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Termite Control

In nature, termites help to convert dead wood and other organic materials containing cellulose to humus. From this standpoint, termites are very beneficial animals. Only when people began building with wood in the natural home of the termite did the termites start feeding on buildings. Termites are social insects. This means there is a division of labor among different types of individuals, called castes. (Some ants, bees, and wasps are also social insects). Nearly all termite species have reproductive and soldier castes. In many termite societies, there is also a distinct worker caste, but in most of the more primitive species, the typical duties of the workers (nest building, food gathering and feeding of the reproductives and soldiers) are handled entirely by the nymphs. Even in species with workers, the older nymphs usually do much of the work. Each termite colony is self-supporting and essentially independent of other colonies. The workings of subterranean termites differ from those of all other wood-destroying organisms. These termites remove only the soft layers (spring wood) within the annual rings of the wood grain, penetrating the hard layers only to get from one soft layer to another. This frequently leaves a damaged piece of wood looking very much like the pages of a book. The most distinctive feature of subterranean termite damage is the presence of a brown mud like material that lines the galleries in an irregular pattern. Subterranean termites travel constantly from their nests in the ground to the wood, or to the other cellulose-bearing material upon which they feed. They make these trips only inside wood or in the mud tubes that they construct. Single tubes, when they are built in the open, are about the diameter of an ordinary lead pencil. Termites may excavate the wood so that only a very thin layer of wood is left on the surface between their cavities and the outside. When this layer is broken, they will cover the hole with the same material used to make their tubes. This mixture of soil, feces, and saliva is also frequently used to cover the crack between two boards so that the termites can move about in a protected environment.

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