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Subterranean Termites

Ugly buggers!

Subterranean termites are one of two types of termites that are common in Los Angeles, the other is Drywood termites. Subterranean termites live underground. They build “mud tubes” that connect the colony in the ground to wood- the mud tubes keep the termites moist, and protect them from predators as they travel from their hive 3 to 10 feet deep in the ground to their wood food source. Mud tubes are made from subterranean termite feces and look like dirt. Mud tubes can extend up to sixty feet in length!


Subterranean termites love wet ground, so if your house has a wet crawl space underneath it, from a plumbing leak or bad drainage, that can be a big problem! You are basically rolling out the red carpet for subterranean termite infestation. The Crawl space underneath the house should always be free of cellulose debris and dry.

Subterranean termites can be very destructive- they live in larger colonies, 20,000 to 50,000 termites than Drywood termites 5,000 to 10,000 termites, and can compromise the structure of a building over time. One easy way to identify subterranean termites is to look at the termite damaged wood. If there are muddy streaks or what looks like dirt all over the damaged wood, that tells you that you have subterraine termites and not drywood. Subterraine termites live in the ground and travel back and forth so they bring up dirt and mud, whereas drywood termites live in the wood and their damage is much cleaner with no dirt or mud.

See the dirt in this termite damaged piece of wood? This shows you that they were subterraine termites that did the damage.

If you see evidence of a subterranean termite infestation, such as mud tubes or muddy wood damage, contact a termite company to treat the infestation. Fumigation does not work on Subterranean termites. The only way to kill subterranean termites is spraying chemicals. “Termador” is the most effective chemical to use because it kills slowly, which allows termites that have come in contact with the chemical to spread it to the hive. In a slab foundation house the termite inspector may need to drill wholes in the concrete foundation so that they can spray the chemicals underneath the foundation. Additionally, they may dig a trench along the side of the house and spray chemicals into the trench. Raised foundation houses are much easier to treat. Today the chemicals only go 3-4 feet deep. In the past the chemicals seeped very deep, because as I said earlier in the article the queen can live up to 10 feet underground. Those old chemical formulas have been banned because they can get into the water table underneath the ground an contaminate it. The chemicals will create a barrier that any termite coming up from the ground that is exposed to the chemical will die. If it is a small colony it will starve the queen and they will die.

Spraying trench

A chemical termite treatment will remain affective for 2-3 years. Most termite companies will guarantee their work for 1 year. Natural forces like rain, and evaporation will eventually render the chemicals ineffective. A side note, chemicals sold over the counter at places like home depo have no residual effect. Chemicals with residual effects are not allowed to be sold over the counter and can only be sold to licensed termite companies. The chemical ingredients in these insectidies end in the suffix “rum”, like pyrethrum. They kill termites on direct contact (similar to a product like raid) but after the spray dries there is no residual effect. That means that these chemicals are not an effective treatment for termites. Call a licensed pest control company


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