Termites are very easy to ignore because they are quite small and often confused with carpenter ants. However, the presence of termites should never be taken lightly—once they’ve started feeding off wooden structures in your home or business, it could signal imminent damage that will get your property value plummeting in the long term.
Moisture in homes and businesses easily attracts termites that can spread quickly from property to property. Termites thrive best in damp and humid weather, which the Beaver state happily provides during the spring and early summer. The Pacific Northwest is known for its heavy rainfall and this is the #1 reason why termites are particularly common in Oregon.
3 Types of Termites in Oregon
Termites are active across the entire United States. There are about 45 different termite species, each with a unique biology and behavior that influence what particular area of the country they are likely to inhabit.
In the Western United States, pest control companies usually deal with three types of termites: subterranean termites, dampwood termites, and drywood termites. When left unmanaged, all three types of termites present a significant threat to homes and businesses in Oregon.
Subterranean termites are a soil-dwelling species belonging to the family Rhinotermitidae. Among all insects in the US, subterranean termites build the largest of nests by connecting mud tubes to food sources such as trees, wooden fence posts, and other timber structures in your home and property. They account for the largest percentage of termite damage in the country and can be found in every US state, except Alaska.
Because subterranean termites live in the ground, their presence can go undetected for a long time. They can be identified by looking at three types of castes in their colony consisting of workers, soldiers, and swarmers (reproductives). Workers are cream-colored with no wings and measure about ¼ inch or less in length. Soldiers are more creamy-white in color with a brownish head. Like worker termites, they are also wingless but have large mandibles which help them perform their role as defenders of the colony. On the other hand, swarmers are winged termites that are dark-brown to black in color and measure around ¼ to ½ inches long. They are responsible for reproduction.
Subterranean termites build their nests underground so most of the damaged wood you’ll see will have an accumulation of soil or mud in them. Mud tubes are usually found within and around tunnels created as termites chew through the softer portions of wood. This explains why layers appear in damaged wood—termites will only eat softwood and leave the hardwood sections untouched.
Termite nests are mostly found underneath dead tree trunks, logs or stumps, some going as deep as 10 or even 20 feet below ground. However, in some cases, you can see subterranean termite nests above ground, especially where moisture conditions are favorable or when the colony is very old and well-established. Common sites of subterranean termite infestations are crawl spaces, cracks in your garage or basement, or around the foundation of your structure that is in contact with soil.
Dampwood termites are the largest of all termite species and can range from ⅓ – ½ inch in length. They have a large head with mandibles (pincers) on the front. Dampwood termites also belong to a caste system and go through a gradual life cycle consistent with most termite species. Eggs hatch into cream-colored nymphs that will eventually develop into workers, soldiers, or reproductive termites.
Unlike subterranean termites, dampwood termites do not burrow underground. They do not need contact with the soil to infest a property. Rather, dampwood termites live in moist areas such as fence posts, trees, rotten eaves, sheds, and similar areas. The moisture content in the wood has to be sufficient enough to be of interest to the dampwood termite; otherwise, they cannot survive. For this reason, dampwood termites are also often referred to as rottenwood termites because of their desire for very moist and rotted wood.
Wood that is water-damaged or rests directly on the ground which can suck up moisture is very likely to attract dampwood termites. Outdoors, some of the more likely things that dampwood termites are drawn to include stumps, lumber, fallen logs and tree branches that are left in direct contact with the ground.
In Beaverton homes, dampwood termites can hollow out support beams and weaken the overall structure, leading to costly repairs. Silent and secretive by nature, it can be difficult to recognize dampwood termite activity until the infestation becomes quite severe.
Dampwood termites remain hidden by covering up their entry points with their own feces. So unlike subterranean termite activity which can easily be identified by the mud tubes they construct, the presence of dampwood termites can be harder to detect. Moreover, the wood they tend to infest can present an added problem with fungus because of the very high moisture content. A dampwood termite infestation often indicates wood decay and is more common in older homes that are experiencing water leaks that result in excessive moisture in wooden structures.
Overall, dampwood termites are less likely to damage structures compared to subterranean termites or drywood termites. As long as you don’t have leaks in your gutter, eaves, and other wooden structures, it will be easy to keep dampwood termites at bay.
As their name suggests, drywood termites are termite species that use moisture-free wood to build their nests. They are also referred to as furniture termites or powderpost termites because they tend to infest furniture items. They are similar to dampwood termites in many ways, as both species will only nest inside wood. However, the dampwood variety seeks out moist wood or wood that has been subjected to water damage. Drywood termites, on the other hand, will survive on wood that is dry, which makes them quite well-adapted to human habitation. So even if your home has not experienced water damage, drywood termites can find an ideal habitat in furniture, dry wooden frames, or beams in your home or property.
Even without any source of water within reach, drywood termites are able to metabolize water from the wood that they eat—a curious ability that can be baffling to many. When the atmosphere is humid, drywood termites will excrete liquid feces and simply absorb and reabsorb water from their droppings as their bodies need. As conditions turn dry, these termites will reabsorb moisture in their intestines and then excrete their feces in very small pellets known as frass. Frass is often seen accumulated as piles around infested wood and is easily confused with frass created by carpenter ants. For this reason, it is always advisable to call a pest control expert to help you determine if you simply have a carpenter ant infestation or a more damaging termite infestation.
While drywood termites can cause significant damage to homes in Oregon, you can breathe a slight sigh of relief knowing that drywood termites are not as prevalent in the state compared to dampwood termites and subterranean termites. Moreover, drywood termite colonies are way smaller than gargantuan subterranean termite colonies. As a result, they typically cause damage at a much slower rate.
Termite Pest Control
Just like ants, termites are classified as one of the worst pests you can have in your home. They’re often silent killers, so you won’t know what type of damage they have done until you have a full-blown infestation. Having pests in your home will always leave you with a feeling of helplessness. Professional pest control services in Beaverton can give you the peace of mind you need, knowing your home can stay pest-free all year round!