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Termite-ally Terrific: The Fascinating World of these Wood-Eating Insects

Updated: Dec 20, 2022


Termites, tiny, yet mighty insects that have been chomping away at wood for millions of years. They're a force to be reckoned with, and not just because they can cause significant damage to homes and other structures. No, these little critters have some truly amazing abilities that make them stand out from the rest of the insect world. Did you know that some termites can navigate using the sun and the Earth's magnetic field? Or that they can communicate with each other using pheromones and vibrations? And let's not forget about the fact that they can build elaborate and efficient underground colonies, complete with air conditioning and waste management systems.

Here are 10 more super interesting facts about termites that you might not know:

  1. Termites are found on every continent except Antarctica. There are over 2,000 known species of termites, with the majority found in tropical regions.

  2. Termites are often referred to as "white ants," but they are actually more closely related to cockroaches than ants.

  3. Termites are highly social insects that live in colonies made up of workers, soldiers, and reproductives. The workers are responsible for gathering food, building and repairing the nest, and caring for the young. The soldiers defend the colony from predators, while the reproductives are responsible for producing new offspring.

  4. Termites are known for their ability to build elaborate, multi-chambered nests made of mud, wood, and other materials. These nests can be found underground, in trees, and even inside the walls of buildings.

  5. Termites have a highly efficient digestive system that allows them to break down cellulose, a component of wood and other plant materials. This allows them to feed on wood and other plant matter, making them a major pest in many areas.

  6. Termites play an important role in many ecosystems, breaking down dead wood and other plant matter and returning nutrients to the soil.

  7. Termites are a significant economic pest, causing billions of dollars in damage to homes and other structures each year.

  8. Termites can be controlled through the use of pesticides, physical barriers, and other methods. Regular inspections can help identify and prevent infestations.

  9. Termites have a highly organized and sophisticated communication system, using pheromones and other chemical signals to communicate with each other.

  10. Some species of termites have symbiotic relationships with certain types of fungi, which they cultivate in special gardens within their nests. The fungi produce a food source for the termites, while the termites provide the fungi with a suitable environment in which to grow.

Talk about impressive! If you're ever feeling down, just remember: even the tiniest of creatures can accomplish great things.

There are several types of termites that are commonly found in South Africa, including:

  • Dampwood termites: These termites are typically found in damp or rotting wood and are most commonly found in trees or logs. They are larger than other types of termites and are usually pale in color.

  • Drywood termites: These termites are found in dry, sound wood and are most commonly found in the structure of homes. They are smaller than dampwood termites and are usually brown or black in color.

  • Subterranean termites: These termites live in the ground and build underground tunnels to access wood. They are usually pale in color and are smaller than dampwood termites.

  • Harvester termites: these termites are a type of termite that feeds on dead plant material, such as grass and fallen leaves. They are commonly found in arid regions and are known for their ability to forage for food over long distances. They are generally brown or black in color and are smaller than other types of termites. They can be distinguished from other termites by their large mandibles, which they use to grind up plant material.

To identify termites, you can look for the following signs:

  • Swarms: Termites often swarm in the spring or fall and can be seen flying around light sources.

  • Damage: Look for signs of damage to wood, such as wood that appears to have been hollowed out or wood that has a honeycomb-like appearance.

  • Termite tubes: Subterranean termites build tubes made of mud and debris to travel between the ground and their food source. These tubes can often be seen on the exterior walls of a building or on the foundation.

  • Wings: Termites shed their wings after swarming and can often be found in piles near windows or doors.

If you suspect you have a termite problem at your home, here is a step-by-step process you can follow to deal with them effectively:

  1. Inspect your home: Look for signs of termites, such as swarms, damage to wood, termite tubes, and wings. Pay particular attention to the foundation of your home, as well as areas with wood-to-soil contact.

  2. Contact a pest control professional: It is important to consult with a pest control professional to properly identify the type of termite and recommend the most appropriate treatment.

  3. Follow the pest control professional's recommendations: The pest control professional will likely recommend a chemical treatment, baiting system, or physical barrier to control the termites. Follow their instructions and take any necessary precautions to protect yourself and your family.

  4. Repair any damage: If the termites have caused significant damage to your home, you may need to repair or replace the damaged wood.

  5. Implement prevention measures: To prevent future infestations, make sure to eliminate sources of moisture, remove wood-to-soil contact, and store firewood away from the house.

  6. Regularly inspect your home: To ensure that the termites have been eliminated and to catch any future infestations early, it is important to regularly inspect your home for signs of termites.

Once a termite infestation is identified, it's important to implement a treatment program to control them as soon as possible, as they can quickly cause major destruction. Here are some of the most common control methods used to deal with termite infestations:

1. Chemical treatments: These methods involve using chemicals to kill or repel termites. Some common chemical treatments include:

  • Termiticides: These are chemicals specifically designed to kill termites. They can be applied as a liquid or foam and are applied to the soil around the foundation of a building or in the wood itself.

  • Baiting systems: These systems use small, plastic stations that contain a bait made of a slow-acting poison. Termites are attracted to the bait and take it back to their nest, where it is shared with the rest of the colony. Over time, the poison spreads through the colony, killing the termites.

2. Physical barriers: These methods involve creating a physical barrier that prevents termites from accessing a structure. Some common physical barriers include:

  • Chemical soil barriers: These barriers involve applying a chemical treatment to the soil around the foundation of a building. The chemical creates a barrier that termites cannot cross.

  • Physical barriers: These barriers involve installing a physical barrier, such as a metal sheet or mesh, around the foundation of a building. The barrier prevents termites from accessing the wood in the structure.

3. Environmental control methods: These methods involve making changes to the environment to make it less attractive to termites. Some common environmental control methods include:

  • Removing sources of moisture: Termites need moisture to survive, so removing sources of moisture, such as leaking pipes or clogged gutters, can help prevent an infestation.

  • Removing wood-to-soil contact: Termites can access wood by tunneling through the soil, so removing wood-to-soil contact can help prevent an infestation. This can be done by using concrete blocks or metal flashing to separate wood from the soil.

  • Storing firewood away from the house: Firewood can attract termites, so it is important to store it away from the house.

Controlling termites is not easy, after all, they have been around for a lot longer than we have! Luckily, at Black Ant Pest Control, our termite specialists have gone to great lengths to learn their behaviour and are specifically trained to effectively deal with termites and protect your home and property from the potential destruction they can cause - so if you're feeling a little overwhelmed, give us a call so we can help you to stop these little guys from taking over.

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