Thinking about termites isn’t fun in the best of times. And winter is almost never the best of times. Unfortunately, however, everyone’s least favorite wood-muncher knows you don’t want to think about them right now. In fact, they’re depending on it.
See, a lot of homeowners seem to think termites go dormant or die out in the winter. If only. Sadly, the truth is termites will remain active all winter long if they can. They’ll just find a nice, warm climate and munch their way through the cold. If you’re not careful, it could be your nice, warm climate. You definitely don’t want that. Here’s why you shouldn’t forget about termites just because it’s freezing out, and how to protect your home this winter.
Where They Go
While it’s true that termites remain active during winter, that doesn’t mean they can survive the cold. As cold-blooded insects, termites depend on their environment to provide them with the heat they need to survive. When temperatures drop below freezing, termites will die out unless they find cover. It just so happens they’re very good at finding that cover. Once termites have a place to survive, they can keep moving, eating, and expanding their colony like always.
The most common termite in Michigan is the Eastern Subterranean Termite (Reticulitermes flavipes). As their name implies, Eastern Subterranean Termites build their colonies underground. When the ground freezes, these termites simply dig their tunnels deeper. Eventually, part of the colonies’ “territory” is located beneath the frost line. Most of the termites stay in these tunnels for their whole lives. Workers, however, move in and out to connect the colony to its food source: wood.
What They’re Doing
The same thing they always do: trying to take over the world! Well, ok… they’re not doing that. They’re just trying… to take your home’s wood! Of all the castes in a termite colony, only workers actually bore through wood. Worker termites dig through soil to expand the colony and search for food at the same time. When they find food, they begin to eat through it, leaving behind hollowed-out tunnels. Termite workers carry the wood they eat back to the colony, where they use it to feed soldier and reproductive castes.
Over time, termites can significantly damage the wooden structures they feed on. Their continual feeding wears down the wood, and the tunnels they leave behind compromise its structural integrity. Meanwhile, reproductive termites continuously produce new workers to expand the colony, seek new food, and (of course) keep eating. The severity and range of termite-related wood damage will get worse and worse the longer an infestation lasts.
How They Get In
Termites infest homes by accessing wood from the outside, near their subterranean colonies. They locate vulnerable wood by building complex networks of branching tunnels underground until they run up against it. When they find wood, they devote all their resources toward stripping it of cellulose for the colonies’ food source. As they munch away at wood, they naturally create hollowed-out tunnels within it. These tunnels let them move further into buildings and access more food.
Termites use this same principle for infesting homes all year, even during the winter. Cold weather does present a challenge, however: Termites have to access nearby wood without leaving their insulated environment. They overcome this challenge by creating “exploratory tubes” out of mud and fecal material. They use these tubes to essentially extend their shelter up from the ground toward food sources. Exploratory tubes allow termites to access wood that’s touching or near soil without ever having to expose themselves to freezing cold.
How to Stop Them
The only way termites could access your home is by reaching a wooden structure while staying warm. Exploratory tubes enable termites to reach out of their colonies, but they can’t reach far. Start by removing or protecting wooden structures that contact or come near soil. Wherever possible, ensure that wood doesn’t come within 18 inches of soil. Remove any wooden debris near your home, like stacks of lumber, firewood, sticks, trellises, or wood chips. Replace damaged wooden materials with non-cellulose alternatives or pressure-tested lumber.
By depriving termites of a way to get food, you’ll go a long way toward keeping them out. Remember that termites need moisture to survive, too. They’re attracted to wood that’s wet, moist, in a humid place, or near wet soil. Reduce humidity and moisture in vulnerable areas by patching drafts, repairing leaks, and dehumidifying. Make sure your downspouts, gutters, and sump pump drain moisture away from the building properly. The less suitable you can make your home for termites, the less interested they’ll be in infesting it.
Unfortunate as it is to admit, termites continue to be a threat even in the dead of winter. Keeping your home safe from them means remaining vigilant all year long. Fortunately, termites are not unstoppable. If you keep a close eye out and follow the steps outlined above, you can ensure that nothing snacks on your home this winter.
Spring, summer, fall, winter–no matter when you need termite help, remember that you can always call on Griffin Pest Solutions. We know how to find termites, wipe them out, and keep them from coming back. Protecting your property will be our pleasure!