If you’ve ever had termites in the past or you’re experiencing an infestation now, you might be wondering where these wood-eating pests come from and how they got inside in the first place.
If you live in or around New York, chances are you’re dealing with subterranean termites — or in rare occasions, drywood termites. These two termite species can infest your home in different ways, but they’re equally destructive and difficult to get rid of.
In this article, we will discuss where termites come from and how they get into your home.
Where Do Subterranean Termites Come From?
Subterranean termites prefer environments with dead trees and wet wood. In nature, they can be found feeding on old tree stumps and fallen tree branches.
This species requires constant moisture to survive, so they often establish their colonies beneath the soil or in damp wood.
Prior to infesting your home, subterranean termites might be found living in your yard, where they build colonies and tunnels underground and next to sources of wood.
Depending on where you live, they might also come from further away, like from a nearby park or forested area.
How Do Subterranean Termites Get into Your Home?
Subterranean worker termites typically make their way inside through a network of underground tunnels. They look for cracks in foundation walls, openings and gaps around pipes, or any place where wood directly touches the soil. This includes wooden structures like decks and porch steps.
When they can’t reach these openings from underneath the soil, subterranean termites can go aboveground by constructing mud tubes. In terms of appearance, they look like narrow lines or patches of dried mud that seem to branch out of the ground and up the sides of walls or structures.
Mud tubes are made from a combination of soil, digested wood, and saliva, and they help termites travel from their underground colonies to aboveground food sources. Not only do they protect the termites from predators, mud tubes also act as a barrier that prevents these moisture-loving termites from drying out.
During the spring, winged subterranean termite swarmers emerge from their colonies to reproduce and find new places to establish colonies. These swarmers, which resemble flying ants, use their wings to travel up to 100 meters from their original colony. If you’re unlucky, they might land near — or even inside — your home.
What Attracts Subterranean Termites?
Subterranean termites are mainly attracted to sources of food (primarily wood) and moisture. Conditions that make your home more attractive to termites include:
- Indoor humidity
- Standing water
- Leaky pipes
- Poor drainage
- Clogged gutters
- Wood in contact with house foundations
Where Do Drywood Termites Come From?
Drywood termites establish their colonies inside of dry wood and don’t make contact with the soil. Compared to subterranean termites, they don’t need much moisture to survive — just the small amount of water content in the wood they feed on is enough for them to thrive.
This species prefers warm, humid climates, and is most commonly found in southern, coastal states ranging from Florida to California. While drywood termites are not native to New York, they can sometimes be inadvertently transported into the state through infested wooden objects like furniture and crates.
In nature, drywood termites are mainly found in hardwood forests, establishing colonies in large, old trees. Since they don’t need to worry about finding water, drywood termites spend most of their time deep inside wood and are seldom seen.
How Do Drywood Termites Get into Your Home?
Drywood termite infestations usually start with swarmers, the winged reproductive members of a matured termite colony. If you live in a state with drywood termites (not New York), swarming season usually begins in the late summer and lasts from August to November.
During this time, termite swarmers fly off in search of mates and places to establish new colonies. Most end up being killed by predators like birds and other insects, but a few will eventually find their way into houses and buildings.
Some land on the roof and enter through or under wooden shingles, eaves, and fascia boards, while others might find their way in through crevices and joints in window sills or door frames. They can also get inside through attic and foundation vents.
Unlike subterranean termite swarmers, which must build their colonies in soil, drywood termite swarmers build their colonies directly inside of wood. After mating, a pair of swarmers immediately enters nearby wood through small cracks and crevices, where they develop a small nest. The swarmers become the new king and queen of this new colony, and within several weeks start hatching workers.
Keep in mind, however, that drywood termites are not established in New York. If you find them here, it’s more likely that they were brought in through infested furniture. Thoroughly inspecting wooden furniture, especially used furniture, before bringing it home can prevent termites from entering this way.
What Attracts Drywood Termites?
Drywood termites, true to their name, are attracted to dry, untreated wood. They prefer wood with moisture content around 10% moisture content, but can survive on as little as 3%.
Their swarmers, which are most active during dusk or at night, are attracted to light. During swarming season, they can be seen flying around exterior lights and windows. Turning off outdoor lights and covering windows in the evenings can lower your chance of drawing termite swarmers to your home.
Professional Termite Treatment
If you discover signs of termites in your home, MMPC is here to help. We are one of New York City’s highest-rated pest control companies, with over 25 years of experience providing effective and eco-friendly termite control services.