Desert Subterranean Termites
Termites in Arizona
Termites: the very word strikes fear in homeowners across the nation. But how much do you really know about the creatures? If you live in Arizona, you will likely have to deal with termites at some point during your homeownership.
Here is some termite information that will help you understand more about the termites and your home, and termites and home insurance.
What Are Termites?
Termites are also called white ants, and like ants, they are social insects that live in colonies and feed off dead plant material. While there are about 4,000 species of termite, only about 10% of them are dangerous to buildings, crops, and forests, while others are important ecologically.
Termite colonies are made of nymphs, workers, soldiers, and reproductive members of both sexes, some of which contain multiple egg-laying queens. Because they conceal themselves so well, a home might have already sustained a significant amount of damage before the homeowner detects termites.
Arizona Drywood Termite
What Do Termites Look Like in Arizona?
Arizona termites are small and look like ants. They are usually light in color, ranging from white to light brown. However, the subterranean termites in Arizona are dark brown. Some termites, such as swarmer termites, have wings, while others are wingless.
Are Termites Common in Arizona?
Yes. A termite colony may contain between 60,000 to 1 million termites, so if you spot a termite, you should start looking for where they live. There are usually about 3 to 5 colonies for every acre of land in Arizona. But some areas have as many as 18 colonies per acre.
What Causes Termites?
Like most other creatures, termites will go where they can find food sources. The warm weather and high humidity in southern Arizona are ideal for a termite infestation because termites have thin skin and love humidity. Termites are also attracted to homes where there are leaky pipes or poor airflow because they like moisture.
Where Do Termites Live?
Depending on what types of termites they are, termites may live in one of several environments. Drywood termites may live in trees and homes, and some build a termite nest or mound, while dampwood termites need more moisture. Both may find their way into homes, depending on the home conditions. Subterranean termites are more likely to be found in your yard.
What Do Termites Eat?
Termites can consume most kinds of cellulosic material in tree bark, leaves, and other plant materials. Because their mandibles are so hard, they will also chew through other materials in your home, like drywall, plastics, and even thin sheets of lead.
Why Do Termites Eat Wood?
Almost anything could be a potential food source, but termites have unique digestive systems. They will not actually receive any nutrition from their meals unless the bacteria, fungi, and protozoa break down the cellulose fibers from the plant material into a kind of organic compound they can use.
How Long Do Termites Live?
Kings and queens may live for up to a decade if the conditions are perfect. A worker or soldier termite, on the other hand, may only live for up to a year or two. However, most termites do not live awfully long, and the colony can live on for long after the original queen.
What Kind of Termites Are in Arizona?
There are three basic types of termites in Arizona:
- Desert dampwood termites. Desert dampwood termites are the only dampwood termite in Arizona that is considered a pest of wooden structures. While not a significant economic pest, they may attack untreated utility poles or fence posts and only usually attack homes when they have damp areas.
- Drywood termites. There are two drywood termite species of importance in Arizona, dark and light Western drywood termites, and they do not need to have contact with the soil, like most other species. They can live entirely within a dry wood food source, which makes them hard to find.
- Desert subterranean termites. Desert subterranean termites account for most of the damage caused by termites in the United States. More adaptable than other termite species, these kinds of termites are the most destructive and will try to eat almost anything, no matter how hard.
Evidence of Termites
- Blisters in Wood Flooring. Areas may appear to have water damage, with protruding parts, when in fact, the blisters are evidence of termites feeding.
- Hollowed or Damaged Wood. You may not notice this at first.
- Wing Droppings. Termites leave their wings behind at egress points.
- Mud Tubes. They build mud tubes to protect themselves from predators and keep their bodies from drying out.
- Fecal pellets. Termite excrement is mounds of wooden pellets.
- Termite Swarms. Flying termites.
Can You See Termites?
They are small and usually light in color, except for the desert termites, but you will probably be able to see them. You will still likely see signs of termites before you see the termites themselves.
How Big Are Termites?
Termites can be as small as an eighth of an inch to an inch long and may look larger if they have wings.
How to Check for Termites
If you were an exterminator doing a termite inspection, you would start in the yard and see if any structures would be attractive to termites, such as fencing, firewood, or mulch. You can tap on wood and listen for a hollow sound. Even if you do not see mud tubes, they may leave behind mud in odd places.
Signs of Termite Damage
- Buckling wood
- Damage to hardwood floors
- Swollen floors and ceilings
- The smell of mildew in an unexpected area
- Loose tiles
- Holes in drywall
Can You Hear Termites in the Wall?
Yes. Some termites make different kinds of noises, and you may be able to hear very faint clicking sounds or scratching noises.
When is Termite Season?
In Arizona, subterranean termites swarm during monsoon season, which lasts from July to September. Termites may be a problem all year long, but they are most prevalent during the swarming season. In places with changing seasons, that usually happens around April when the ground thaws.
Are Termites Attracted to Light?
Yes. Because they are attracted to light, you may be able to find swarming termites by windows or light fixtures. This sighting might be the first sign that you have a termite problem. Outdoor swarmers are not a problem for your home, though.
Are Termites Dangerous?
Termites are not usually directly harmful to humans and will not bite you or spread diseases, but they are extremely dangerous to Arizona homes.
Can Termites Make You Sick?
Not usually. Termites rarely, if ever, spread diseases, unlike other pests like fleas, mice, rats, and ticks. Some people have allergic reactions to termite saliva because the saliva attaches to particles and dust they breathe in. That causes health issues like sneezing, watery eyes, and asthma attacks.
How Do Termites Get into Your House?
Termites typically find a way into your home by finding a vulnerable place, such as cracks in the foundation or windows and doors. Most infestations happen because there is wood in contact with the soil, giving termites a way to make a path into your home.
What to Do About Termites?
If you have termites, take immediate action as soon as you first spot a termite problem. First, call an exterminator. A professional will be able to do the job more thoroughly than you. Inspect your entry points and replace any damaged wood if you cannot repair it.
How to Prevent Termites in Arizona
- Use a termite treatment before or during construction to create a chemical barrier between the soil and the concrete floor.
- Leave a termite inspection gap in your crawl space.
- Treat the concrete if any alterations are made, such as room additions or patios.
- Create modifications to ensure that irrigation is not too close to the home, and the conditions do not invite termites.
- Prune away any dead tree limbs touching your house.
- Get a home inspection from a pest control company to make sure there are no issues.
Does Home Insurance Cover Termites?
No. Termite damage is rarely a covered peril, and you will likely be liable to pay for the damage to your home yourself if you are the victim of a termite infestation. Insurance companies believe termite damage is preventable, and they put the responsibility on homeowners to ensure that they take proper care of their property. Usually, your home insurance would cover possessions like wooden furniture, but not generally if the damage is due to a termite infestation.
There might be some rare termite instances where you are protected, such as if a covered peril caused a termite infestation. It is essential to understand your homeowners policy and speak to your insurance agent if you have any questions.
Hope that helps!
At your service,