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. This guide will walk you through the different options for termite control so you can learn how to get rid of termites, how to kill termites and how to prevent them from damaging your home.
Safety: Take extra care when using pesticides in homes with children and pets.
How to Identify Termites
Termites and flying ants possess a very similar appearance, enough so that, without closer inspection, you may mistake one for the other. In order to effectively treat your pests, you must properly identify which insect is responsible for your infestation.
- Body - Thorax and constricted abdomen are clearly defined
- Wings - Front pair of wings is larger than rear pair and only a little larger than the body
- Antennae - Distinct elbow-shaped antennae feature an elongated first segment
- Body - Ribbed abdomen is one continuous, thick piece with no visible waist
- Wings - Two pairs of vein-filled wings are equal in length and twice the length of the body
- Antennae - Antennae are straight and somewhat short, and they have no eyes
So what are termites? 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-inch 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.
What Are Termites Attracted To?
Unfortunately, there are many things that can attract a termite to your home.
- Termites are attracted to wood. And depending on the termite, they may be attracted to dry wood, or they may be attracted to moist wood. Termites eat wood, so it would naturally be the first thing to draw them in.
- Termites are attracted to moist soil. Moist soils allows termites to thrive, staving off dehydration and death. Some termite species even use the moist soil to create mud tubes.
- Termites are attracted to dark, warm places. Termites love to be undisturbed, so find the most opportune places to hide. Make sure to clean out gutters and pipes as often as possible to keep termites at bay.
By removing some of the things that attract termites, you'll stand a better chance of controlling them. Being proactive will help you learn how to keep termites away. Read on to learn more preventative measures.
While you should leave termite removal to the professionals, knowing the methods they will use can help you in understanding how to kill termites, the best ways to treat the problem and help prevent it from recurring.
One popular method on how to get rid of termites involves treating the soil around your house with a termite insecticide, such as imidacloprid or fipronil. Wood can also be treated directly if termites are inside.
Termite baits are strategically placed around your yard to lure termites in. 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.
- 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.
- Don't disturb soil once it has been treated with termite-preventing chemicals.
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.
- If possible, replace the soil around your house with sand if you have wood touching the ground. Termites cannot build tunnels through the sand.
- Avoid stacking firewood against your house and remove tree stumps from your yard.
- Leave 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.
- Frequently clear gutters and drain spouts to prevent water buildup.
- Have your home inspected regularly.
- 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.
If you take the necessary steps, and continue termite prevention and exterior home maintenance, you will keep termites away for good. Get your home regularly inspected by a professional to keep termites at bay.