Subterranean termites are some of the most destructive insect pests of wood in the world. They cause billions of dollars in damage each year and can severely damage a family’s most valuable possession—their home. There are several hundred species of termites in these major family groups: Rhinotermitidae (subterranean), Kalotermitidae (drywood), Termopsidae (dampwood), and Termitidae (agricultural). Most species in these families are tropical or subtropical, and Texas is an excellent place to find them.
All termites feed on the cellulose found in wood and grasses. In nature, subterranean termites are beneficial because they break down the cellulose in wood into usable nutrients and recycle the carbon in wood to produce humus, which enriches the soil. Therefore, termites are extremely important in the ecosystem.
Problems occur when termites attack the wooden elements of homes and other structures. The presence of termites is often not apparent because their activity is hidden behind wallboards, siding, or wood trim. Homeowners in all areas of Texas should watch for subterranean termites and take precautions against infestations. To minimize termite damage, it is helpful to be able to identify them, know something about their life cycle, be able to recognize signs of infestation, and know about preventive and control measures.
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Carpenter ants, Camponotus sp., are social insects that make their colonies primarily in wood. They hollow out wood or excavate insulation to build their nests. Unlike termites, they do not eat wood.
Outdoors, carpenter ants are not serious pests. Although their excavations may occasionally weaken tree branches and limbs, in most cases, carpenter ants nest in wood that is already rotten or damaged by termites.
They become pests when they nest or forage for food in homes and other buildings. An infestation usually begins when part of an existing colony moves into a house.
The presence of carpenter ants can indicate that a building has problems such as moisture, rotting wood, or other conditions conducive to infestations. Texas species of carpenter ants cause less damage to structural wood than do carpenter ants from other parts of the United States. They are nuisance pests and rarely cause damage to framing lumber. But, their presence is especially undesirable for home sellers in Texas because they are considered a potential wood-destroying organism.
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Carpenter bees are so named because of their
preference for nesting in pith (the soft tissue
in some plant stems) and wood. Common
throughout Texas, carpenter bees sometimes
damage structural wood.
To control these bees, it is important to be able
to identify them and to know their biology and
behavior. Steps for effective control include preventing
damage, locating and applying insecticides
to the nesting sites, and taking remedial
action to prevent further damage.
Produced by AgriLife Communications and Marketing, The Texas A&M University System
Extension publications can be found on the Web at: http://AgriLifebookstore.org