Spring is right around the corner and so is termite season on the East Coast. March 11-17 is National Termite Awareness Week, so we’re focusing in on the locations in the eastern U.S. where termite activity is heaviest. We looked into where the majority of our termite complaints are coming from and created a list of the top five East Coast states for termite activity.
The East Coast’s most common termite
The most common termite on the East Coast is the eastern subterranean termite. It can be found in each of the five states on this list. These termites are very destructive to the kinds of wood from which buildings are often constructed, and therefore present a significant threat to homes and businesses in the East. They quickly consume the inner parts of the wood, weakening it while often going undetected.
Identifying the eastern subterranean termite
Eastern subterranean termite workers are only about ⅛” in length and have no wings. For the two years that they are alive (on average), they work 24/7. Because they are both blind and sterile, they serve no other purpose than to work.
The soldier caste of this termite can be identified by their pinchers that extend from their flat, orange-colored heads. They use these pinchers, along with a sticky substance that they emit, to capture and crush their ant prey. The soldiers are often the first to be sighted when mud tubes or infected wood is opened, as they will rush out to protect the colony.
Eastern subterranean termite swarmers are about three times the length of the workers when you include their wings. Swarmers are dark brown in color and are the reproductive termite group. They are the most commonly seen of all of all groups, primarily because they expose themselves to light, where soldiers and workers do not. The swarmers do not do any damage, but after finding a mate and discarding their wings, they do give birth to a colony of workers that can.
The top 5 East Coast states for termite activity
Termite activity in New York is primarily from eastern subterranean termites. Drywood termites are not established in the state, but they can easily be carried in via infested furniture. Termite infestations in New York often occur in basements and cellars where there is a great deal of structural wood and moisture.
The eastern subterranean termite is the primary type of termite found in Maryland, but there are other insects within the state that do similar damage to wood structures. Carpenter ants, woodworms, and carpenter bees may all destroy wood, but treatment differs from species to species. From Baltimore to Annapolis, identification is best done by the experts at Ehrlich Pest Control so that a proper elimination plan can be put into place.
Florida is home to a whole host of termite types. The humid weather makes the southeastern state an ideal environment for this pest. In addition to eastern subterranean termites, which make an appearance all up and down this coast, and powderpost dampwood termites (discussed in the following section), there are formosan subterranean and Florida dampwood termites.
Formosan Termites in Florida
Formosan termites are usually only found in southern areas, as their eggs do not hatch at temperatures below 68°F. Formosan colonies are large and aggressive, often causing severe structural damage in as little as six months. They can also cause power outages when they chew through electrical wiring. Formosan termites are like eastern subterranean termites in that they nest in the ground and build mud tubes to shelter themselves as they travel to wood sources. In the case of very moist wood, formosan termites may establish a secondary colony within the wood. If they can get sufficient moisture from the wood, they do not need to make contact with the ground.
Dampwood Termites in Florida
Florida dampwood termites require frequent contact with water but do not forage in the soil. An indication of an infestation is the presence of shapeless clumps of waste or a paste-like material. The moisture content of the dampwood termite’s environment causes the fecal pellets to lose their shape, so frass does not have the sawdust-like appearance that can be expected from drywood termites.
Structures exposed to frequent rainfall or irrigation mechanisms could be at an increased risk of infestation by the Florida dampwood termite. But because they need so much moisture, the dampwood termite prefers to infest damp, decaying wood, meaning most inhabited structures are relatively safe…from this type at least.
Like the other states on this list, Virginia is home to the eastern subterranean termite, but the state also has been known to have western drywood termites and West Indian powderpost termites. The two types are very similar, as they are both drywood termites, requiring only wood with 12% or less moisture content. Both western drywood termite and the West Indian powderpost termite colonies are small and slow to develop, taking around 5 years to fully mature.
Even though the colonies are small in comparison to those of subterranean termites, significant damage can be done by multiple colonies working together. Powderpost termites are notorious for attacking wood furniture, whereas the western drywood termite may infest any exposed wood that is of favorable temperature and moisture content. Neither termite requires any contact with the ground, nor do they build mud tubes. There is no worker caste in either type, as all work is done by the nymphs. Because they infest furniture, these termites are often distributed through the transportation of said furniture and other similar human activity.
The top state from which we receive termite complaints is Pennsylvania. Again, the eastern subterranean termite reigns supreme in this state from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh. Generally, termite swarmers will emerge at some time between February and June as the weather begins to lend itself toward spring. As mentioned, the swarmers don’t do damage themselves, but instead, serve as a sort of warning. Where there are swarmers, there will soon be a colony.
Professional termite control experts
Termite infestations are no joking matter. Even if you only suspect termite activity, contact the termite experts at Ehrlich right away so that we can get someone out to do an inspection. The earlier an infestation is detected, the less time the termites have to damage your home or business.
Follow along on our Facebook page all week for more termite facts! Also, you can check out our Essential Guide to Termites for everything you need to know about this destructive pest.