A typical termite family will include soldiers. These have long heads and powerful jaws. Soldier termites defend the family unit. If you can find some soldier termites, this makes it easier to know whether you have a termite problem. Solders only make up part of the termite population so you will have to look carefully for them. Most termites are workers. These are about 2/5 inch long and are recognizable by their soft, light-colored bodies. They look a bit like moving grains of rice.
The first method, common in the warmer climates of the southern United States, is called swarming. This occurs usually in spring, when large numbers of winged primary reproductives (alates) (top photo) emerge from a colony, fly a very short distance, mate and then establish a new colony. Although alates are found in Ontario, rarely do they swarm.
Termites often enter buildings through cracks and holes and expansion joints in foundations. Spaces around piping and wiring are also points of entry. These openings may be filled with either roofing-grade coal-tar pitch, sealers or similar commercial caulking products.
Reproductive termites are similar but have wings. Termites are weak flyers and will only attempt to fly if the air is still and there is high humidity without the likelihood of rain. The largest member of the termite family is the queen. She can be up to 4 inches long and lays up to 4 eggs a minute! If she dies, one of the reproductive termites takes her place.
The subterranean termite Reticulitermis flavipes (Kollar) is probably the most destructive and widely distributed species in North America. This species has acclimatized to southern Ontario to such a degree that 27 municipalities report some degree of infestation.
The damage to wood is usually not noticeable on the surface, as the termite avoids exposure to air. Therefore the exterior surface of the wood must be stripped away to see the damage.. Termites do not reduce wood to a powdery mass, or push wood particles to the outside as do some wood-boring insects, such as carpenter ants and powder post beetles.
Some people think that termite identification is difficult but if you know what you are doing it is can be done easily. Termites live in large family units with between several hundred and several million family members. They work together in an organized system to find food sources.
The series of galleries (area hollowed out) created by termites in wood give a honeycomb appearance. These galleries follow the wood grain. Interior galleries contain greyish specks of excrement and earth, called frass.
The presence of shelter tubes over the surface of foundation walls is the primary sign of a termite infestation. These tubes are 6mm (1/4 inch) to 12mm (1/2 inch) wide, and can extend many centimetres in length until wood is discovered. These tubes protect termites form the drying effect of air, and maintain the termites` contact with the soil.
The primary female reproductive (the queen), is very rarely found in Ontario, whereas secondary reproductives in the colony carry on extensive reproduction.