Termites | Termite Pest Control
Should you worry about termites? The answer is yes, since termites cause billions of dollars in damage each year in the United States. What Termite Pest Control solutions are there out there? Termites primarily feed on wood, but also damage paper, books, insulation, and even swimming pool liners and filtration systems. Termites can injure living trees and shrubs, but more often are a secondary invader of woody plants already in decline. While buildings may become infested at any time, termites are of particular importance when buying or selling a home since a termite inspection or infestation report is normally a condition of sale. Besides the monetary impact, thousands of winged termites emerging inside one's home are an emotionally trying experience — not to mention the thought of termites silently feasting on one's largest investment.
Learn more about termites below:
Preventive practices are a critical aspect of termite management. Prevention of subterranean termite infestation of wooden structures centers upon disrupting their ability to locate moisture, food (wood), and shelter.
Avoid moisture accumulation near the foundation, which provides water needed for termite survival. Divert water away from the foundation with properly functioning downspouts, gutters, and splash blocks. Soil needs to be graded or sloped away from the foundation in order for surface water to drain away from the building.
Cellulose (wood, mulch, paper, etc.) that is in contact with soil provides termites with ready and unobservable access to food. It is very important to eliminate any contact between the wooden parts of the house foundation and the soil. Maintain at least 6 inches between the soil and porch steps, lattice work, door or window frames, etc. Never stack or store firewood, lumber, newspapers, or other wood products against the foundation or within the crawl space. Prevent trellises, vines, etc. from touching the house. Before and during construction, never bury wood scraps or waste lumber in the backfill, especially near the building. Be sure to remove wooden or cellotex form boards, grade stakes, etc. used during construction. Remove old tree stumps and roots around and beneath the building. Avoid or minimize use of wood mulch next to the foundation.
When are termites most active?
Spring typically is when large numbers of winged termites, known as "swarmers," emerge inside homes. In nature, termites swarm to disperse and start new colonies. Triggered by warmer temperatures and rainfall, the winged termites emerge from the colony and fly into the air. The swarmers then drop to the ground, shed their wings, pair off with a mate, and attempt to begin new colonies in the soil. Few swarmers emerging outdoors survive to start new colonies. Swarmers emerging indoors are incapable of eating wood, seldom survive, and are best removed with a vacuum. They do, however, indicate that an infestation is present.
How can you tell if you have termite activity?
Wood damaged by termites always has remains of mud tubes attached to wood galleries or tunnels in an irregular pattern. The tunnels may contain broken mud particles with fecal materials. In the case of an active colony, white termites may be found in the infested wood.
The presence of flying winged males, females or their shed wings inside the building indicates a termite infestation.
Another indication of termite activity is the presence of mud or shelter tubes extending from the ground to woodwork or on foundation walls. Workers travel periodically via shelter tubes to their nest to regain moisture and perform feeding duties. Each mud tube is approximately the diameter of a lead pencil.
Termite damage may be located by probing wood with a screwdriver, ice pick or knife. Start any inspection in the basement or underneath the home when you have a crawlspace, and use a bright flashlight. Look for mud tubes and the activity of swarmers. If it is necessary, seek help from a professional pest control operator or advice from experienced entomologists. A qualified professional inspector should inspect the exterior and interior surfaces of the foundation, particularly construction where wood is on or near the soil. Mud tubes are solid evidence of termite activity. Other sites requiring inspection are:
- wood construction in basement and crawl space (if present);
- sills, joists, support posts, basement window frames, wood under porches;
- hollow blocks, cracks in the cement or brick construction and expansion joints; and
- scrap wood on ground, old tree stumps, fence posts, and exterior frames of basement windows.
Using a termite professional
A professional termite inspector may include many additional tools for a more thorough inspection. These tools can include a moisture meter, an infrared camera, and several other items chosen by the pest control operator. Some even use termite sniffing dogs that have been trained specifically to find termites!
The termite pest professional should be able to determine if termites are active or not, how old the damage may be, and if chemical treatment is necessary.
There are two general categories of termite treatment, liquids and baits. Soil-applied liquid termiticides have been around for decades. Their purpose is to provide a long-lasting chemical barrier that excludes termites in the ground from entering buildings. In most cases, termites in the structure die off as well, since they cannot return to the soil.
What products are used to control termites?
Most former products were repellent rather than lethal to termites foraging in the soil. Newer materials, such as Premise® (imidacloprid), Termidor® (fipronil), and Phantom® (chlorfenapyr), are non-repellent and termites tunneling into the treatment zone are killed. Overall the non-repellent products are proving to be more reliable in their ability to resolve termite problems in the first attempt. All registered termiticides (both repellent and non-repellent) can be effective, however, and homeowners should not base their purchasing decision on product alone.
The other broad treatment category is baiting. Termite baits consist of paper, cardboard, or other palatable food, combined with a slow-acting substance lethal to termites. The baits are installed below ground out in the yard in cylindrical plastic stations. Others are sometimes placed indoors over active mud tubes. Foraging termites consume the bait and share it with their nestmates, resulting in a gradual decline in termite numbers. On some properties, baits may constitute the only form of treatment; on others, they may be combined with liquid applications. to areas where termites are observed.
Subterranean termite colonies may contain hundreds of thousands of individuals, foraging in many different directions. For the homeowner, localized or "spot" treatments are generally a gamble except in cases of retreatment. Most reputable pest control firms will not warranty spot treatments, since it's likely that termites will eventually find other points of entry into the structure.
Some termite companies may offer to do a so-called "perimeter" treatment, using one of the non-repellent liquid termiticides (Termidor, Premise, etc.). Typically this will involve a thorough application around the entire outside foundation wall of the building, and spot-treating any infested or high-risk interior areas. If the homeowner is considering such a termite treatment, they should inquire whether it will be accompanied by a service agreement in case termites return. (Service renewal agreements usually state that if termites return, the company will return and retreat the affected areas at no additional charge provided the renewal agreement is maintained.) It's a bit of a gamble to purchase any termite treatment option without an ongoing service agreement.
All liquid termiticides are supposed to control termites for at least five years when applied according to label directions. The actual length of control on a given structure will depend on such factors as thoroughness of the application, environmental conditions, and density of termites in the area. If termites swarm again and continue to be a problem the year after treatment, it's usually not from degradation of the termiticide — but because termites have found an untreated gap in the chemical barrier.
If you think you have a termite problem, please contact one of our professionally trained and licensed pest professionals. They can determine the severity of your termite problem and outline a plan to help you get rid of these termites! Get a free termite inspection here.