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Wood destroying insects are of the utmost importance with homeowners and business owners because of the damage that they can cause to various types of structures. In fact, these organisms cause more damage to structures than all other natural disasters combined. This is why banks and mortgage companies usually require a qualified inspection of the property for these organisms prior to the purchase.
|There are several categories of wood destroying organisms. They are subterranean termites, non-subterranean termites, wood boring beetles, carpenter ants, carpenter bees, and wood destroying fungi.|
Drywood termites live in dry, undecayed wood. They do not require any contact with the soil in order to live. Therefore, they have been known to infest furniture. They are found from the extreme southern Virginia, south to Florida, along the Gulf of Mexico , across southern Texas to California. These termites cut across the grain of the wood, leaving large chambers (galleries) that are connected by small tunnels. There is no mud in the galleries, but excrement pellets are pushed out of the galleries. These pellets are hard and have six distinct concave surfaces on the sides; only the ends are rounded.
This group of termites can be as large as one inch in length with wings twice that. Although they require wood with a high moisture content, they do not need contact with the ground. They are usually associated with wood decay. These termites, although also do not have mud in their galleries, do leave their six-sided fecal pellets in the galleries and may fall out through opening in the wood. The Pacific dampwood termite can be found from British Columbia to western Mexico. The Desert dampwood termite is found in southwestern states from Texas to California. The Florida dampwood termite is found in the extreme southeastern counties of Florida and the Keys.
Powder post termites live in dry wood. The galleries are not kept clean but are often filled with a fine powder. Their tiny fecal pellets are ejected from the galleries and are usually the first sign of an infestation. The only species of significance is the Tropical Rough-headed powderpost termite, which is found in southern coastal areas from Florida to Louisiana.
|Wood boring beetles can be very destructive to structures. There are many wood boring beetles, but we are concerned with only those that may be found inside structures. There are several identifying characteristics that will help in determining which beetle is infesting wood. Beetles tend to enter wood by the adult laying eggs in crevices. The larvae enter the wood and feed on the starch content within the wood. They pupate into adult beetle. These adult beetles will burrow out of the wood, leaving an exit hole. The presence of this exit hole and usually fine frass shows that there is a wood boring beetle infesting, or was infesting, the wood.|
|Termites are often confused with ants. There are four specific differences between ants and termites.|
1. Swarmers (winged insects) - Ants have the front pair of wings noticeably larger than the rear wings. Termites have all four wings the same size.
2. Swarmers - Termite wings are not clear, but have a milky, translucent appearance. Most ant wings will appear clear.
3. Ants usually have a thin waist, because of the pedicel segments of the abdomen. Termites have a broad-waisted appearance because of the lack of the pedicel segments.
4. Ant antennae are elbowed. Termite antennae are straight.
Carpenter ants are the largest ants in North America. They are also found throughout the U. S., but most especially in the Northeast, Midwest, and Pacific Northwest. However, workers can vary in size, from 1/4 inch to 3/4 inches long. Many species are black, but they can be red or a combination of red and black. Therefore, size and color are not necessarily identifying characteristics (however, large black ants are very likely to be carpenter ants).
There are three identifying characteristics to identify carpenter ants. First, the presence of one pedical between the thorax and the abdomen. Second, the back of the thorax in a carpenter ant is rounded. Third, the presence of a small amount of hairs at the bottom end of the abdomen.
|Carpenter bees resemble large bumblebees. In the east, the carpenter bee is black in color and marked with areas of yellow hair, but the dorsal sides of the abdominal segments have no area of hair. Other species of carpenter bees will be black, green, or purplish in color, and are variously marked with whitish, yellowish, or reddish hair. They build their nest by boring long tunnels into wood and divide these tunnels into cells, where they leave their eggs and food. There nest is noticeable by the presence of a 5/8 inch perfect hole (as if someone took a drill and made the hole) along with yellowish dropping near the hole. However, as the dropping age, they tend to darken and become black within 6 months to a year. Carpenter bees drill holes into unpainted of badly weathered wood. Therefore, sometimes the entrance hole is not visible. Carpenter bees may squeeze through openings (cracks and crevices) around soffets or facia boards, and nest in the opposite side of the wood, which is usually unpainted. They will, in these situations though, leave behind their dropping.|
|Fungi are living plants, which send minute threads, called mycelia, through damp wood, taking their food from the wood as they grow. The visible body of the fungus is on the outside of the wood. These are called fruiting bodies and, when mature, produce millions of tiny spores, which are present in the air and soil. Two major types of fungi are surface molds and rot fungi. Fungi that color the wood green, gray, pink, orange black or blue are called surface molds, mildews, and sap or blue stain fungi. They do not undermine the strength and integrity of the wood. The decay or rot fungi either bleach the wood or cause it to become crumbly and do cause damage to the strength and integrity of the wood. Therefore, we are mainly concerned with the decay or rot types of fungi.|
There are three types of rot fungi that is common in structures.
WHITE ROT gives wood a white bleached appearance and gradually reduces the strength of the wood, giving it a spongy or stringy appearance.
BROWN ROT turns the wood brown and breaks it into cubical pieces with perpendicular cracks to the wood grain. This is the principle cause of building decay in the U. S.
WATER CONDUCTING FUNGI is recognized by the papery white-yellow mycelial fans and dirty-white to black root-like structures called rhizomorphs that can conduct water up to 25 feet.
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