Termites cause more than $5 billion in property damage each year, according to the National Pest Management Association. Most homeowners don’t even know they have a problem until it is time for drastic measures, so consider our tips and watch for these wood-destroying pests.
Know your enemy: North America has several termite species, but the most common are subterranean termites. Found throughout the United States, they stay below ground or at least out of direct sunlight. To travel above ground and into homes, subterranean termites build drinking-straw sized mud tubes to shelter them from predators and the elements. Mud tubes are commonly found in crawlspaces or along foundation walls.
The Formosan termite is a non-native subterranean species now found in the South, parts of California and Hawaii. Nicknamed the “super termite,” this species lives in huge colonies that are capable of consuming enormous amounts of wood.
Drywood termites only infest dry wood. Unlike their subterranean counterparts, they nest above ground and get the moisture they need from the wood they consume. They can be found in attic rafters, furniture, hardwood floors, crown molding and anything else made of dry wood. They are most common in the Southeast and along the West Coast.
What’s for dinner? Termites are responsible for recycling dead wood back into the environment, putting homes high on their preferred menu items. Outdoors, termites consume wood debris and rotting trees, among other things. Once they enter a home, they can consume furniture, wallpaper and even books.
Mark of the beast: Termites eat homes from the inside out and can remain concealed within wall voids or other structural elements for years before they are detected and the extent of their damage is apparent. The most obvious sign of any termite infestation is a swarm of winged termites. Common signs of a subterranean termite infestation include the presence of mud tubes, irregularities in interior walls and wood that’s hollow when tapped. A dead giveaway of a drywood infestation is the oval-shaped fecal pellets they leave behind. These often resemble small piles of sawdust.
Treating the problem: Termites will require the help of a licensed pest control professional. Most professionals use either a bait or a liquid treatment to eliminate termites. A bait system makes use of small tubes that contain wood debris. These are monitored on a regular basis, until the presence of termites is confirmed. The wood is then replaced with a poison that is taken back to the nest and shared with the entire colony. Liquid treatments involve applying a poison to the soil around the home’s foundation, which termites will forage through and carry back to the colony on their bodies. Both procedures ultimately eradicate a colony.
Read the fine print: No two termite contracts are the same, and it is important to carefully read them before signing on the dotted line.
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