Termites account for more damage each year than any pest in the world and account for billions in property damages each year. They are pretty destructive, they are a red flag to a potential homeowner, but just how common are they in our area? How many dollars out of the billions that are spent come from the Portland area? Depending on what you have heard, the answer might surprise you.
Termites generally run rampant in the southern parts of the United States and do a lot of their damage there. They prefer warmer, more humid climates than we can offer them here in the Pacific Northwest. That is not to say that they are not to be found here, but they are not as big of a problem as most people think. The most common wood-destroying pest in the Portland metro area is a carpenter ant and not a termite.
Quickly, here is the difference between a few species of termites in our neck of the woods:
Subterranean Termites: These are the most damaging type of termites of the two types commonly found here. They look different depending on what caste they are in within the colony (worker, warrior, reproductive). What you are likely to see if you do have a termite infestation would be damaged wood (obviously) and a small mud tube that works like a tunnel between their nest and their food source (the damaged wood). They are typically drawn towards the wood that is soft or water damaged.
Damp Wood Termites: This type of termite is less threatening than their underground cousins. They are larger reddish-brown ants that look almost like an ant, but they have a two-segmented body (ants have a three-segmented body. The reason that these termites are less damaging is that they are only attracted to wood that is water damaged or rotting. From a pest control standpoint, it is sufficient to remove the damaged wood than to treat the termite with a pesticide product.
So, should you be worried?
Well, that depends on where you live. If you live in the Vancouver area, then probably not. Although it is not uncommon to find Damp Wood termites in Clark County, it is rare to find Subterranean Termites. In fact, in all my years of pest control, I have never even seen them in Vancouver. I have asked an entomologist friend of mine why this is, and he said (in his vast knowledge of all things pests), “I have no idea.” So, if you live north of the Columbia River, you may not need to be too concerned.
Are we off the hook for termites in our area?
No, not really. We have plenty of termites in Portland. Oregonians are not as lucky on that front and should be concerned. It seems that termite infestations are more common in certain areas and less common in others. For example, we have observed a lot of problems in the North Portland area and Oregon City.
What do we do?
Do your best to remove their food (water damaged or softening wood). If you have a woodpile or an old rotting tree stump, you might be inviting them in. Your crawl space might be a hotspot for them as well because a lot of wood scraps from the original construction of your home tend to be left there and can become a conducive condition.
You can also always give us a call as well. We can do a free inspection of your home and let you know if you are termite-free. Please post any comments or questions.