Saturday, March 16, 2013

What Happens to Termites in Winter?

Termites are insects that live in almost every region in the world. They eat cellulose and can cause serious damage in a home. Because of the damage to wood in the walls of homes termites can cause, many homeowners are aggressive about termite control in the warmer seasons. What many homeowners aren’t sure about is how aggressive they need to be in the winter months.

During the summer months, termites are very active insects. They live in large colonies made up three cast types: the reproductive cast, soldier cast, and worker cast. The size of a mature colony can vary depending on the species of termite. Some colonies, such a colony of subterranean termites may have 60,000 members while a formosan colony can have hundreds of thousands of members. The worker cast of termites will forage for food. Feeding such a large colony can damage a home quickly.

What happens to termites in winter depends on the type of termite and where the nest is located. All termites prefer a temperature of 75° F though the different species will respond to the changes of weather differently in order to stay warm. There are four species of termites: subterranean, dry wood, moist wood, and formosan.

Subterranean termites create nests in the soil. When the temperatures drop, the subterranean termites will dig further in to the ground in order to reach warmer temperatures. Colonies located at depths of 40 inches underground have been recorded. It is believed that, though they aren’t as active in the winter as the summer, subterranean termites will continue to be active during the winter months.

The three other species are above ground and so will find a home in wood. The dry wood termite finds a home in dry wood just as its name would suggest. Likewise the moist wood termite nests in a wood with a higher moisture content. These termites will stay closer to the nest during the winter months and will usually be found in warm climates with milder winters.

Formosan termites are another type of subterranean termite. This means like subterranean termite colonies, formosan termites also live underground. They are distinguishable from subterranean termites by the size not only of their bodies but also the size of their colonies. It is due to the enormous size of their colony that they are the known to cause the most damage out of the termite species. Because they also nest underground, Formosan termites will respond the same as subterranean termites during the cold weather.

Though termites may be more dormant in winter, there is still the possibility of an infestation. Termites need three basic elements to survive, warmth, water, and wood. In a heated home, termites can find their basic needs. Some indications that termites have invaded a home are mud tubes created from the burrowing termites, damaged wood or wing sheds of the reproductive cast of termites. Though termites in winter are less active, for a homeowner, it pays to be vigilant year round.

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