subterranean behaviors, newcomer invasive species, conehead termites are confined to one county in South Florida, so far.
  • Drywood termites are usually found in coastal, southern states and the Southwestern states.

Each of these termites presents unique challenges to homeowners, who are advised to contact a professional pest control company, such as Hulett at the first sign of termite activity. Regularly scheduled year-round protection is the best way to prevent termites in South Florida but educated homeowners can also help spot termite activity before extensive damage is done.

Subterranean termites can cause more extensive structural damage than other termites

Because subterranean termites live in the soil, entering homes from mud tubes, near your foundation, they may go unnoticed for quite some time, causing widespread damage that isn’t covered by your homeowner’s insurance.

  • Eastern subterranean termites, the most widely distributed termite in the US, consist of soldiers, with orange, rectangular, armored heads and jaw-like mandibles, measure about the same size as workers, at .25” long. Alates or reproductives, with dark brown bodies, measure about .375” long, including their dark-veined wings.
  • Imported from China, Formosan cream-colored termite workers and wingless soldiers with elongated brown heads, mandibles and brownish-yellow undersides are slightly smaller than light-colored alates and range from brown to black, measuring .5” to .6” long, including wings.
  • Asians, a tropical species, look very similar to Formosan termites but Asian alates range from caramel to brownish yellow and they keep their wings longer than most other termites after swarming. Subterranean termites swarm after a rain shower in the morning or evening, usually in the spring, but can swarm any time of the year.

Formosan and Asian termites are much more aggressive than native subterranean termites

Due to their larger populations, with multiple queens and networks of nests, Formosan and Asian termites are more aggressive and forage further than other Florida termites, in search of food for their expansive colonies. Formosan termite populations can number in the millions and Formosans infest structural timbers, live trees and utility poles and will eat through electrical wiring. Voracious eaters, Asian termites will eat through rubber and plastic to get to available wood.

Attracted to wood directly contacting soil, subterranean termites build foraging tunnels or tubes from your home to their underground nests. Earthen tubes running up walls and trees are clear indications of subterranean termite activities. These invasive subterranean termites can infest and destroy a structure in a matter of a few months. Wings of swarmers indoors can point to a subterranean termite infestation.

Conehead termites are currently contained to Dania Beach in South Florida

Not a traditional subterranean termite, coneheads are small termites, with workers and soldiers, measuring about .125” long. Conehead alates, larger than most Florida termites, sport wings as long as .5” long. Soldiers with black, pear-shaped, pointy-heads excrete a sticky substance that protects these termites from predators. Conehead alates swarm at twilight in spring after rain.

The tricky thing about coneheads revolves around their habit of disappearing into wood to raise their young, leading people to assume that infestations have been eradicated, when a new population is growing inside nearby wood. Coneheads will eat any kind of wood, including living trees, shrubs and bushes and go on to infest your home, as well. With huge appetites, these tiny termites can cause extensive damage and task forces are vigilantly trying to keep coneheads from establishing more colonies in the US.

Conehead termites build large, hard, round nests

Once conehead populations grow to their tipping points, they build large, round hard nests in trees, shrubs, and structures or on the ground. Building long, trailing tunnels up the sides of trees and foraging around on the ground, mature conehead colony termite activity is more visible than most other types of Florida termites.

Drywood termites with smaller populations do not need soil contact to survive

Drywood termite soldiers measure from .13” to .20” long, with white antennae, black heads with reddish hues, they have brownish yellow bodies and pale yellow legs. It may be difficult to identify Cryptotermes brevis by its soldiers, who make up only 1 to 2% of a colony. Swarming alates are more visible, measuring .33” to .38” long, including two pairs of clear, membranous wings, with dark veins and long antennae. Wings found on windowsills and around light fixtures indoors can indicate drywood termite activity.

Drywood termites infest wood in older homes and furniture

Because drywood termites are drawn to spring wood, infesting the center sections of wood timbers, flooring, wooden frames, windowsills fascia, furniture and attics, you can’t see them. Carving out the center spring wood, drywood termites leave piles of distinctive, six-sided, fecal pellets resembling sawdust or coffee grounds that are tell-tale signs of infestations.

Infested wood surfaces look blistered or warped, sound hollow when tapped and may puncture easily with a screwdriver or other tool. Although drywood termite damage is centralized to one area, multiple nests may be found in that area.

Dealing with a termite infestation requires a trusted professional pest control company

Hulett, a leader in the termite eradication business for over 45 years, uses a combination of liquid materials and bait systems, as part of our Healthy Home pest management program to solve the termite issue in your home.

A leader in the South Florida pest control industry, we are charter members of Dow Agro Sciences “Commitment to Excellence” Program for tent fumigation procedures to solve drywood termite infestations. As an alternative to tent fumigation, Hulett also offers no-tent drywood termite treatment. Our million-dollar guarantee shows just how dedicated we are to eradicating termites from your home and property.

Hulett advises homeowners to protect their most valuable investment, their home, with our affordable and convenient Annual Termite Protection plan that creates a powerful and secure barrier between you, your loved ones and any of the many termites that may want to infest your South Florida home. Locally owned and operated, our termite trained and certified technicians lead the way in solving your home’s termite issues. Just call Hulett! It’s time to schedule your free termite inspection.

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