Unlike most other insects, termites live in colonies. These colonies can range from just a few individuals to hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions. California is home to at least 23 species, and can fall under subterranean, dampwood, or drywood classifications. Termites feed on cellulose, mainly wood. Dampwood and drywood termites build their nests in wood rather than soil. While subterranean do need access to soil to make their nests.
Termites pose a great hazard to wooden structures, as well as furniture and other wood products. Each year termites cost Americans over $5 billion in damages, most of the time not covered by homeowner's insurance. The presence of termites can have huge implications for the sale of your home, and many lenders require a termite bond from homebuyers.
Signs of termites can vary depending on the type of termite being dealt with. Swarms of winged subterranean species can be seen in the spring, summer or fall. They also produce "shelter tubes," which are a combination of dirt and saliva that they have formed as passageways they use to travel from nest to food source. Wood that they have compromised is usually thin at the surface and easily punctured with an object. Drywood termites are usually harder to find evidence of, and live deep inside the wood they feed on and nest in. During summer and fall, however, flying drywood termites can be spotted during daytime hours.