Subterranean termites are the single greatest economic pest in the United States. They cause billions of dollars in damage each year to homes, historical structures, and commercial buildings. In addition to buildings, termites also consume valuable books, documents and photographs. Subterranean termites have existed for over 55 million years and are extremely good at what they do. A great deal of their success can be attributed to their cooperative behavior.
Subterranean termites are social insects. This means that they live in family groups called colonies. Social insects are different from other insects (grasshoppers, cockroaches, or beetles) because each termite in the colony performs a specific job that benefits the colony as a whole. Most other insects work only for themselves. For example, each individual grasshopper will feed and reproduce itself independently of its siblings. In the termite colony an entire group or caste of termites is responsible for feeding their parents and siblings, while another caste is responsible for reproduction. Because of this division of labor, the colony of individuals functions as a single animal.
Colony Establishment & Swarming Behavior
Swarming is the termite method of dispersal and new colony establishment. The swarmers are new termite kings and queens that must leave their parent colony in order to mate and establish new colonies of their own. The subterranean termite, usually swarms in the spring (March-May) during the daylight hours on warm days following a rain.
Subterranean termite swarmers are attracted to light. If they emerge indoors they will be seen flying to windowsills and open doors. Usually, termite swarming either indoors or outside is the first indication to homeowners that they have a subterranean termite infestation.
The termite swarmers pair up during their flight then land and search for a place to begin a family. Their wings break off shortly after landing and the new king and queen start their colony by excavating a small chamber in a crevice or plot of soft soil. From this point on, they will spend the rest of their lives underground. As the new queen begins to produce eggs her abdomen grows larger with the development of her ovaries. As she stretches, the segments of her body pull farther apart showing the white membranes between the segments of her abdomen. This gives the queen a striped appearance. At this point she is an egg laying machine. The colony will continue to grow with increasing numbers of termites being produced each year. The parental king and queen often survive for a decade or longer and can produce huge colonies. Mature colonies (4-6 years old) of Philippine milk termites have been estimated to contain more than 30,000 workers on average. Mega colonies have been recorded with populations estimated over a million. These large subterranean termite colonies often become decentralized over time and occupy multiple nesting sites interconnected by a network of underground tunnels.
Subterranean Termite Castes
Queen & Secondary Reproductives
The termite colony originates from a single pair of reproductive swarmer termites, the king and queen. However, if the king or queen should die, other individuals within the colony will start to develop functional reproductive organs to take their place. These individuals are called secondary reproductives. Secondary reproductives may also develop in satellite nests where a group of workers have become separated from the parent colony. This splitting or budding of the nest expands the original colony’s foraging territory.
Worker Caste Subterranean termite workers are the caste found feeding on wood. The workers are
responsible for all of the labor in the colony. They care for the young, repair the nest, build foraging tunnels, locate food, feed and groom the other castes and each other. The youngest termite workers perform the tasks inside the colony like feeding, grooming and caring for the young, while the older more expendable workers take on the hazardous jobs of foraging and nest building. The termite workers are both male and female but they are functionally sterile. They are milky white in color and have no wings or eyes. The body of the termite worker is soft, but its mouthparts are very hard and adapted for chewing wood.
Soldier Caste Subterranean termite soldiers are the defenders of the colony. They protect the colony against marauding ants and foreign termites. When foraging tubes or galleries are broken into, the soldiers congregate around the break to stand guard against invaders. Soldiers are similar to the termite workers in that they are blind, soft-bodied and wingless. However, the soldiers have an enlarged, hard, yellowish-brown head which has been modified for defense. The head has a pair of very large mandibles or jaws that are made to puncture, slice and kill enemies (primarily ants). However, the large mandibles prevent the soldiers from feeding themselves so they must rely on the workers for food.
It is noted forage randomly and continuously by digging a network of tunnels and come in contact with food sources in the process. The foraging range of a single termite colony is difficult to predict. Some larger colonies may forage over areas the size of a football field. Swarm Tubes Foraging termites product known exactly how subterranean termites locate sources of food but they are very good at it. They are known to find wood that is left lying on the ground in a matter of days. It is thought that the termce a variety of chemicals called pheromones that influence their behavior.
These pheromones are basically odors that send messages to other termites in the colony. While tunneling underground, the foraging termites lay down a trail of pheromone which they secrete from glands on their abdomen. When a food source is located, the odor trail is intensified to recruit other termites to the feeding site.
Utility Tubes Subterranean termites frequently forage above ground for sources of cellulosic food like wood in homes and other structures. In order to protect themselves from predation by ants and maintain their connection to the soil while searching for food above ground, termites build long tubes out of mud and fecal material. Termite mud tubes are sometimes very easy to see and are one of the best ways to identify a potential termite infestation. Mud tubes become highways running from the underground termite galleries directly to the food source. They can cover long distances over the foundation of a building or along exterior walls to reach the wood inside.
Subterranean termites are constantly at risk of drying out; this is why they must live in the soil. Soil has the capacity to hold water for a long period of time and keep the colony moist. When termites forage above ground, they must maintain their connection to the soil so that the workers and soldiers can return periodically to replenish their body moisture. The mud tubes provide the termites with this soil connection.
Nutrition and Feeding
Subterranean termites are constantly at risk of drying out; this is why they must live in the Although subterranean termites can chew through and damage many materials, they can only obtain nutrition from cellulose. However, subterranean termites cannot digest cellulose on their own. In order to digest wood, subterranean termites have large numbers of microorganisms in their gut that convert the wood fiber into usable nutrients. If there were no microorganisms in the gut, the termite could eat constantly but still die of starvation. In the colony most food is shared mouth to mouth (a process called trophallaxis). Foraging worker termites feed directly on wood or other cellulose material then store the food in their gut. They then return to the nest and feed the immature termites, soldiers, and reproductives which cannot feed themselves.soil. Soil has the capacity to hold water for a long period of time and keep the colony moist. When termites forage above ground, they must maintain their connection to the soil so that the workers and soldiers can return periodically to replenish their body moisture. The mud tubes provide the termites with this soil connection.
The German Roach (Blattella germanica) is the most common type of roach found in homes, apartments, restaurants, supermarkets, hospitals, and other buildings where food is stored, prepared or served. They eat food of all kinds and may hitchhike into the home in used or rented furniture and appliances, egg cartons, soft drink cartons, sacks of potatoes or onions, beer cases, etc. They can develop into large populations and live throughout the home, especially in kitchens and bathrooms. Roaches can foul food,
damage wallpaper and books, eat glue from furniture, and produce an unpleasant odor. Some homeowners are allergic to roaches and their cast skins. They can contaminate food with certain bacterial diseases that result in food poisoning, dysentery, or diarrhea. Cockroaches are the leading cause childhood asthma in urban settings.
Most cockroaches have a flattened, oval shape, spiny legs, and long, filamentous antennae. Immature stages are smaller, have undeveloped wings and resemble the adults. Adult German cockroaches are light tan to medium brown except for the shield behind the head marked with two dark stripes (separated by a lighter stripe), which run lengthwise on the body. Adults are about 1/2 to 5/8-inch long and have wings, but rarely fly. Wings cover the entire abdomen of females and all except the abdominal tip in males. The male is light brown and rather boat-shaped, whereas the female is slightly darker with a broader, rounded posterior. Young roaches (nymphs) are wingless and nearly black with a single light stripe, separating two black bands, running down about halfway of the middle of the back. Egg capsules are light tan and less than 1/4-inch long.
German cockroach females, unlike most other roaches, carry the egg capsule protruding from their abdomen until the eggs are ready to hatch. The case is then dropped in a secluded location, with the nymphs emerging within one day. A female may produce four to eight cases during her lifetime, each containing 30 to 48 eggs. Eggs hatch in about one month, and nymphs develop in 1-1/2 to 4 months. Female roaches live about 6-1/2 months and males live slightly less. The German cockroach produces more eggs and has more generations per year (three to four) than other roaches, and only a few individuals are needed to develop into troublesome infestations. This roach is spread by commerce and transportation as well as mass migrations. It is the most prevalent pest in low income apartments in the United States. During the day, these roaches may be found hiding, clustered behind baseboard molding, in cracks around cabinets, closets or pantries, and in and under stoves, refrigerators and dish washers. If clusters of roaches are seen during the day, the population is large. Both nymphs and adults are very active and capable of running rapidly. German cockroaches have a high need for moisture and usually travel 10 to 12 feet from their harborage for food and water in kitchens, bathrooms, utility rooms, etc., preferring darkness. Without food or water, adults may die in two weeks, but can live a month with only water.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
It is rarely necessary these days to “Spray” for roaches. Professional pest control companies primarily use a variety of highly effective baits as the primary control agents within an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) service plan. IPM is a systems approach that combines preventive techniques, non-chemical pest control methods and the wise use of pesticides with preference for products like baits that are least harmful to human health and the environment.
A Cockroach IPM plan will consist of an intensive baiting service followed by routine inspection and monitoring with sticky traps. Additional treatments will only be performed when new pest activity is discovered. Other valuable Cockroach IPM tools include vacuum cleaners, insect growth regulators (IGRs) and flushing agents as an inspection tool for uncovering hidden activity.
Prevention and Sanitation
Clean areas beneath cabinets, sinks, stoves, refrigerators, etc. as well as cupboards, pantry shelves and food storage bins. Clean up spilled foods and liquids. Avoid leaving scraps of food on unwashed dishes and countertops overnight. Keep food in tightly sealed containers, rinse cans and bottles before putting in the trash, and transfer garbage outdoors into roach-proof receptacles away from the house. Leftover pet food should not remain in the feeding dish overnight.
Avoid used and rented furniture. If you believe you have roaches, act quickly and capture a specimen for identification. We Identify insects for free (samples should be placed in a pill bottle or other hard container that will protect it). If you live in an apartment you need to contact the landlord about service. It is almost certain that you are not the only resident with roaches. Commercial kitchens or other places of business should call us for a free evaluation.
The Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus, also called the brown rat or sewer rat) is a destructive pest found in urban and suburban neighborhoods. These rodents eat and contaminate food, damage buildings and other property by their gnawing and burrowing, and may spread diseases that affect people and pets.