How Subterranean Termites Locate Wood
Subterranean termites build sprawling underground colonies, and they live all of their life away from the sun. In fact, if these termites were to be out in the open, they would die. Up until recently, the prevailing wisdom was that these termites forage randomly until they reach wood, but that is not exactly true.
The foraging pattern of the subterranean termite
Subterranean termites will forage in a pattern that is centered around their colony, and the size of this pattern varies by species, the size and age of the colony, and the distance to nearby food source. For larger colonies, this pattern can reach the size of a football field, but most colonies will not forage to the maximum reaches of their pattern.
A football field may seem like a very large distance to travel back and forth to bring food to the colony, but the termites will instead create sub-colonies nearer to food sources. The foraging pattern can also change its shape and size every few weeks as new food sources are found, and older sources are abandoned.
The foraging pattern is also not random – termites will create a system of branching tunnels as they search for food. These tunnels are exploratory in nature, and they start from a central point and spread out in a starburst shape. It is systematic and it ensures that a specific area is not searched multiple times. Using this pattern, termites are able to find wood in a much more efficient manner than they would if they just moved out randomly.
Subterranean termites will also trail along the edges of objects, which helps them locate wood faster. They will find the foundation of a building and start following along pipes, root systems, pavement edges and conduits, and build mud tunnels from the ground up in order to explore areas that are above the soil. These paths will often lead to the interior of the building through cracks, where they will find wood.
These foraging patterns make a termite colony very effective at entering a home and starting an infestation. Your only hope of detecting that a colony is nearby is to find mud tubes that extend out of the ground. It is at this point that you have to call over a pest control specialist to take care of the termite colony. Contact us today if you notice the signs of a subterranean termite infestation.