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Pesky Pests


Termites are social insects that live in highly integrated colonies.  Although they generally resemble ants in their habits and appearance, and are sometimes called white ants, they are not related (take a look at the picture below).  There about 2,000 known species of termites.  About 40 of these species live in North America.

Termites found in the United States fall into three groups. Damp-wood termites live only in very moist wood and are found predominately on the Pacific Coast.  Dry-wood termites need very little moisture and are often found in the Southwestern states.  The most common and destructive are subterranean termites which nest underground.

Termites digest wood, paper and other material containing cellulose, with the help of organisms living in their intestinal tract.  They do much damage by tunneling through fence posts, trees, wooden bridges and other structures.  In houses, they damage woodwork, furniture and may eat cloth, books and paper.  Some kinds of termites eat living plants.  Experts have estimated that termites cause as much property damage each year in the US as fire does!

The most common method of termite control is killing them with the appropriate insecticides, according to the species being exterminated.  In the case of the subterranean termite in the home, the chemical is  injected into the soil around the house and into openings in the basement walls.  The damaged wood should also be removed, whenever possible.  However, the best methods of termite control are preventive methods.  Basements should be well ventilated and wooden structures should not be in contact with soil.

Top picture: (Termite)

- simple antennae
- thicker waist
- wings of equal length

Bottom picture: (Ant)

- elbow antennae
- narrow waist
- hind wing shorter than  fore wing


Ants are also social insects that live in colonies.  Experts estimate that there may be as many as 20,000 species of ants in the world.  They can be found all over the world, from the Arctic Circle to Antarctica.  Only a few of the species are considered pests but those few can infest homes and other buildings, damage lawns and bite people as well as animals.  Let's take a look at a few of the more common species.

Pharaoh ants:  are small yellow ants measuring about 1/16" long.  They are often confused with thief ants because of similar size and color.  The best way to tell the difference between the two is to count the segments of the antennae (pharaoh ants have 12 segments, thief ants have 10 segments).

Pharaoh ants live in large colonies favoring heated buildings since they cannot generally survive outdoors in most states.  Because they eat most types of food they are often found in food service areas.

Thief ants:  are tiny ants measuring as little as 1/32", whose color ranges from light yellow to brownish.  Their name comes from its habit of stealing food from other ant nests.  Thief ant nests can be found outside under rocks or inside behind baseboards and in cabinets.  They feed on sweets and protein, so their diet can range from household foods to small insects.

Carpenter Ants:  are some of the largest ants, ranging in size from 1/4" to 1/2" and are generally black in color.  Because they prefer moist wood, outdoor nests are found in dead tree trunks and logs.  Indoor nests are found around damp wood in window frames, behind sinks, dishwashers and toilets where there are leaks.

Unlike termites, carpenter ants do not eat wood but instead burrow smooth hollows in wood for their nests leaving behind coarse sawdust.  The carpenter ant diet includes "people food" and other insects.

Ant Control:  Because ants are social insects it is very important to find the nests, whether inside or outdoors.    This may mean tracking their activity until the nests are discovered.  Nests can be chemically eliminated with a variety of insecticide sprays, particles and bait traps.  In cases where the nests cannot be found, places where they are known to enter should be treated.

Preventive methods are also very important in ant control.  Cleanliness should be stressed, food properly stored, indoor/outdoor leaks contained and rotting wood eliminated.  For the best termite and pest control contact us!

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