Subterranean termites, most notably the Reticulitermes flavipes, are likely the most destructive and vastly distributed species in North America. About 30 municipalities in Ontario report infestation concerns to some extent.
They were first reported in Ontario at Point Pelee in 1929. For example, they were subsequently reported in Toronto (1938), Windsor (1950), Kincardine (1954), Oxley (1955), Amherstburg and Dresden (1968), and, Guelph (1975). The Metropolitan Toronto area is thought to be infested in an area extending through a 30 KM radius.
Since soil provides moisture for these creatures it is their main source of life support. Consequently they form shelter tubes constructed of soil and excrement or secretions that connect the exterior soil to a building. The presence of shelter tubes is the first sign of a termite infestation. The tubes are about 6 mm to 12 mm wide and can extend for several centimetres until wood is discovered.
The termite’s food comes from the cellulose in the wood that it eats from between the growth rings. Although decaying wood is a favourite they can and will feast on perfectly good, dry wood.
The damage by these termites in wood is usually not noticeable on the surface. They do not reduce the wood to a powdery mass, or leave wood particles on the outside of the as do other wood-boring insects like carpenter ants and powder post beetles.
What can you do to reduce your chances of a termite infestation?
- Remove all scrap wood and wood products from around the property.
- Improve the surface water drainage around the property. Repair leaks, check eavestroughs, downspouts, diverters, and, slope walkways and driveways away from the house.
- Ensure that there is good ventilation under porches, and, in crawl spaces.
- Ensure the soil-to-wood (for example wood siding, decks) clearance is good, preferably, 45 cm from the soil. Lattice work under a porch or a deck, for example, should be 50 to 75 cm from the soil. Don’t forget wood steps too.
- Seal up holes and cracks, such as those around utility lines and pipes with caulking or commercial sealers.
- Store fire wood off the ground.
- Take care when obtaining soil and discarded wood material from known infested areas. This may include transplanting rose bushes from someone else’s home, for example.
If you have concerns about termites call a licensed termite exterminator.