Subterranean termites are the most destructive pests in our country, and they cost homeowners and businesses billions of dollars each year. They are found in all states except for Alaska, and they are most common in the southern states. Louisiana is one of the top states for termites because of our warm, subtropical climate. Even though termites are known as pests to humans, they hold an important part in our ecosystem.
Termites are not pests by definition, as they break down cellulose into usable nutrients. The nutrients, otherwise known as biomass, are then recycled into the soil as humus. The problem is that when subterranean termites get into the home, they can attack the internal wooden structure. From sheds to warehouses to the frames of homes, termites can quickly eat away, causing severe, long-term damage.
It’s important for homeowners to know the signs of a termite infestation since these pests can live in the walls or baseboards of the home without anyone knowing until it’s too late. By understanding the appearance, life cycle and signs of an infestation, you can identify a problem earlier and minimize risk to your home.
What is a Subterranean Termite Colony Like?
Subterranean termites are social creatures that live in colonies underground. The colonies contain millions of termites, but they have a very specific working order. The social order includes reproductives, workers and soldiers. The reproductives are designed to reproduce and expand the colony, and they can be either winged or wingless.
The workers make up the bulk of the colony, and they are the ones that do all of the labor, as in chewing through the wood. The soldiers are the ones that defend the colony. They most commonly attack against ants and other termites, and although the soldiers are fierce, they rely on the workers to feed them.
How Can I Identify a Subterranean Termite?
Since you want to protect your Louisiana home to the greatest extent, it’s important to know what a subterranean termite looks like. There are various stages that these pests go through, including the following:
- Wingless Workers
- Adult Swarmers
The reproductives can be either winged or wingless, and the colors vary from dark black to pale brown. If they do have the wings, the wings are a smoky gray or brown color. There is even a social order within the reproductives, as some females lay eggs while others serve as a backup for the queen in case she is injured or dies. These termites have a creamy white color instead and are considered secondary reproductives. The workers are white or cream-colored and wingless. Soldiers have a similar look, with the exception being that they have brown heads with strong jaws.
Subterranean termites are approximately ¼” to 3/8” long and live in colonies. So, chances are likely that you’ll identify signs of an infestation rather than seeing a termite crawling around the home. These pests don’t wander from their colonies like that, unless they are swarming.
Signs of an Infestation in Your Louisiana Home
Hollow sounding wood – Termites don’t feed on the surface of the wood; instead, they feed on the inside of it. If the wood in your home sounds hollow, it could be because termites are eating away at the inside.
Mud tubes on exterior walls – Subterranean termites in Louisiana build mud tubes on surfaces in order to bring the colony moisture while searching for food. Mud tubes are always a sign of termite activity.
Swarmers – These reproductives can look a bit like flying ants, and they come out in the spring to mate. Swarmers can be found on windowsills or flying around the home, and they indicate that a colony lives nearby.
Wings – Finding discarded wings is another sign of a termite infestation. Look for wings in cobwebs, windowsills or other entry points.
Louisiana’s great climate has many advantages, but it also makes it prone to more pests such as our subterranean termite friends. Although termite damage can be difficult to suspect, being proactive is key. If you notice any signs of a possible infestation or start to see damage to wood, contact a professional exterminator immediately.