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Termites date back more than 120 million years to the time of the dinosaurs. They are known as "silent destroyers" because of their ability to chew through wood, flooring and even wallpaper undetected. Each year, termites cause more than $5 billion in property damage - costs that aren't covered by homeowners' insurance policies.

Swarmers looking to start a new colony are typically the first sign of termite season as these winged-pests show up inside homes in early spring. To get rid of termites in the home, contact us to address the infestation and recommend a course of proper termite control.


  • There are approximately 45 species of termites in the U.S. There are more than 2,300 species worldwide.
  • Termites are social insects that live in colonies with caste systems, which means termites are organized into different social classes based on their roles and responsibilities.
  • The termite caste system has three levels: reproductives, workers and soldiers.
  • Worker and soldier termites are blind. Only termites that have become fully mature, reproductive termites develop eyes.
  • Since termites live in dark places and many of them are blind, termites communicate through pheromones (chemical signals) and vibrations caused by head-banging.
  • Termites build the largest nests of any insect.
  • Termites cannot “eat” wood. Termites require the help of single-cell organisms in their guts to digest cellulose (wood).
  • Ants are termites main predator. Ants can attack termite colonies or termite workers looking for food.
  • In the U.S., subterranean termites cause more damage than drywood and dampwood termites. Formosan termites, a species of subterranean termite, are responsible for the greatest amount of damage in the U.S.
  • In Australia and Africa, very large and architecturally impressive termite mounds have become tourist attractions.
  • Termites have lived on Earth for approximately 250 million years.

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Termite swarming season will be ramping up soon as the weather starts to get warmer and the spring season approaches — with many termite species being particularly prevalent in the Southeast. In case you’ve never heard, termites are nicknamed “silent destroyers” because of their ability to chew through wood, flooring and wallpaper without any immediate signs of damage. In fact, termites cause more than $5 billion in property damage each year— costs that are typically note covered by homeowners’ insurance policies. That is why it’s extremely important to know what types of termite species are active in your area and to understand ways to prevent them from causing damage to your home.

Here are five types of termite species to be aware of at the turn of the season if you reside in the southeastern United States:

  1. Subterranean Termites

    44 Termite (E. Subterranean Termite).jpg

    This termite species is extremely common in southern states and hotter climates. Subterranean termites live in underground colonies with as many as two million members and are also found in moist, secluded areas above ground. They build distinctive tunnels, often referred to as "mud tubes," to reach food sources and protect themselves from open air. Subterranean termites are by far the most destructive termite species — their hard, saw-toothed jaws work like shears and are able to bite off extremely small fragments of wood, one piece at a time. Over time, they can collapse a building entirely, meaning possible financial ruin for a homeowner.

  2. Drywood Termites

    Drywood termite swarmer.jpg

    Largely found coastally from South Carolina westward to Texas, these types of termites form colonies of up to 2,500 members and primarily attack wood structures, frames, furniture and flooring, as they receive all of their nutrition from wood. Unlike other termites, drywood termites do not require moisture from soil. They typically swarm on sunny, warm days after a sudden rise in temperature and can be difficult to treat because they have the ability to create multiple colonies within a home.

  3. Dampwood Termite

    Dampwood Termite - NPMA.jpg

    Occasionally found in Southwest and Southern Florida, dampwood termites are attracted to wood with high moisture content and have a preference for decaying wood, areas with leaks and woodpiles. These termites create a series of chambers in wood, which are connected by tunnels with smooth walls, as if sandpapered, and are usually found in logs, stumps, dead trees, fence posts and utility poles. Dampwood termites do not usually infest structures because of their need for excessive moisture.

  4. Formosan Termite

    Formosan termite workers.jpg

    This species lives in huge underground colonies with an average of 350,000 workers and can be found in several Southeastern states, including North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, Alabama, Florida and Tennessee.

    In addition to structures, they also infest trees, shrubs, utility poles, timber, railroad trusses and even boats. Formosans build intricate mud nests in the ground and can chew through wood, flooring and even wallpaper. The average formosan termite colony can consume one foot of 2X4 wood in less than a month.

  5. Conehead Termites

    47 Tree termite (Nasutitermes spp.).jpg

    Originally called "tree termites," this species was renamed conehead termites to alleviate the misconception that this pest is only found in trees. These termites— most prevalent in the Broward County, Fla. region — build dark brown "mud" tubes and freestanding nests on the ground, in trees or in wooden structures. The nests can be up to 3 feet in diameter and have a hard surface of chewed wood. Unlike most termites, the conehead termite does not rely on underground tunneling to travel. Instead, they forage on the ground like ants, allowing them to spread quickly.

Termites are not a pest that can be effectively controlled with do it yourself measures. If you live in an area prone to termites, it’s important to have regular, annual termite inspections. 


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Moisture-damaged homes are prime targets for termites. When they emerge, termites seek out these susceptible structures and begin chewing through wood, flooring and even wallpaper, oftentimes undetected. Termites cause more than $5 billion in property damage each year – an expense typically not covered by homeowners insurance, leaving homeowners with a costly bill to fix structural repairs.

“As many people begin to think about home improvement, and selling or buying a home this spring, it is very important for them to be aware of the destruction termites can cause,” said Cindy Mannes, vice president of public affairs at NPMA. “Termites are difficult to spot with the naked eye, so homeowners should remain vigilant and employ proper prevention techniques year round. If they notice a problem they should contact a pest professional who can determine the extent of the damage and recommend a treatment plan.”

To help prevent a termite infestation, NPMA recommends the following prevention tips:

  • Keep basements, attics and crawl spaces well ventilated and dry.
  • Repair leaking faucets, water pipes and AC units on the outside of the home.
  • Repair fascia and soffits and rotted roof shingles.
  • Replace weather stripping and repair loose mortar around basement foundation and windows.
  • Direct water away from your house through properly functioning downspouts, gutters and splash blocks.
  • Store firewood at least 20 feet away from the house and 5 inches off the ground.
  • Keep mulch at least 15 inches from the foundation.
  • Remove rotting tree stumps from the property.
  • Homeowners should have a termite inspection completed every one to three years. Homes with previous termite infestations should be re-inspected every year.
  • If buying a new home, obtain a wood-destroying organism (WDO) inspection separate from the regular home inspection.

Contact Westfall's Pest Control for more information on termites, how to prevent an infestation and to get a Termite Inspection.   Source:

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Chomp, chomp, chomp. You would never be able to hear it, but at this very moment thousands of termites could be eating away through your home - unseen and unknown until it's too late. Termites are known as "silent destroyers" because of their ability to chew through wood, flooring and even wallpaper undetected. As a result of their stealth nature, termites cause $5 billion in property damage each year. Damage, which is typically not covered by homeowners' insurance.

As the ground warms in spring, termites, much like every insect in nature, begin stirring and coming out of their overwintering spots in search of food. In the case of termites, they are looking for new structures to settle their million member colonies. Before a colony finds an appropriate structure, their search team will investigate available options.

Swarmers are winged young queen and king termites that show up inside homes in early spring and are typically the first sign of a termite problem. Because they can be mistaken for flying ants, many homeowners may dismiss them as such and leave a potential termite infestation untreated. Discarded wings near windowsills and doors signify that swarmers have already found their way in.

Termites are present in 70 percent of countries across the world and their population outnumbers human beings on a ratio of ten to one. The most common termite species found in the United States are subterranean termites, Formosan termites, dampwood termites, drywood termites.

Subterranean termites live in underground colonies or in moist secluded areas aboveground that can contain up to 2 million members. They build distinctive "mud tubes" to gain access to food sources and to protect themselves from open air. Subterranean termites are by far the most destructive species of termite as they eat 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This ravenous eating can severely compromise the structural stability of a home as they chew their way through important support beams.

Formosan termites are found in Hawaii, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina and California. This species, originally from China, is the most voracious, aggressive and devious of termite species. Formosans are organized into massive underground colonies, building intricate mud nests inside the walls of a structure. Because of the size of their colonies and their aggressive nature, Formosan termites are difficult to control once they infest a structure.

Dampwood termites are found along Pacific coastal and adjacent states, the desert or semi-arid southwest, and in southern Florida. Unlike subterranean termites, dampwood colonies do not forage in the soil and they require higher humidity and regular contact with water. Because of their specific water requirements, these termites are most often found in trees and structures that have direct water to wood contact, such as a leaky roof or wooden siding.

Drywood termites are primarily found along the coastal areas from South Carolina westward to Texas and along the west coast of California. Unlike some other termite species, drywood termites infest dry wood such as attic framings and do not require contact with the soil. Because drywood termites form new colonies by gaining access to wood through small holes, seal all cracks and crevices in a structure.

Regardless of the species, termites are destructive and can cost you lots of money in unexpected home repairs if left to their own devices. Here are a few tips to prevent termites from wreaking havoc on your home:

  • Seal cracks and holes on the outside of the home including entry points for utilities and pipes.
  • Keep basements, attics and crawl spaces well ventilated and dry.
  • Repair leaking faucets, water pipes and AC units which are on the outside of the home.
  • Repair fascia and soffits and rotted roof shingles.
  • Replace weather stripping and repair loose mortar around basement foundation and windows.
  • Store firewood at least 20 feet away from the house and 5 inches off the ground.
  • Routinely inspect the foundation of your home for signs of mud tubes (used by termites to reach a food source), cracked or bubbling paint and wood that sounds hollow when tapped.
  • Direct water away from your house through properly functioning downspouts, gutters and splash blocks.
  • Keep mulch at least 15 inches from the foundation.
  • Monitor all exterior areas of wood, including windows, doorframes and skirting boards for any noticeable changes.

If you suspect a termite problem, contact a pest professional right away who can confirm that a problem exists and determine the best course of action. Termites cannot be controlled with do-it-yourself measures.

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Two of the world’s most destructive termite species are swarming South Florida, and the fact that they are mating has scientists sweating.

The Asian and Formosan subterranean termite species are producing hundreds of thousands of winged males and females (known as alates), which are in turn creating hybrid colonies, according to University of Florida entomologists. The two species are no joke, and hybrid colonies could prove even more disastrous for homeowners.

“They are the two most destructive termite species in the world,” University of Florida Entomology Professor Nan-Yao Su told “The common name for Formosan subterranean termite in China and Japan is ‘house termite’ as it can literally bring down a house, usually [starting] with [the] roof as they chew through the supporting beams.”

Termite colonies, sometimes consisting of millions of individuals, can live up to 20 years and thrive in South Florida, where the temperatures offer ideal mating conditions.

Researchers previously believed that the two species had distinct swarming seasons that kept them apart, preventing the risk of interbreeding. However, they are now finding that there is an overlap in seasons in the south of the state, leading to the production of hybrid colonies.

Apparently, the male Asian termites prefer Formosan females to that of their own species – a fact that, according to Professor Su, is due to pheromones. “Both species probably use [the] same chemical for mating,” he said. “But the Formosan female probably produces more mating pheromone than [the] Asian subterranean termite female, hence the Formosan female becomes more attractive. At least that is our working hypothesis.”

The area of the species overlap extends from Miami (Dade County) to Riviera Beach (Palm Beach County).

What makes the emergence of hybrid colonies so alarming is that they’re reproducing at a rate that is more than twice as fast as the parent species. Known as “hybrid vigor,” this offers a few troubling scenarios: that the hybrid colonies could reach maturity faster (two to three years, as opposed to the parent species maturing in five to six), or that they could form a much larger colony (5 million to 10 million termites per colony, as opposed to 2 million to 5 million).

Either way, Su said, it’s bad news: “We don’t know if the hybrid individual can consume more wood, but these are parameters we need to study. At any rate, any of one of these, if proven correct, could mean more destructive termites.”

This doesn’t only spell trouble for South Floridians. With the hybrid colonies reproducing at a much faster rate and growing to larger numbers, the possibility of them spreading to other states is that much greater.

According to Su, this will depend on the hybrid’s fertility. “Due to its tropical distribution, Asian subterranean termites probably won’t go any further than Palm Beach County. If the hybrid offspring is sterile, then the hybrid population will most likely [be] restricted to South Florida. However, if the hybrid offspring is NOT sterile, and it has the temperature tolerance of both parent species, then we may see them expanding from North Carolina to Brazil.”

The Asian and Formosan termites are no strangers to world travel. The Formosan termite originated in China, but is now firmly entrenched in the southeastern U.S. Even more widespread are the Asian termites, which have managed to spread to Brazil and the Caribbean islands. The species invade foreign soil by hitching rides on wooden boats or by stowing away in shipped wooden crates.

Currently, homeowners can use baits or apply insecticides in the dirt surrounding their houses to halt or prevent infestation. With the emergence of these new hybrid colonies, it may be time to stock up.

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Do you have flying ants or termites?

Imagine that you’re preparing dinner when suddenly you notice a swarm of ant-like insects crawling on your kitchen counter.

If you live in the South or in the lower portion of either coast, your first reaction might be one of panic: "TERMITES!!"

Not so fast. They could be flying ants.

Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs at the National Pest Management Association in Fairfax, Va., says there’s an easy way to determine which of these unwanted visitors has found its way into your home. Give them a quick visual once-over.

This should be fairly easy since they probably won’t be flitting about. Neither flying ants nor termites are good flyers, Henriksen says, so you won’t have to capture and hold them. Just lean over the countertop and take a close look, paying particular attention to three body parts:

  • The antennae
  • The waist
  • The wings

Here’s what to look for and how you can determine whether the intruders are flying ants or termites:

The insect         Flying ants         Termites

Antennae          Bent                   Straight

Waist               Narrow                Broad

Wings              Front larger          Equal

It’s important to know the difference, Henriksen says, because termites cause $5 billion in property damage annually in the United States. If you determine that you have termites or you're unsure from the visual inspection, she says the best source for identification and treatment is a trained and licensed pest management professional. “Termites are not a pest you want working in your house,” she emphasizes.

Other signs that you might have termites, according to Henriksen, are finding clusters of discarded wings, or small piles of what appears to be sawdust or mud shelter tubes.

When termites are mating, they fly in swarms in a mating ritual in which they discard their wings, Henriksen says. The material that appears to be sawdust is actually fecal matter, she adds. The mud “tunnels,” which are about the width of a pencil, are built over wood or other surfaces, and the termites use them as “secret” passageways.

The small piles of fecal pellets are indicative of dry wood termite infestation, says Dr. Jim Fredericks, director of technical services at the National Pest Management Association and an entomologist.

Dry wood termites are most common in southern California and Florida, Fredericks points out. In the Southwest, the western dry wood termite (Incisitermes minor) is the most common dry wood termite. It can also occasionally occur in Florida and on both coasts. The West Indian dry wood termite (Cryptotermes brevis) is the most widespread dry wood termite in Florida. Its range extends westward across the entire U.S. Gulf Coast to Corpus Christi, Texas.

The most common kind of termites throughout the rest of the United States are subterranean termites, he says. The most common subterranean termite is the Eastern subterranean termite (Reticulitermes flavipes). Another subterranean termite active in the Southern United States is the Formosan termite (Coptotermes formosanus).

The most important message for homeowners, says Fredericks, is that termites often go unnoticed until there is a visible sign of their presence, such as a swarm. Swarming, he says, is an indication termites are flying out to mate and to form a new colony. In this reproductive winged stage, he says it is likely that the swarm represents the presence of a mature colony of termites.

There are a number of ants that can behave in the same manner as termites. These ants also ring homeowners’ ant/termite alarm bells because they resemble termites in their flying stage. Considered structural pests, these ants also will nest — then swarm — inside the house, Fredericks says. This is when they typically are encountered by homeowners, he adds.

Some common ant species that produce winged reproductives (swarmers), according to Fredericks, include:

Pavement ants (Tetramorium caespitum) – These are often found in homes built on concrete slab foundations, but can be found in just about any type of construction.
Odorous house ant (Tapinoma sessile) – This is the most common indoor pest ant.
Carpenter ants (Camponotus sp.) – Carpenter ants are considered wood-destroying pests and can cause significant damage to the wood inside a structure.
Red imported fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) – These are more common outside in the Southeastern and Southern United States. Red imported fire ants can inflict painful stings that can result in dangerous allergic reactions in susceptible people.

Just because no flying ants or termites are present doesn’t necessarily mean homeowners should breathe a huge sigh of relief, Fredericks cautions. No sign of activity doesn’t mean flying ants or termites are not present.

The best way to give a homeowner peace of mind that dinner preparations won’t be interrupted by the discovery of surprise visitors crawling on the countertop, he advises, is to schedule an annual inspection.

If you cannot detect whether you have flying ants or termites give us a call at Westfall's 941-761-0125

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There is a new theory to explain why termites build such tall mounds – and it suggests architects could take inspiration from the tiny insects

Across the forests and prairies of Asia, and vast savannahs of Africa, live secret societies of architects. They are masters of construction, their sophisticated and innovative green-energy designs perfectly capturing the current trend for environmentally friendly construction. And yet these architects don’t like to share their secrets: exactly how – and why – they build their towering constructions has until recently remained somewhat mysterious.

Who are these master builders? They are the mound-building termites. Although they resemble whitish brown grains of rice with big heads and hedge-trimmers for mouthparts, these insects are ecological heavy hitters. Termites control a significant portion of the flows of carbon and water through dry savannah ecosystems, says Scott Turner, a professor of biology at the State University of New York. “They can build anywhere there is grass and water.”

Scientists have wondered why termites build mounds that can be 30ft high.  Part of the reason termite mounds are the focus of so much scientific attention is that the insects don’t really live inside them. They choose instead to build their nests – which can be home to thousands or even millions of individuals – in the ground below the mound. In fact, they only travel into the mounds to repair them and defend the city below from invading ant armies and other threats.

For decades, scientists have wondered why termites go to all the trouble of building mounds that, for some species, can be 30ft (9.1m) high. There have been hypotheses, but in recent years, new science has debunked some of them. Engineers, biologists, and architects that study termites are now developing a new theory to explain the spectacular mounds – and their findings may help revolutionise the way we construct our own buildings.

Like us, termites build an environment that suits them rather than adapting to their environment. They sometimes live in arid regions that would dry out their bodies, for instance: their mounds help counteract the problem by maintaining an environment that is cool and humid.

The humidity isn’t just important to the termites. The termites make a living farming a fungus (Termitomyces) on structures known as fungus cones. The fungus helps breakdown dead plant and woody material into more digestible and nutritious food for the termites, and they in turn help maintain the environment for the fungus. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement.
The mound is like a physiological extension of the termites themselves: a giant lung

There’s a lot of hustle and bustle in the termite nest, and both the fungi and the termites produce a lot of carbon dioxide. The problem, says Hunter King, a postdoctoral student at Harvard University, is that eventually they need to get rid of it.
Though there has been previous research investigating how carbon dioxide is swapped for oxygen in the mound, King says that in those studies, nobody measured the flows directly.

That’s why King, along with colleague Samuel Ocko from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and supervisor Lakshminarayanan Mahadevan from Harvard University designed a study that would allow them to directly measure temperature, carbon dioxide and humidity in the mounds of Odontotermes obesus termites.
Turns out, it’s tricky to take gas measurements within a termite mound.

It’s a lot of work to build a mound, and so naturally, termites go to great lengths to make sure it has solid defences. It’s that defence system – like a state of the art burglar alarm – that makes measurements inside so difficult to take.


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The best method of subterranean termite control is to avoid water accumulation near the foundation of the home. Prevent subterranean termite access by diverting water away with properly functioning downspouts, gutters and splash blocks. Store firewood at least 20 feet away from the home, and keep mulch at least 15 inches from the foundation. Indoors, homeowners should reduce humidity through proper ventilation of crawl spaces, attics and basements to avoid attracting subterranean termite swarms.


Subterranean termites build distinctive tunnels, often referred to as "mud tubes," to reach food sources and protect themselves from open air. They use their scissor-like jaws to eat wood 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Like other termite species, subterranean termites also feed on products containing cellulose. Subterranean termites swarm in the spring when groups of reproductive termites go off to start new colonies.


Subterranean termites live in underground colonies with as many as two million members. They are also found in moist secluded areas above ground.


Subterranean termites are by far the most destructive termite species. The hard, saw-toothed jaws of termites work like shears and are able to bite off extremely small fragments of wood, one piece at a time. Over time, they can collapse a building entirely, meaning possible financial ruin for a homeowner. If you suspect a termite infestation, contact Westfall's about subterranean termite treatment.

Color: Creamy white to dark brown/black
Legs: 6
Shape: Long, narrow and oval
Size: 1/8 inch long
Antennae: Yes
Region: Found throughout the U.S.

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