Termites, the silent destroyer, often hide in your basement or walls and you can’t see any damage that is being done. There are over 2,300 species of termites and knowing which type is important in knowing how to get rid of it. It is very difficult to find and locate termites because they live inside of the wood or underground. They leave very few signs that they are there. The most common signs of termite infiltration are: wing discards, wood damage, swarming of termites, mud tunnels and mounds of termite droppings. Termites play an important role in nature. They rid the forest of dead trees. Their tunnels spread the fungi and bacteria to further decay the rotten wood. They just have the problem of discerning what is dead wood and what is not. Termites are in every state except for Alaska. The main question that homeowner ask when confronted by a termite problem is “How do I get rid of them?”
What is a termite?
A termite is a small, pale insect that lives in large colonies. Most termites feed on trees or wood products. They are related to the cockroach and can be harmful to the structure of your home if they aren’t eliminated. They have been on Earth for over 250,000 million years.
How do I know if I have termites?
Termites burrow mazes of tunnels inside of the walls and furniture. Afterwards, they leave small piles of feces that look like pellets. After the termites swarm, they shed their wings and you may find piles of discarded wings.
How do termites enter the home?
Termites enter the home through cracked or unsealed foundations. They also use the tunnels from other termites. These tunnels can be found near the foundation of your home.
What damage can termites do to my home?
Termites feast on wood and by doing so they can cause structural damage to your home. If enough damage has been done, then your home can be uninhabitable until the damage has been repaired. Interior damage takes longer to occur and is less obvious. Warped flooring, sagging ceilings and what appears to be water damage. When the walls are opened, there might be the termites’ tunnels. Termites also give off an odor similar to mold or mildew.
What can I do to prevent termites from entering my house?
You should have your home inspected periodically by a professional pest control company. They are able to crawl under the home to look for signs of infestation. After you have gotten clearance that your home is free, it is important to keep it that way. Look for signs of damage on decks and fences for any damage. Seal any openings and cracks around the foundation, eaves and joints. Remove any wood or insulation from the foundation of the home. This prevents the termites from a food source. Store any lumber away from the foundation. Clean the gutters and downspouts yearly. Leaves are an excellent source of food for the termite. Keep shrubs and planting at least 6 inches from the foundation. These are a source of moisture that termites love.
I have termites, how do I get rid of them?
To confirm that your house is infected and how much damage has been done, you might want to call an exterminator. Have him inspect the home and give you an estimate. You should have at least two estimates before making a decision. Make sure that you ask what their methods are and what chemicals they intend to use. Have them explain any side effects that might occur to animals or children. These professionals should also devise a plan so that the termites do not return after the initial process of disinfection is over. If you are uncomfortable with the chemicals being used, ask if there are alternatives that are less harmful. Termiticides can be liquid, baits or a combination of both. The professional has to find the right combination of termiticides that will eliminate or at least lessen the population.
Are there natural remedies to rid my home of termites?
Using certain woods reduces your chance of a termite infection. Redwood, Black Walnut and Bald Cypress are resistant to termites to some degree. Biological treatments are more natural and do not use any manmade chemicals. One such method involves adding nematodes to water and adding it to the termites’ nest. When the termites come into contact with the nematodes, then they become infected and die. While using wood and infecting the termites with nematodes are effective, they may not reach the entire colony. Another natural remedy is the introduction of ants. Ants and termites are natural enemies with the ant winning. This presents the homeowner with another problem, however, the infestation of ants in the home. Boric acid, a white powder, has been added to different chemicals to prevent the termites from entering.
What other methods have been used in the past?
Since World War II, chlorinated hydrocarbons have been used to kill the termites’ colonies. These chlorinated hydrocarbons include chlordane, aldrin, dieldrin and hephaclor are sprayed directly into the ground and tunnels. While the manufacturers have stated that these chemicals are safe, but persistent health and environmental problems have been linked back to these chemicals. Poisoned ponds used for fishing, well water that was contaminated with these chemicals and indoor air pollution were cited by the EPA. The manufacturer finally withdrew the product from product line. Shielding is also another method that has been used in the past and has been found to be ineffective. Shielding is placing a piece of aluminum that goes over the foundation and meets the siding. This only makes the termites build their tunnels to go up and over the shielding.
Are termite colonies the same as bee colonies?
While both insects are social, termite colonies have a population of ¼ million insects at a time. There is a king and queen who are in charge of the reproductive needs. Soldier termites guard the cell while worker termites gather food. Both of these types are blind and rely on their sense of touch and the smell of chemical signals to locate the food and water. When the termites leave the colony, they often leave tunnels because they have delicate bodies which can become dehydrated. If you stumble across a tunnel, you should destroy it immediately and watch for its reoccurrence.
How do I stop them before they enter the house?
By maintaining your home, you can notice any signs that termites are trying to enter. You can also do a home inspection. So, don your grubbiest clothes and a powerful flashlight and begin. Outside of the house, look for signs of tunneling or shelter tubes. Next on the list, inspect that the drain spouts are draining properly. This will make sure that the water is moving away from the house. Now it’s time for the dirty part. If you have a crawl space, inspect under the house for the shelter tubes and if found, destroy them. Since you are already on the ground, check the piping and faucets for any type of leakage. Fix them immediately.
I found a colony of termites, what should I do?
After finding the colony, sit back and relax for a minute. Your house will not crash down on you. A colony of termites eat about 1/5 ounce of wood per day. Next, you should call 2-3 professional pest control company. Make sure that they are reputable and offer a guarantee. After they inspect your home, ask what their recommendations are and the safely of the products. If you have children or pets, make sure that it is safe for them. After you are satisfied, the cost of exterminating your home is going to be several thousand dollars.
What pesticides are they using now?
The newer pesticides are less effective but more environmentally correct. Torpedo and Dragnet are the two newest ones and contain permethrin, a natural insecticide. These two products are used by organic farmers. They will biodegrade in 5-7 years and then need to be reapplied if the termites are still on your property. They are toxic to fish and bees. If some of this pesticide spills on you, wash immediately with soap and water. Dursban is more toxic and lasts longer. The EPA is considering banning all pesticides for use by handy men and do-it-your-self.
Are there any new products that will be available soon?
Researchers have been working on a bait system that is tainted with an insecticide. The worker termite brings it back into the colony where other termites eat it and die. Extracts from wood are being investigated as natural poisons. Chemicals that destroy the termites’ protozoa in the stomach of the termite so that the termite starves are also being looked at. These are all in the experimental stage of development and will need years of research and testing before they become available to the general public. Until there is another method, prevention and remedies that are on the market are all the materials available to keep those pests away.
If you are buying a home or refinancing your current home, you may be asked to have a home inspection by the bank that is issuing the loan. If there is any sign of infestation, the damage should be fixed before you take ownership. Getting your new home exterminated should be a negotiation point is setting the price. Some states require this before a bank will issue the loan. Your real estate agent should know if there have been any past occurrences of termites. All types of homes are targets of termites whether they are brick, wood or masonry can be housing termite colonies. Homes that are being built should have the wood pretreated by a termite repellant to stop them before they enter the home. Most homeowner’s insurance does not cover any damage done by termites. However, a bond might be purchased if you live in a termite infested zone.
I am moving; will the termites come with me?
The answer is probably not. Termites would be without their colony and have no way to survive if they had climbed into one of your moving boxes.
I use mulch in my garden. Will termite infiltrate it?
Mulch gives a termite everything it needs to survive. Food, water and shelter are provided by the mulch and make it a good place to live. Experts say to keep mulch at least 6 inches away from the house and it should not be more than 4 inches thick.
My neighbors are having an exterminator come. Will the termites move into my house?
If they are using a repellent insecticide, then the termites might move into a hospitable environment, which may be your home. Non-repellent insecticides affect the colony where they die, so they will not be moving into your home.
Termites have been around for a long time due to the fact that the workers “taste test” all food before it is feed to the queen. Termites swarm only 2 times a year looking for a new structure to start a colony. They appear in the late afternoon and can be found near a light source. If you see this, then you know that a colony is near either in the yard or in the home. If you are worried about the hazards of any pesticides being used, you should have the air in your home tested for pollutants. Then you should follow the professional’s advice on how to lower the pollution and restore your home.
The best way to prevent an infiltration of termites or any other pest is to maintain your house and grounds. Remove anything that will attract these pests. Once you find any sort of pest, get estimates from professionals, do your research into the materials that are being used and then keep up your inspections of your home. An ounce of prevention is worth more than a ton of headaches.