Do Termites Die When Exposed To Air Sunlight or Water?

Do Termites Die When Exposed To Air? (Sunlight or Water?)

Can your termite problem be remedied by simply exposing them to sunlight and open air?  If you are like me then you are probably looking for a simple solution to a pesky problem and you’re in luck.

Exposing non-winged termites to fresh air or sunlight for only a couple of minutes will cause them to die.  Termites thrive in damp areas and direct contact with sunlight will result in the evaporation of the moisture they need for survival.

It is a common misconception that drywood termites can survive without water. This is not true since both drywood and subterranean termites use water to wet their food and break down the cellulose contained in wood.  Termites even have a special pair of salivary reservoirs designed to store water.

Exposing termites to sunlight is not always an easy task.  Termites often burrow into places that are hard to reach without causing damage to the area of infestation.  Later, the article will go over some other natural ways to eliminate termites besides exposure to sunlight.

Are Termites Attracted To Light?

Termites are not attracted to light since they die so quickly when exposed to it.  If light is projected onto termites they will start to move faster in search of cover.  It has been discovered by researchers that when light is shown into a termite cavity the termites will work together to build a blockade so that light is no longer able to enter.  They are able to do this not by use of eyes but by sending social signals through pheromones.

Flying termites, however, are a little different.  Much like moths, flying termites (know as alates) are highly attracted to sources of light.  For these termites light represents a chance to leave the colony and breed with another.

Termites cannot see the way humans see.  Subterranean and drywood termites never developed a need for compound eyes.  They spend most of their time in obscurity digging holes and hollowing out spaces.  Alates differ in this regard also.  They do have eyes which help them move into sunlight where mates and new areas to colonize are likely to be found.

Do Termites Die When Submerged In Water?

Termites can survive anywhere from 16-30 hours while fully submerged in water. When a termite is under water for long enough it will enter into an immobile state which allows a high rate of oxygen conservation.

During flooding it is possible that the termites are never fully submerged in water for an extended period of time.  If water never enters the termites tunnel some termites may survive.  With fluctuating water levels it is also possible that termites can escape death by avoiding long periods emerged in water.  When termites are submerged in water they will not make an effort to move to drier areas.

Flooding almost never results in less worry about termites.  Often flooding extends the range to with termites can travel by providing more moisture in the ground.  Flooding may also make it easier for termites to enter into your house by weakening the wood or causing structural damage.  It is a good idea to be extra vigilant after floods for early signs of termites outside.  These signs include a presence of their tunnels, droppings, burrows in nearby trees, flying termites and termite wings.

What Range of Temperature Do Termites Prefer? 

Termites prefer temperatures ranging from 75°F to 95°F.  At temperatures above 100°F and below 25°F termites will die within a couple of minutes.  Subterranean termites are able to detect the varying temperatures by use of “thermal shadows” and will actively seek out their desired temperature range.

Termites prefer warmer temperatures but will not die until 25° F.  This allows them to survive most winters.  For temperatures below 25° F termites tend to burrow further into the ground where the temperature is higher.  As long as there is moisture further down the termites will survive..

Since the termites burrow down in the winter it can appear that they have gone away and slowed their activity.    When burrowing down some termites may extend out further and rise up when temperatures become warm again.  It is always a good idea to be vigilant when there is a significant change in temperature.

Which Types of Termites Can Survive Above Ground?

Flying Termites Above Ground In Search Of New Colony

Reproductive Termites:  You may see these termites referred to as winged, atlas, above ground or reproductive.  Most termite activity occurs underground.  These termites can survive above ground.  They are usually the first sign of activity and the easiest to spot.  They venture outside of the colony in search of new mates and new places to colonize.

Worker Termites:   Require moisture and live out of sight.  Workers make up the largest portion of the group. They dig tunnels, gather food and care for the other termites.  They break down cellulose found in wood and grass and feed it to the colony.

Soldier Termites: Protect the colony at entry points from unwanted intruders while allowing their fellow termites to move freely.  They can accomplish this as their body is much larger then the other termites and very useful in the blocking of passages.  These termites have been observed sacrificing themselves for the whole colony.

Nymph Termites:  Immature termites that have yet to grow and develop into their role.  Taken care of by the worker termites.  Their growth can take months as they molt into either alates or soldiers.

These classifications make the termite colony efficient and able to scale to massive numbers.  Standard termite colonies are around 40,000 members but a there is documentation of a colony 70,000,000 large existing.  Scary!

The Best Natural Methods To Control Termites

If you are looking to avoid the worry that comes with spraying chemicals and pesticides, a natural termite removal is your best bet.  Besides the above-mentioned termite killing conditions: exposure to sunlight, water submersion, and extreme temperatures, there are some great natural termite control methods.

For larger infestations, it is best to resort to the more powerful options available.  If you are in search of these options, I found YouTube to have good information.  If you are dealing with a very large colony it can be a good idea to call your local pest control company for help.

  • Release the Nematodes!: Nematodes are a natural predator of termites.  They are small parasitic worms that attack termites by essentially eating them.  Nematodes are a great solution because they will not harm the environment and are harmless to humans and pets.  Nematodes also help control over 200 other species of common pests.  Each brand of nematode product will have its own application instructions.  You can easily find nematodes for sale through popular online vendors and at most local gardening stores.
  • Traps and bait systems: There are a variety of ways to make homemade traps that can be crafted following tutorials on YouTube and the internet.  The effectiveness of these varies widely and store-bought traps often prove to be a better alternative in my experience.  Before purchasing a trap, I recommend reading reviews online and asking others if they have had any experience.  Most of the commercial traps work by using a bait that termites are attracted to.  Once drawn in the termites consume the bait and die.  If you want to be sure the baits used are natural it is best to carefully read the ingredient list and research any unknown chemical. Placing these traps outside is also a great way to monitor for a termite presence in the area.
  • Vinegar:  Vinegar is only effective at killing subterranean termites.  If the mud tunnels of termites are visible around your home or you see vulnerabilities where termites could enter, the use of vinegar can be an effective solution.  To use vinegar pour it into the mud tunnels and spray it on the wood that you suspect is effected.  The more vinegar you can get into the tunnels the further it will travel and more termites you will kill.  Vinegar may take up to a full month before you see any effects so patience is key.
  • Orange Oil:  Orange oil is effective against dry wood termites specifically.  The active ingredient in orange oil is D-limonene which has a low toxicity.  Use of this product is similar to that of vinegar requiring spraying on the mud tunnels and injection into the colony.  It is only effective against subterranean termites as well.
  • Natural Insecticides:  One of the most common natural insecticides  is called Pyrethrum.  It is derived from the flowers of a plant known as chrysanthemum.    This insecticide differs from the other solutions as it is long lasting in soils and provides extended protection.  There are other “natural” insecticides but you should always read the label carefully to ensure the ingredients are natural.

In Conclusion

Termites love to live underground in dark and moist environments.  Sunlight, air and extreme temperatures are enemies of the termite.  Be on the look out for early signs of termites and know what to do should you see any.  Try to keep your house well ventilated and avoid allowing dark humid areas to exist.

Natural methods of killing termites should only be performed on low risk infestations or used as preventative measures.  It only takes two termites to survive and restart the entire colony.  If you suspect your termite situation may be serious be sure to contact professional exterminators and prevent significant damage.

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