The recent headlines in Canarian Weekly concerning termite infestations spreading in the north of Tenerife prompted me to write about our personal experiences with termites, albeit a different species, here in Port Royale. The newspaper article concerned subterranean termites, whereas the little blighters we have encountered have been the drywood type, Cryptotermes brevis.
Alates, or swarmers, have two sets of wings. The front set of wings has a pattern of three or more heavy, well-pigmented veins in the outer part of that front wing. Alates emerge from the colony through temporary holes during the swarming season. Swarmers shed their wings very quickly after swarming, so nearly all dead swarmer bodies do not have attached wings. Swarmers can be up to 6 mm long. They quickly find a mate, bore into any available wood and seal themselves in, spending the next couple of years chewing away and destroying the timber from within. Drywood termite soldiers have large mandibles (mouthparts) with teeth and their pronotum is as wide, or wider, than the head.
The first thing we noticed on arrival for one of our stays here many years ago, was a little pile of what looked like sand just inside our wooden patio doors. We assumed it was dust or sand that had blown in from the barranco and thought nothing more of it. This continued for quite a while and then we noticed similar little piles next to a Spanish-style wooden chest in the bedroom. We then concluded it must be woodworm and treated it by injecting insecticide. We were rather fond of the chest but eventually we had to get rid of it as it was too far gone. One day we noticed some very pretty wings lying around in the apartment and reflecting the light. This prompted my husband to go online, where he finally identified the problem as termites, something we had never come across in England. We discovered that the piles of ‘sand’ were in fact piles of faecal pellets!
By this time they had burrowed into several doors, both internal and external. We tried to treat them but it was too late, and this was one of our reasons for exchanging our old wooden patio doors for pine-effect aluminium ones (the other being the welcome relief from the tiresome business of varnishing). Later, we exchanged some of the internal doors for white aluminium ones. I think we could have eliminated them if we had been here full time as we had almost succeeded when it was time to go home but they simply re-established during the months before we returned.
In the interim we had a small infestation in a wooden curtain pole but this was treated promptly by injecting insecticide and we now feel fairly confident that we have beaten the little devils.
They can be eliminated by injecting insecticide into their tunnels, but the crucial thing is to act right away, as soon as you spot any sign of a problem, i.e. piles of ‘sand’ pellets. Cans of suitable insecticide complete with injector needles are available from most ferreterias.