All About Termites: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

property management termitesWhat does your property look like to a colony of termites? Imagine that you’re hungry. Eternally hungry. You can’t get enough food. For termites, when they get into a home or building, it’s like an everlasting buffet. They eat and eat and eat their way through, and you are left to clean the table, so to speak.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Termites are small insects that love to eat wooden structures. They can be white, tan or black, and their destruction is mighty powerful.

The good: Dating back 100 million years, these ancient insects have played many roles outside of eating structural lumber. While it’s devastating when a colony gets into your property, in nature, termites make a positive contribution in their ability to recycle wood and plant material. Their soil tunnels allows a porous, healthy environment that allows plants to flourish. They reclaim soil damaged by weather and overgrazing in the Sahara Desert, explains the University of California pest management program.

The bad: In California, 17 different types of termites damage utility poles, homes and apartment buildings. They attack firewood, stored food, money, books and furniture.

The ugly: Some queen termites can lay thousands of eggs in a day. They create underground and inside-wood nests and are hard to detect.

West Coast Colonies

While there are 17 species in California, there are five that cause the most destruction, reports When eradicating a colony, it’s important to know which type you are dealing with, because they have different lifestyles.

  • Western subterranean termites: Destructive to Douglas firs, they quickly devour the internal sections of timber. An estimated one in five homes has or will be attacked by these destructive pests. About half the size of a match head, worker termites are sterile, blind and work 24/7 for their two-year lifespan. Their nests are located above water lines but below ground level. They travel through mud shelter tubes on the outside of structures; however, they are highly secretive and can sneak in through small structural cracks. If you find them, do not disturb them. Call in a professional.
  • Desert subterranean termites: Living in desert plants, they can destroy structural timber and utility poles. They attack dry wood and create drop tubes that run along the outside of sheetrock. A colony can contain 300,000 little guys (and girls) and can forage up to an acre, according to
  • Arid-land subterranean termites: Most common in Arizona, these termites are typically found in sand dunes and above 7,000 feet. They are naturally found in deserts and often attack creosote and greasewood bushes.
  • Western drywood termites: Accounting for most of the drywood termite damage in Calif., these termites live in dry timber and are often spread by human activity—transported through infested furniture and any type of wood to a new area. Their eating habits are leisurely, and they create chambers by eating across wood grain. They have no contact with the ground and live above it. Smaller in number, they make nests within the wood they are eating.
  • Pacific dampwood termites: Common to cool and humid coastlines, these guys are up to one inch long. They are common near or over water.

Inspect Your Property

Save thousands in the end by hiring a professional inspector. While you turn to termite pictures for identification, professionals know the ins and outs of the who, what, why, when, where and how of termites.

You can expect a written inspection report with detailed specifications for either termite eradication, control or/and prevention. All timber-accessible areas within crawls spaces in the floor should be thoroughly inspected along with roof voids, garden landscaping (including any decorative wood like railroad ties), interior and exterior of buildings and trees.

If termites are found, expert knowledge and specialized equipment are necessary to create a chemical soil barrier. Low-hazard termiticides are water-based and generally won’t harm humans or animals. Termites can also be baited in some cases – contact your local pest control expert to find out if this treatment is an option in your area.