Termites are infamous for their destructive abilities and for good reason, they cause billions of dollars of damage to buildings and agriculture every year. Historically, they were confined to warmer climates but since the mid-twentieth century, they have expanded their ecological range moving from the southern US to the north and into parts of southern Canada. Vancouver Island specifically is home to two distinct species of termite, the pacific dampwood termite and the subterranean termite. Read on to learn how to identify, treat and prevent the termites inhabiting Vancouver Island. 


Identifying Termites on Vancouver Island


Dampwood Termites

As the name suggests dampwood termites primarily feed on and live in damp or decaying wood. They can also be found in piles of dead leaves or other moist, cellulose-rich, organic materials. This is why they enjoy humid coastal regions such as Vancouver Island. They are the largest termite species in North America ranging from 15 to 25 mm in length and have a distinctive dark brown coloration.


Subterranean Termites

Although less common than dampwood termites on Vancouver Island, subterranean termites are much more destructive. Titularly, they live and build their nests underground however, they still feed on wood structures which they are able to access by building mud tubes constructed from soil, feces, and saliva. They are only 5 to 6 mm in length and the workers are a light yellow colour while reproductive individuals can take on a black colour. 


Did you Know

The piles of “sawdust” that drywood and dampwood termites leave behind are actually not sawdust at all but their feces (called frass).  It looks similar to wood because that’s all termites eat. However, carpenter ants leave behind true sawdust piles because they don’t eat wood, they just build their nests in it. 


Signs of a Termite Infestation 

Termites are secretive and hard to detect, they often infest hidden areas of the home such as crawl spaces, behind walls, and in basements. Here are the major signs to look for when trying to identify a termite infestation. 

  • Hollow Wood – On exposed wood termite damage can be obvious however when hidden behind walls or under floors, it can be harder to notice. If you knock on the wood and it sounds hollow it’s a strong sign of wood damage. 
  • “Sawdust Piles” – The drywood termites that are common across mainland Canada, leave behind conspicuous piles of sawdust-looking waste called frass, this is their feces and it looks like sawdust because their diet consists only of wood. Dampwood termites also produce frass however, it is often less obvious as they use it to plug entrances in the wood to help contain moisture. Additionally, subterranean termites don’t leave behind any frass piles, instead incorporating their feces into the construction of their tunnels. 
  • Swarmers –  Mature reproductive termites will grow wings and be able to fly. During mating season they will swarm outside their nest to mate and find a place to start a new colony. This is the most common time to spot actual termites as they usually don’t leave their tunnels. 
  • Discarded Wings – Discarded termite wings are often found near closed windows and doors. When termites are done mating they intentionally twist their wings off because they won’t need them again. If you have a severe infestation you can often find piles of these discarded wings. 
  • Mud tubes – Pencil-sized mud tubes found where the ground meets your house are a sign of dampwood termites.

Termite Signs


How to Prevent Termite Damage 

  • Seal entry points: Seal any cracks or gaps in your home’s foundation, walls, and roof to prevent termites from entering and use weather stripping around windows and doors.
  • Maintain landscaping: Trim shrubs and trees away from your home to prevent branches from touching the structure and ensure firewood is stored at least 5 feet from your home. This will help prevent termites from moving from a source of wood outside your home to the home itself. 
  • Control Moisture & Humidity: Both dampwood and subterranean termites thrive in moist conditions so make sure to fix any leaky pipes and check the drainage around your foundation. Additionally, keep moist rooms like bathrooms and kitchens properly ventilated and install a humidifier if you find your home is consistently humid. 
  • Consider professional pest control: If you’re worried about termite activity, call in a pest control expert for a free inspection. Catching an infestation early can save you thousands in future repairs. 


How to Get Rid of Termites 

Getting rid of termites can be a challenging task, and it generally requires professional help. Here are some steps you can take to help eliminate a termite problem:

  • Locate the nest: The first step in getting rid of termites is to identify the extent of the infestation. Look for signs of termites (listed above) and try to locate their nest. 
  • Remove food sources: Termites feed on wood so this step is often not possible, however removing wood from the surrounding area can help slow the growth of the colony. This means removing firewood, tree stumps and old wooden structures. 
  • Call pest control experts: A termite infestation can do major structural damage to your home and if left untreated will quickly grow. It’s incredibly hard for a homeowner to deal with on their own and the longer they are left unchecked the more damage will be done. At the first signs of termites in your home, it’s important to call in pest control professionals to take a look. With their knowledge and expertise, they will be able to assess the severity of the problem and develop a targeted treatment plan to get rid of these pests for good. 

Old Island Pest Control offers free inspections for subterranean termites. Call us today to learn how we can help! We have local pest control experts at locations across Vancouver Island including Duncan, Nanaimo, Parksville & Qualicum, Courtenay, Victoria and Campbell River.