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Causing more than $5 billion in damage to homes across the United States each year, termites are most common in the southern part of the nation, including the Carolinas. Since most homeowners’ insurance won't cover termite damage, professional help and prevention methods are often recommended.

What do termites look like?

A termite’s body consists of a head, thorax, and abdomen. While they resemble ants, termites do not have a narrow waist and their antennae do not bend. Reproductives can grow to be an inch in length, but the average termite is 1/4” to 1/2” in size. Reproductives are darker in color than other members of the colony and have two pairs of wings that allow them to fly. Soldiers have large, dark heads that secrete a toxic substance and strong mandibles to ward off enemies. Workers are a milky pale color and have smaller mandibles used for eating through wood and building.

Reproductive termites mate and the queen can lay as many as a thousand eggs each day. These eggs hatch into larvae. In the larval stage, termites shed their outer shell multiple times (a process known as molting) to determine if they will be workers, soldiers, or reproductives. Only reproductives ever fully mature to become adults, while workers and soldiers retain larval qualities, including sterility and blindness.

During the spring and early summer, reproductives swarm, leaving their colonies to find a mate. Once they have done so, a king and queen will then seek out a location to start a new colony. When they are settled, these reproductives then shed their wings and the queen begins to lay eggs. Male and female reproductives work together to feed and care for their offspring.

What are the unique characteristics of termites?

Termites feed on cellulose – an organic compound found in plant matter and wood – prevalent in the materials used to build homes. Termites eat continuously. The average subterranean colony can devour one foot of a 2x4 board in a matter of months, which compromises the integrity of the structure of your home.

Because most termites are blind, they communicate with one another through pheromones. Each colony, and each caste within that colony, has a unique chemical scent. Termites will also notify others of a threat by beating their heads against the walls of the colony to create a vibration. This vibration signals the soldiers to come defend the nest against the invader.

What are the habits of termites?

Termites tend to be most active during warmer months, but their feeding never ceases regardless of weather. Swarming season — when reproductives seek out partners — typically occurs in the spring or summer, depending on temperature and humidity.

Where are termites commonly found?

Termites can be found anywhere they have access to cellulose-based materials. In general, they prefer structures made of wood, decaying or fallen trees, and soil. Subterranean termites cause 75% of home damage. They build nests underground but will migrate to other areas in search of food.  

What are the risks of a termite infestation?

Because termites feed exclusively on cellulose-laden materials, wood and other construction materials offer a rich source of nutrition for them. Nearly one out of every 25 homes in the United States are thought to have a termite problem. If not properly treated, termites will destroy property and can compromise a building’s structural integrity.