"Heads UP!" When you hear this shouted in a school gymnasium, you may expect a wayward dodge ball or basketball to be flying your way. The last thing anyone would expect is that the roof is caving in, unless the gym, which is partially built from wood, has a notoriously bad termite infestation.
Termites are scary-looking, distant cousins of the ant, which belong to the order known as Isopteran. They are bigger, seemingly grouchier and have no waistline to speak of. One type of this insect, called the subterranean termite, have no eyeballs to speak of, either. Two sets of equally sized wings appear on reproducing adult termites, but they shed after mating.
In a recent discovery at Napoleonville Middle School, nestled just west of the Mississippi River in Louisiana, it became apparent that termites had taken up residence in the wood portions of the gymnasium quite some time ago. Left to their own devices, termites, sometimes called white ants, thrive in untreated wood and eventually raise their status to infestation level.
Actually, the apparent destructive nature of the termite is not destruction in their eyes; termites tunnel through wood for construction purposes of their own. Unfortunately, this weakens and destroys wooden structures that people have built and, understandably, lay claim to. Wooden structures have been reduced to piles of dust thanks to the busy-work of the continually chewing termite!
In the case of the Napoleonville school gym, a local entomology expert, Dennis Ring, was hired to perform an inspection and provide advice for how to deal with the termite problem. Subsequently, Ring found the entire wood sections to be unsalvageable and in need of total replacement. If no steps were taken to stop the termites, Ring warned, the gymnasium was on track for eventual collapse.
This extreme solution -- calling for a teardown and rebuild, was necessary because the termite problem wasn't caught soon enough. Furthermore, the termite expert's suggestion was to use pressure-treated wood in the future, or to opt for metal. Treating susceptible areas with a potent chemical to ward off future termite swarms is a wise practice, which calls for a professional pest control service.
For anyone who is wondering if their wooden structures are harboring termites, here are a few telltale signs to look for:
• Piles of dead termites or shed wings
• Tiny black or red-brown droppings, which are almost microscopic
• Visible damage to wood, or piles of wood dust on the floor below wooden areas
• Evidence of mud tubes and tunneling
Additionally, a gentle tap along wooden walls with the blunt end of a hand tool may cause wood surfaces to crumble. This is due to termite tunneling just below the surface of the wood. Remember, it's better to discover termite activity sooner rather than later!
To recap, homeowners need not live in continual fear of termites destroying everything they've worked for during their lifetime. A few precautions can nip the problem in the bud, if not prevent it entirely. If you see any of the above-mentioned clues that termites are sharing your living space, don't delay at seeking the advice of experts in your community.