Pest Control: Termite Control
on August 8 2013
||Termites are responsible for over $1 billion in damage each year in the United States. Individual homeowners often find themselves contributing to that figure as they are forced to replace damaged wood within their homes. Fortunately, there are ways to not only treat termite infestation, but to prevent it as well.Making alterations to your home and paying a professional inspector to visit periodically may seem like inconveniences, but compared to the price of repairing support beams -- repairs which often aren't covered by homeowner's insurance -- they're well worth the effort. Use the following questions to learn more about how to identify termite problems and how to treat them effectively:
• What signs let you know that you may have a termite problem?
• Are the insects you are observing ants or actual termites?
• What steps can you take to prevent termite infestation?
• When should you call in professional help?
• What methods do professional exterminators use?
Identification, Prevention and Treatment
Knowing how to identify whether or not you have a problem and determining if that problem is indeed termites is the first step in planning a course of action. There are a number of signs, some subtle and some obvious, that can tip you off to trouble. Taking steps to prevent termite infestation before it begins will save you money as well as the hassle of having to make repairs. If, however, you find that you do have an infestation, it's best to leave the treatment to the professionals. Understanding the techniques available to them can help you assist in planning an effective strategy for eliminating your termite problem. Identification:
Termites and flying ants possess a very similar appearance, enough so that, without closer inspection, you may mistake one for the other. Be sure to get a good look at one so you can properly identify whether or not you need to take steps to curtail a termite population. The chart below highlights ways you can tell the difference.
||Thorax and constricted abdomen are clearly defined
||Front pair of wings is larger than rear pair and only a little larger than the body
||Distinct elbow-shaped antennae feature an elongated first segment
||Ribbed abdomen is one continuous, thick piece with no visible waist
||Two pairs of vein-filled wings are equal in length and twice the length of the body
||Antennae are straight and somewhat short, and they have no eyes
In addition to identifying termites by sight, there are a number of signs that indicate their presence. Termites often build mud tubes, which are thin mud structures as small as 1/4" in diameter, that connect the ground to your house, garage or other wooden structure. Inspect wood structures closely for signs of decay by gently tapping on them. If a solid beam sounds hollow, chances are you have termite trouble. Discarded wings are a physical sign that termites may be in the house, as reproductive termites shed their wings once they find a new place to set up a colony.
• If mud tubes are moist, tunnels are active
• Examine outside electrical meters or fuse boxes for termite populations
• Examine joints and cracks in your home's foundation for signs of entrance
• Check your attic for mud tubes, water leaks or wood rot
• Closely inspect crawl spaces, sub-floors, roof voids, landscaping and fences Prevention:
Taking steps to prevent termites can save you a great deal of money. Moisture is an absolute necessity for termite colonies to survive and thrive, so eliminating damp areas around your house is essential to preventing termites. Check for plumbing leaks, improper grading and leaky air conditioners to ensure that the ground near your home stays dry. Eliminate as much wood-to-ground contact as possible. Avoid stacking firewood against your house, and remove tree stumps from your yard. Leave a bare minimum of at least 6 inches of space between the ground and wooden decks, porches and patios. Consider using termite-resistant wood in areas where wood must touch the ground, and be sure to pretreat wood when building a new house or renovating your old one.
• Keep areas around and under your house free of wood debris
• Repair areas inside your house that retain moisture
• Clear gutters and drain spouts to prevent water buildup
• Don't disturb soil once it has been treated with termite-preventing chemicals
• Have your home inspected regularly as a precaution Treatment:
While you'll want to leave termite removal to the professionals who have the knowledge and skill to effectively remove termites, knowing the methods they will use can help you in understanding the best ways to treat the problem and help prevent it from recurring. One method involves treating the soil around your house with an insecticide, such as imidacloprid or fipronil. Wood can also be treated directly if termites are inside. Bait is another available option. Termite baits are strategically placed around your yard to lure termites to them. Once there, the termites are covered with a slow-acting insecticide or insect growth regulator. They then return to the colony and poison the other termites. When using any sort of pesticide, be sure to request that the least toxic substance be used (provided it can maintain efficacy), particularly if you have children and pets.
• Foam agents can be injected into areas liquid pesticides can't reach
• Dust agents can be applied in areas where foam or liquid aren't practical
• Fumigation kills all of the termites in an area but won't prevent their return
• Installing new vents can improve air flow, reducing moisture levels
• Schedule regular inspections after treatment to ensure the problem remains contained
Cover openings on the outside of your house, such as vents, with termite-resistant steel mesh. This will allow ventilation to occur while preventing easy access for harmful pests. Baiting:
Baiting is one of the more recent developments in termite treatment, and its popularity is growing in large part because of its low toxicity. Bait traps often use insect growth regulators, which are particularly effective when it comes to destroying termite populations, because rather than killing adults they prevent new termites from coming to maturity. The key to baiting is strategic placement, something that often requires the help of an experienced, trained professional. Sand:
If possible, consider replacing the soil around your house with sand if you have wood touching the ground. Termites cannot build tunnels through the sand, which means they can't get to the wood.