The 3 types of termites native to Louisiana
Termites are responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars in damage every year in the United States. In the state of Louisiana we have a very high incidence of termite infestation in homes, commercial buildings, and industrial structures. These wood-eating insects are also found in living and decaying plants, such as trees, shrubs, and even agricultural crops.
Three types of termites
Three types of termites are the cause of most of the infestation problems in Louisiana. The first type is the native subterranean termite (reticulitermes) which is found state wide and is the species that is the target of most termite control jobs. The second type is the Formosan termite (coptotoermes) which is presently found in the southern most part of the state, especially in the New Orleans and Lake Charles areas. The third type is the drywood termite which is seldom found compared to native and Formosan types.
Termite castes and life cycle
Termites are social insects. That means they live in colonies. The colony consists of three castes. Each case member has a specific task. Worker caste termites are soft white-bodied insects which care for the other members of the colony by locating food, feeding the colony, and generally taking care of the housekeeping and rearing of the young. Solider caste termites have soft white bodies and large strong heads with big jaws (mandibles). These jaws are use to protect the colony from invaders and are used offensively as well as defensively. Reproductive caste termites have darker, hard bodies and have four wings. Their task is to fly away from the mother colony, drop their wings off and mate in order to start new colonies. This process is called swarming and is one sure sign that active termites are in the immediate area.
More about termite swarms
The flight is usually short in distance and the number of swarming termites can vary from just a few to thousands depending on the species and age of the colony. Swarming termites are often mistaken for flying ants. The important difference between the two is that ants have a wasp-type body with a slender waist (petiole) and termites have no waist at all. Termites usually swarm in the spring and may swarm as late as the fall depending on the species. Formosan termites swarm after dark and are found flying around night lights. Reticulitermes termites swarm during daylight hours. Nyphs are termites that have not matured to their final stage of development.
Sizes and types of termite colonies
Colony sizes may vary from just a few thousand individuals in the case of drywood termites to over a million members in the case of Formosan termites. As expected, the larger colony size the greater the damage. A Formosan colony of 1,000,000 individuals will do a lot of damage in a short period of time compared to a drywood colony with only 1,500 termites in it.
Primary colonies of subterranean termites are located under the soil surface. This is the case in both Reticulitermes and Coptotermes. Workers of the underground colonies forage out from the colony as much as several hundred feet to find a wood source. The workers move inside of the tunnels they construct designed to protect them from the environment.
Subterranean termites need high humidity in their tunnels in order to survive. Their soft bodies will dry up if a constant moisture source is not available. Moisture may be supplied to the foraging termite either by their contact in the ground or by a water leak in the structure that they are infesting. If a water leak is present in the structure then a secondary colony with no ground contact may develop. This colony will mature and thrive as long as there is a moisture source.
Drywood termites require no additional moisture and no ground contact and survive on the water content of the wood they are eating. The galleries that drywood termites build in the course of eating wood are sealed off from the outside environment in order to conserve as much moisture as possible. This is accomplished by the drywood termites plugging up gallery exit holes. The exit holes are reopened only to eliminate fecal pellets and to allow swarming termites to leave the colony.
Reticulitermes and Formosan termites are controlled by applying termiticides such as Termidor to trenches dug around the building foundation and by drilling and pressure treating foundation void. This type of chemical application is designed to kill the termites that are foraging around the structure because it is undetected by the termite, and is brought back to the colony on their body parts and distributed.
Moisture sources in the building must be eliminated. With the moisture controlled and the lack of ground contact, the termites in the building will die. In some cases, secondary colonies in the structure will be treated directly either by gas fumigation or by liquid or aerosol insecticide injection.
Drywood termites are controlled by tent fumigation or by directly “spot” treating the infested timber in the structure.
Tent fumigation is the process by which hard to reach insects are controlled. With this method, a tent is placed over the entire structure. A lethal gas is injected into the building and is contained by the tent for up to 24 hours. The fumigant has the ability to penetrate even the thickest wooden beams, giving 100% control.
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