Controlling termites starts with knowing what attracts these destructive pests and how they survive. Everybody knows that they chew through basically any kind of wood. But the big landscaping question is whether or not they prefer to feed on specific types of tree species.
Homeowners will be happy to know that most termites don’t typically attack living, healthy trees. However, there are a few exceptions, especially in southern states along the Gulf Coast like Alabama. Formosan subterranean termites, which are commonly found from Texas all the way to South Carolina, have been known to attack living trees.
Part of an integrative pest control strategy includes minimizing conditions that can lead to an infestation. So let’s take a look at which trees are most susceptible to termite attacks and what you can do about it.
Throughout the south, palm trees are a common landscaping fixture. They are relatively hardy and do well in the humid Gulf Coast environment, but they’re prone to subterranean termite attacks, which are known to attack any wood that’s in contact with soil. Foxtails seem to be among their favorite.
Typically these termites will start at the root of the palm tree and work their way up to the base. They can feed off a palm tree for years before there’s any noticeable damage. Usually, homeowners will notice mud and mounds around the base of the palm tree because the termite tunnels are inside the tree.
Palm trees in dry, arid environments aren’t safe either. A species of termite known as Gnathamitermes perplexus can survive in the desert and regularly attacks palm trees. In these instances you may notice plaster-like mud coatings on the exterior of the palm where wood has been scraped off by the termites.
Some palms also have dead fronds don’t fall off and become an easy meal for termites. If you have palms in your yard, remove fronds as soon as they begin to turn brown and regularly check around the base for termite activity.
Fruit trees also appear to be a prime target for termites, but they aren’t going after the sweet produce. Mango trees and peach trees in particular seem to attract these bothersome insects. Young citrus trees are also known to get attacked by termites with reports going as far back as 1927.
Sometimes termites will munch away at the bark, but usually the damage is on the inside where you can’t see what’s going on. They’ll also do what’s known as girdling. This is when the termites strip the bark away just below the soil line at the trunk crown. Some experts believe termites do this to create a future food source because girdling can eventually kill a fruit tree.
Termites are known to prefer trees that have low tolerance to damage, and fruit trees fall into that category. Fruit trees can be weakened easily during the winter when it freezes. They can also be weakened by sun damage.
Termites in living fruit trees are tricky to treat because you don’t want to affect the produce if at all possible. If the tree has been weakened by sun damage, you can help prevent further weakening by painting the trunk with a 50/50 mixture of white latex paint and water. It acts like sunscreen and can make future termite damage more visible. For other damaged or infested fruit trees it’s best to use natural pest control measures.
Deciduous trees are leafy trees that typically change color and/or lose their leaves in the winter. Formosan termites don’t just feast on certain types of deciduous trees, they also like to call them home. This type of termite will build above ground nests in oaks and ash trees that are otherwise alive and well. Eventually, they’ll been munching away on dry or dead parts of the tree as the colony grows.
Termites love conifer trees. In fact, areas that are recently cleared of pine trees are known habitats for termites. However, they don’t usually set out to kill and consume conifers. Instead, termites are known to live in them, usually in a portion that’s already dead. There have even been accounts of colonies that lay eggs and hatch young from their tree house.
It’s one more reason to keep an eye on your trees and remove dead portions as soon as they’re discovered. If you have to remove a conifer tree, it’s worth it to go the extra mile and completely remove the stump. If not, it can become a hotspot for termite activity.
Rotted or Dead Trees
No matter what species a tree is, if it’s rotted or dead it’s a prime target for termites. Even a dead branch is enough to attract hungry termites looking for an easy meal.
All termites prefer dead and rotting trees because they are very easy to chew through and get to the cellulose. If you leave a stump in your yard, it’s like sending termites an invitation to move in. When trees show signs of damage or rotting you should investigate immediately to find the cause and take action. Remove any portions of a tree that are dried out since this will be the spot termites attack first.
If you’re worried about wood-boring insects in Central Alabama Vulcan Termite and Pest Control Inc. can help. Our certified pest control technicians specialize in identifying termite damage and controlling infestations quickly. Give us a call today to discuss how we can protect your trees and the rest of your property.