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Is This A Termite?
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Is This A Termite?

At some point in every home owner's life they encounter either a swarm of winged insects in their home flying toward the light of a window or doorway, or while replacing or repairing a railing or board they see dirty white insects in a piece of wood. Sometimes this causes panic and other times they are not aware they should be concerned at this occurrence.

Even though I am now retired from my many years in the pest control industry, I still have people stop by my house and ask the question, "Is this a termite?" I have always tried to give the average person who has no background in pest identification the easiest ways to tell the difference between a subterranean termite reproducer and an ant reproducer. Both have two pair of wings and I could give them all the details of how to identify the ant from the termite by checking out the wings with a magnifier or other technical ways to tell the two apart, but I find it is much easier to just tell them in lay terms.

Termites are in the soil everywhere, so at any time you can be visited by these little insects. If they stayed in the soil and wooded areas and consumed the tree limbs and stumps and other cellulose debris as nature intended, they would show how beneficial they actually are to the environment. However, we have built our homes in the woods and other areas that make our buildings very handy and appealing, not to mention, accessible.

Swarm season for termites, at least in my area of the country, is between February and the first part of June. That is not to say you cannot have a swarm in the middle of Thanksgiving Dinner as one of my customers had the misfortune of experiencing. If you have a basement, it is possible to have a swarm any time of year if it is warm. My poor customer had settled a long standing family feud and invited everyone to their home for Thanksgiving Dinner and everyone agreed to attend. Before they had finished saying grace, the worst swarm I had ever seen occurred in this home in the dining room and kitchen. Long story short, I was called in and everyone was hysterical. The floors were covered completely by winged termites and more still swarming from around a heating duct along the wall between the kitchen and dining room. The food and table was covered also. I could see why the hysterical call and needing me to come right over.

While inspecting and drawing up the home on a graph and noting areas of termite tunnels and damage, I was stopped and asked by a nice old gentleman how I knew this was termites. He was convinced it had to be ants. I asked him to look at the specimen I picked up and laid on the counter. As he looked he said it was a funny looking ant, but an ant none the less. I explained that the body of a termite reproducer was not tapered into defined body segments like the ant, but more of a solid body. Termite reproducers also lose their wings shortly after flight, unlike the ants. Two of the easiest ways to identify the difference between the two insects.

Why should you be so technical when you can give a simple explanation and educate a consumer in the process? I have found that many pest control companies prefer the technical jargon and prefer not to educate people. I have had more repeat business from those I have educated and learned to trust what I said was a fact, not just a quick way to sell them services.


Street Talk

Pesty and damaging little critters.

Reply
  about 8 years ago
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