Understanding Termite Behaviour and Preventative Measures

Learn How Termites Behave and to Protect Against Them

Understanding Termite Behaviuor and Preventative Measures

Termites. Just the name alone is enough to make any homeowner shiver. These tiny destroyers can wreak havoc on your home, chewing through wood and ruining structures. But by understanding termite basics like diet, anatomy, and behavior, you can prevent an infestation. You also protect your property’s integrity.

Different Termite Species

Drywood Termites

As the name suggests, drywood termites love snacking on dry, dead wood. They thrive in warm, dry climates. They’re the type that don’t need any contact with soil either. These types build nests inside wooden materials and can live their whole lives inside your wooden frames and beams. Telltale signs are tiny piles of sawdust-like frass and blistered patches on wood.

Dampwood Termites

Dampwood termites, as you may have guessed, like to feast on wood with higher moisture content. They are found in areas with lots of rainfall. Their preferred nests are rotting stumps, logs, and lumber. Signs of their presence include mud shelter tubes and wooden structures that sound hollow when tapped.

Subterranean Termites

These termites nest in the soil. They use mud tubes to travel between their underground colonies and  sources of their next meal. The subterranean type flourishes in warm, humid environments. If you see mud tubes on foundation walls, that’s a clear sign of their presence. Wood partly buried in soil is their favourite treat.

What Makes Them Such Efficient Destroyers?

Specialised Mouth Parts

Termite mouth parts work like tiny saws and chisels, efficiently chewing up the hard, fibrous material. Worker termites have large jaws for cutting and smaller termites help digest the wood.

Beneficial Gut Bacteria

Termites can digest tough lignocellulose in wood thanks to special bacteria and protozoa in their guts. These microorganisms help break down the material into nutrients the termites can absorb.

Social Structure

Termites have a complex social hierarchy with specialised roles. The queen lays eggs, workers forage and build, and soldiers defend the colony. This combined effort helps them consume wood at alarming rates.

How Environmental Factors Influence Behaviour

Termites are cold blooded creatures, so temperature has a major impact on their activity levels. Warm weather from spring through fall is when termites are most lively and destructive.

High humidity also allows termites to travel farther from their hideaway to find food sources. They avoid light and do most of their work hidden within wood or shelter tubes.

How Do Termites Find and Consume Wood?

Winged Termites

Yearly Swarming

In spring and summer, an entire termite colony of mature insects produce winged reproductives that swarm by the thousands. This is how they establish new sites to live in and increase termite population. Swarming termites near your house are a bad sign.

Following Pheromone Trails

Worker termites leave pheromone deposits when they travel. Other termites follow these chemical cues to reach food sources. This allows them to quickly converge on vulnerable wood.

Coordinated Foraging

Individual termites are blind, but the colony has keen senses. They use vibration and smell to detect wood sources and coordinate feeding. One termite finds things to eat, summons others, and soon a feast ensues!

Survival Mechanisms

When threatened, termites can detach body parts. They also have hardy armored shells and can block entry points to their colonies. This makes extermination difficult.

How to Prevent Termites from Invading Your Home

Regular Inspections

Checking for Termites

  • Check your foundation walls, attic, crawl spaces, and any exposed wood around your property’s exterior. Do this at least once per year to look for signs of termites.
  • Look for mud tubes, damage on wooden elements, blistering paint, or piles of sawdust-like frass. Tap on wood to listen for hollow sounds.
  • Inspect around plumbing lines that penetrate slabs. Termite love to hide in these areas.
  • If you find any evidence of termites, contact a professional exterminator immediately for treatment. Early detection is critical to avoid major destruction.

Eliminate Wood Contact with Soil

  • Ensure all siding, framing, and structural elements are at least 6 inches above the soil.
  • Remove any debris or tree stumps from direct ground contact to prevent risk of infestation.
  • Do not use wood mulch right up against the foundation. Maintain a 1 foot perimeter of gravel instead.

Maintain Proper Drainage

  • Fix any leaks in plumbing, fixtures, or the roof to prevent increase in moisture levels.
  • Install gutters and extend downspouts to channel water at least 5 feet from the foundation.
  • Grade soil so it slopes 1 inch per foot away from the building. Fill any low spots.
  • Improve drainage in crawl spaces with vapor barriers and ventilation.

Get Professional Chemical Treatment

  • Hire a reputable pest control company to install a protective chemical or physical barrier at entry points around the perimeter.
  • Termite bait stations and non-repellent liquid termiticides applied to soil are safer and last longer.
  • Treatment should also include drilling and injecting chemicals into vulnerable walls and foundations.
  • Continue annual maintenance treatments for optimal protection.

Other Tips

  • Ventilate crawl spaces and attics to avoid damp conditions
  • Use termite-resistant building materials

Don’t Lose Your Home to Hungry Termites

While these pests are powerful destroyers, you now have the knowledge to lower the risk of termite infestation. Stay vigilant for signs of their presence. Be proactive in preventing pests in your home no matter their kind. Implement these tips, and you can defend your house from becoming their next meal.


When are termites most active?

Termites are most active in the warmer months from spring through fall when temperatures are ideal, and they tend to be more active at night.

How can I tell if I have drywood or subterranean termites?

Drywood termites live inside wood without contacting the soil, while subterranean termites need soil contact to survive.

How do termite treatments work?

Termite treatments involve creating a repellent or toxic chemical barrier with liquid treatments, baits, wood treatments, or fumigation that both kills termites and prevents future infestations.

How often should termite treatments be done?

For optimal protection, annual maintenance treatments are recommended even after initial treatment to prevent new termite infestations.

Can I treat termites myself?

It is not advisable to try to treat termites yourself, as improper treatment can often make infestations worse. So professional termite treatment is highly recommended.

How much does termite treatment cost?

On average, initial professional termite treatments range from $1,200-$2,500, with lower annual maintenance treatment costs thereafter.