How scared are you of termites as a property owner? A lot? A little? Somewhere in between? However much fear you might admit to, it may not be enough, especially during the spring and summer months when these pests exhibit the most activity – and set in motion the most destruction. Termites cause billions of dollars in structural damage each year to just about every structure you can think of: residential property, industrial sites, small businesses, hotels and many more. Left unaddressed, a termite infestation will often ultimately become financially and personally devastating.
Rudy’s Exterminating Company has been in the business of termite and pest eradication for decades, and we hope to proudly serve the people of Queens, Brooklyn and Nassau County for many more years to come. In the interest of keeping our customers as informed as possible about the risks that termites pose, we’ve put together this guide covering the essential facts about termites and what they do, as well as what we do at Rudy’s to exterminate these wood-devouring insect pests and reduce the risk of their return to your property.
What are termites? The basics
The word “termites” can refer to any one of the 2,000+ species of this particular insect that can be found all over the world – everywhere except Antarctica, for obvious reasons. All of them are social insects that operate according to a worker-soldier-alate-king/queen structure (though specifics can vary greatly between species), and they all consume dead plant cellulose.
But when we’re talking about the greater New York City metro area, there’s one termite variety, in particular, you need to be seriously concerned about. That’s Eastern subterranean termite, known to scientists as Reticulitermes flavipes. (Its variants, Reticulitermes virginicus and Reticulitermes hageni, aren’t nearly as common, but a virginicus infestation wouldn’t be out of the question for the New York vicinity.)
In terms of their scare factor, subterranean termites might rank fairly low. They’re much smaller than the average New York cockroach, for one – 1.6 inches as opposed to ½ inch at most – and they don’t induce the same raw, gut-level disgust that roaches do. Nor do they frequently approach humans, and when they do, they don’t sting, claw or bite. Their six legs, narrow ovular shape and unremarkable coloration (ranging from off-white to a dark brown, depending on their role in the colony) are similar enough to common ants that you might misidentify a termite as an ant if you don’t look too closely.
Let’s do a quick rundown of all of the “castes” within the eastern subterranean termite species, as explained by the National Pest Control Association:
- Workers: The runt of the litter (¼ inch), with a white body and short jaws.
- Soldiers: Same color as workers save for their dark brown heads and mandibles, which also make them slightly larger than their counterparts. As their name implies, these termites defend the colony (principally its reproductive members).
- Alates: Also called swarmers, these are the only termites with wings, which they use to propel themselves out of the colonies that produced them, flying off to start new colonies elsewhere. Usually, they’re also the only termites the average person is ever likely to see (more on this later).
- Kings: Half of the pair that fuels a termite colony’s growth.
- Queens: The largest termites, usually more than an inch long because of the eggs they’re often carrying.
What do termites eat?
Returning briefly to the cockroach comparison: While roaches might get into the food in a residential building and spread some bacteria as a result of their contact, termites absolutely will eat any wood they can get their mandibles on. (They’ll also settle for furniture, shelving, paper, book bindings, building insulation and sometimes even swimming pool liners and components of filtration systems.)
Here’s the other thing about termites that makes them such a huge problem: With the occasional exception of reproduction, colony defense or tunnel construction, these insects never stop eating. They don’t idly explore as ants and roaches sometimes do, or serve an incredibly useful function in nature like honeybees….they just eat. And eat. And eat some more, with all the relentlessness of piranhas.
What are the signs of termite damage?
A colony of termites with 60,000 worker members – which is small; they range as large as 2 to 3 million – eats ⅕ ounce (5 grams) of wood every day. Over a year, that adds up to about 2.3 feet of a 2 x 4. That may not necessarily sound like a lot, but most colonies are considerably larger than 60,000. Unfortunately, by the time people often end up realizing what has been happening, the structural detriment to the building has progressed to a lot more than just the equivalent of a few 2 x 4s.
The first, most obvious sign of a subterranean termite infestation is the emergence of alates from someplace inside of a property or outside in its immediate vicinity. (Trust us: If this is happening, you’ll soon find out, as it can be sudden and shocking if you don’t deal with insects on a regular basis. But as previously stated, the “swarmers” will not bite, sting or otherwise physically harm you.)
Narrow tunnels of mud and earth surrounding the wooden foundations of a building are the other biggest indicator of a termite problem. Subterranean termites use these to travel back and forth from their colony to the different areas of wood they’re eating each day. You will also likely see portions of wood that have been hollowed out along the natural path of its grain.
Other notable termite signs include:
- Wood that feels soft and/or sounds hollow when tapped, is darkening or blistering.
- Uneven or “bubbling” paint atop wooden structures.
- Tiny holes in plaster or drywall.
- Dead wings near doors or on windowsills (meaning alate termites either just left or just arrived).
- Piles of spoor that look like sawdust.
What happens if a termite infestation goes untreated?
If you’re at the point where alates are flying out through cracks in various wooden portions of the property, the damage to the building could already be catastrophic. Supports and beams throughout the building will have been significantly weakened by the depredation of subterranean termites, and eventually they will collapse if the building’s infestation is not immediately and aggressively remedied.
If large wooden beams have already begun to fall down and an examination of the damage indicates that it’s clearly the work of termites, it may be too late – though this means the infestation has gone on for several years, rather than several months. Most of the other signs of infestation will have been visible well before this “point of no return.”
All in all, while any insect infestation is problematic, becoming host to a termite colony is about as bad as it gets – if you don’t nip it in the bud quickly by scheduling an appointment with Rudy’s!
How Rudy’s handles termite extermination
If you call Rudy’s Exterminating to report a confirmed or suspected termite infestation, we pledge to respond within 24 hours. After you’ve explained the issue in more detail, we’ll send one of our experienced technicians to inspect the property from top to bottom until we find the epicenter of the problem.
From there, we employ Advance Termite Bait System (ATBS) – a combination of bait and insecticide treatments on termite-exposed wood to draw the pests out of their colony and into a quick end. We drill holes in the ground outside the property with wood bait affixed to them – something of a “long game” approach to extermination. Every few months, we inspect the wood for signs of termite activity and set Timbor insecticide on any problem areas. This allows for continuous management of the issue and immediate reaction should a re-infestation occur.
The Rudy’s difference
Rudy’s Exterminating Company has remained a leader of this industry in the greater New York metro area for nearly 50 years. Why? Because as well as exterminating active threats, we help property owners find exactly how termites entered the structure in the first place – poor drainage or plumbing, excessive moisture around the foundations, accumulated soil and debris and so on – and offer proactive suggestions to help mitigate another infestation in the future.
We’re a family business, with Tony Sarchese carrying the torch for his father – founder Rodolfo Sarchese – and bringing his own son proudly into the company. We know and service this area so well because we live here too. Our clients are family, friends, neighbors and business associates who have trusted us for generations, and we look forward to serving you!
To learn more or request an extermination, call (718) 932-8611 or visit https://rudysexterminating.com/.