Termites are tiny insects that feed on wood, and are often a serious problem for humans. There are almost 3,000 different species of termites and they live all over the world in different environments and climates. They not only cause untold damage to homes and structures, but can also deplete crops and forests since they eat dead plant matter. Termites typically build a large mound or nest out of mud or clay, where they live and reproduce. These mounds are more typically found in the country of Africa and other tropical areas. Much like bees, termites have different roles within their communities. Some are the worker termites that gather the food and create the tunnels through which they can travel. There is usually a queen termite, which is the leader of the colony. Other termites are considered the soldiers and have more aggressive behavior. Soldiers in the termite world have large front jaws or fangs, and special armor that helps them to fend off predators and enemies such as ants. The soldiers are often large, and can get to be much bigger than the worker termites.
For humans, termites can be a serious problem. Perhaps one of the biggest and most frightening problems is that termites often go undetected until people see serious, noticeable structural damage or wood damage. By this point in many cases, the wood has become so damaged that it will need to be completely replaced. Termites do not only eat wood, however. They have an insatiable diet and can also eat paper, cellulose, carpet, and even some types of cloth. This means that they can be a serious hazard once their numbers are too great. The insects create small, internal tubes or tunnels through which they can travel. The workers will begin to eat the wood and chew constantly, morning and night until they have created a tiny passageway within the wooden structure. These little transport tubes are not visible to people, since they are typically located inside of the wood. Once the tubes are established, an entire colony of termites can then travel to and from the main areas they plan to eat. Once a home or building is infested, it can be detrimental to the structure and can take quite a while to fully eliminate the insects.
Fortunately, there are some ways to get rid of termites. There are now materials that are considered completely termite resistant such as steel or concrete. Since a lot of termites enter the home through wood piles, wood for fireplaces should be stored in termite-proof barriers or containers. Also, woodpiles should be kept far from the home if possible. A lot of wood today is pre-treated with termite resistant chemicals. New pesticides have been developed to help combat termites, and a professional exterminator is often recommended once a home has an infestation. There are also some natural ways to get rid of the pesky pests. Certain plant extracts have been found to prevent termites, and providing natural barriers around the home can keep them at bay. Standing water and very moist soil is very appealing to termites, so keeping the ground and area around the home as dry as possible helps. All cracks in doors and sub framing should be sealed, so as not to provide an entryway for the termites. A moisture barrier of plastic or special materials should always be applied in the foundation of a home to help prevent moisture from getting into the house. Plants should be trimmed back, and wooden scraps should be removed from around the home. A few simple steps can help to keep termites, those little insects with a never-ending appetite, away from the home.