What happens if you take half a million termites and set them loose in a tiny, built-to-scale dream house?
No, it’s not the start of a bad joke. It’s the premise behind the Tiny Termite House, a first-of-its-kind, groundbreaking study and video production by the National Pest Management Association that revealed the destructive nature of termites like never before. Early in 2018, more than half a million voracious termites were introduced into the soil surrounding a tiny, built-to-scale dream home. A team of researchers began documenting and observing their behaviors and the incredible damage they leave in their wake. The Tiny Termite House is verifiable proof of just how quickly and methodically termites can eat away at a structure if left unchecked, consuming critical support beams while tucked out of sight from the human eye.
Termites are social insects that live in colonies containing caste systems. Meet the "caste" of the Tiny Termite House and learn how members of a termite colony function together.
The tiny, two-story home was built in January to replicate an actual home in Anytown, USA and included many of the same features, such as insulation, plumbing, recessed lighting and electricity. Other amenities included hardwood floors, a beautiful kitchen and a balcony overlooking an in-ground swimming pool. Like many American homes, the house was constructed on a cement slab. However, there was one big difference — this house was fully equipped with cameras throughout to study the termites’ progress from introduction to decimation.
Check out this video offering a sneak peek into the Tiny Termite House project. Read the official project announcement here.
Despite being a tiny, model home, the termites behaved and attacked the house in the same way they destroy life size homes every day — with barely any noticeable damage to the exterior and only minor signs of destruction throughout the home itself. Hence, their nickname, “silent destroyers.”
The researchers introduced more than 500,000 subterranean termites into the soil surrounding the home in early-March. Check out this time-lapse video of the first 100,000 termites being dumped into the soil.
Over the next month, they monitored the house to track the termites’ activity. Upon introduction, the termites immediately found the structural weaknesses of the foundation, infiltrating cracks in the cement and finding easy access points at the corners of the home where the wood came together.
The first indication that the termites found their way into the home was the formation of mud tubes that the termites built to give them cover and provide pathways to reach their food source. Mud tubes look like an accumulation of dirt and sand and are a common, yet easy to miss sign of termite activity.
Once their mud tubes were formed, the termites went to town on the wood joists and plywood first before moving up into to the drywall.
During the final tour of the home, researchers found that practically all the floor and wall joists had been completely eaten away. The once pristine hardwood floors started to buckle and the structure of the house was a total loss. When the researchers lifted the sub flooring from the cement slab of the foundation, they found hundreds of thousands of termites living underneath it.