Termite Treatment and Termite Control

Termites are one of the most common household pests, and pest control companies receive many calls every month to perform termite treatments in households and commercial buildings. Termite extermination is usually always a professional job, but there are some effective DIY methods and products you can use to remove termites yourself.

Termites can usually be found feeding on wood and insulation material in buildings, but can also be found in outdoor swimming pools, garages and even inside bookshelves and filing cabinets. A full termite inspection should be conducted before buying or selling any property. Not only can termites cause serious damage to buildings, most homeowners and property investors naturally regard finding a host of termites in a building quite literally eating away at the building very distressing.


A Primer on Termites

A TermiteTermites live in colonies, either underground or inside tree stumps or fallen trees. A termite colony can contain tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of individual termites. They build extensive networks of tunnels underground and above ground to travel to food sources. These tunnels protect them from predators and sources of light. Termites are most commonly found in warmer climates.

Termites are renowned for their ability to destroy buildings from the inside out; termites quite literally eat their way through a building. They consume the cellulose fiber found in plants and wood, paper and cardboard, and eat many of the construction materials used in most buildings today, such as wood, plastic, drywall and ceiling tiles. Termite colonies can live for months and even years under a house or in a garden without the owner of the property being aware that they are there.

 Termites PicturesWorker termites are approximately ¼ – ½ inches in length and light in color. Winged (AKA “flying”) termites are the same size as worker termites and have two pairs of large wings. King and queen termites are much larger. Termites eat through wood and other materials with their mouthes and over time can eat through significant sections of wood.

There are thousands of different species of termites, but the three most common varieties in the United States are: subterranean termites, drywood termites and dampwood termites.


Subterranean Termites

Subterranean termites are the most common species of termite in the United States. As their name implies, they build their colonies underground. They can be found eating almost any kind of wood. Subterranean termites need the soil to provide the moisture they need to survive.


Drywood Termites

Drywood termites can survive above ground, and usually build their colonies in wood tree stumps or fallen timber. They usually prefer dry wood and avoid moist old wood.

 Termite Exterminator Cost

Dampwood Termites

Dampwood termites need moisture in order to survive, and therefore mostly eat and live in wet and decaying wood. Both drywood and dampwood termites favor warmer climates.

It’s not only homes and commercial buildings that termites can damage – they can also attack trees and other plants. Carefully manicured gardens can be the unwitting victims of termites as well.

A full professional pest inspection will reveal whether or not you have termites on your property, and can also give you an estimate of the cost of a pest exterminator. This is the ideal time to look for a professional pest control products or hire an exterminator to prevent the number of termites from growing.


How to Protect Your Home Against Termites

Figures vary, but leading termite researches estimate that termites cause billions of dollars in damage to households all over the world every year.

Here are some steps you can take to keep termites away from your house:

  • Eliminate potential termite food sources outside your home as much as possible
  • Make sure that none of the wood on any part of your house is touching the soil
  • Remove tree stumps and bushes that are near the house
  • Keep the roof in good condition to prevent water from collecting in one place
  • Make sure that all gutters are pointed away from the house to remove all rainwater
  • Remove leaves and other debris from the gutters
  • Keep any firewood away from the house
  • Make sure that no pipes, faucets or boilers are leaking
  • Keep A/C and air vents clean
  • Keep drains clean
  • Fix any cracks in foundation concrete
  • Use caulk to seal holes around pipes and vents
  • Regularly inspect the property for signs of termite colonies


The Signs of a Termite Infestation

A professional pest exterminator will be able to identify whether or not a building has a termite infestation. Because termites are frequently found on the insides of walls, it can be difficult for to perform a successful DIY inspection. Also, there usually aren’t any obvious visual signs of an infestation, which causes many termite infestations to go undetected months or even years. In many cases, homeowners aren’t even be aware that their property has been infested with termites.


Swarming Termites

 Termite Swarmers in the GardenMost termite infestations occur in the spring, but it ins’t always easy to see if your home or another building has become invested. Winged termites, also known as “termite swarmers”, usually enter homes at this time of the year. They fly away from their colonies to begin building new colonies. Once they have found a suitable location, they mate and begin to start a new colony. Due to the harsher conditions outside, swarmers can usually only be found indoors. If you find swarmers in your house, a large infestation is probably in progress or eminent. Winged termites are attracted to the light during the spring. They leave their current colony to mate and find a location to start a new colony.

Winged termites can look similar to some species of ants which are the same size, shape and appear at the same time of the year. Winged termites can usually be found by doors, windows and other areas where light enters a property. Outside, they can be found in tree stumps, shrubs and under decks and patios. Finding winged termites outside, especially away from the building, does not necessarily mean that the inside of the building has been infested, but a full inspection should still be carried out. It’s also common to find the wings that termite swarmers have discarded without actually seeing any of them.

Termite Mud Tubes

Mud Tubes

A common sign that a building has a termite infestation is finding “termite mud tubes”. These are lines of mud and earth approximately ½ in diameter that extend in multiple directions over floors, exterior cement walls and support columns. These termite tubes are structures used by termites to travel between their colonies. If you find termite mud tubes, you can check the interior to see if there are termites traveling inside them. If not, there may still be other termite mud tubes nearby (these structures are often abandoned when termites construct new ones).


Termite Droppings

Termite Frass in MoundFinding termite droppings (also called termite frass) is another sign of a termite infestation. Termite droppings looks like a fine powder and can be found on the inside of wood or under paint. Also, finding termite larvae (which look similar to maggots) can be another not-so-pleasant sign that you may have a termite infestation on your hands.


How to Identify Wood Damaged by Termites

It’s usually easy to identify wood that termites have damaged, but in some cases there are no clear visible signs that termites have been at work. You can find parts of wood beams and siding that termites have destroyed by a close inspection with a flashlight. Termites usually leave some visible evidence in parts of wood they have been eating.

By examining wood for hollowed-out passages or extracts of earth you can determine whether the wood has been infested with termites or other creatures (roach infestations are also a very common pest problem for homeowners). If wood sounds hollow when tapped and you know for certain that it wasn’t originally hollow, it is highly likely termites have been gorging on it from the inside.


Termite-Damaged Walls and Floors

Termite-Damaged WoodTermites can damage walls and plaster by creating small holes in the surface. You can usually find these by checking to see if there is any mud or earth present on a wall and also by seeing if any passages are hollowed out or cracked. Because termites usually hide in dark places such as insulation material and under floor boards, it is possible that the only physical signs of damage are on the inside of walls and the underside of floors. It may be necessary to create small holes in a wall and/or to remove floorboards to identify an infestation.


How to Get Rid of Termites

No one wants termites in their home, and there are a large variety of termite removal products and services available on the market today. To help you make the most informed decision for your needs, here we have provided an overview of the different methods of termite removal.

Essentially, there are three different methods of removing termites: bait treatments, liquid treatments and termite fumigation. Some are methods are DIY methods and others can only be completed by a professional pest removal company.


Termite Baits

 Spectracide Terminate Termite Detection & Killing Stakes2Termite baits work in much the same way as ant and roach baits. Food that termites eat such as wood or cardboard is treated with a slow-release poison and left in an area where termites have been seen. There are indoor and outdoor termite baits, and both work in the same way. Termite foragers return to the nest with the bait and share the food among the colony and over a period of time the termite population slowly declines.

The advantage of termite baits is they don’t cause any damage to your property and don’t release any dangerous chemicals or poisonous liquids into your home or garden. The disadvantage of baits is that they can take a long time to reduce the population in a termite colony, and in some cases may not eliminate it completely. If a termite colony on your property is inaccessible, using baits may be the only effective method.

Bonide Outdoor Termite & Carpenter Ant KillerBonide Outdoor Termite & Carpenter Ant Killer

Liquid Treatments

Another common method for mitigating a termite infestation is a liquid treatment. Using liquid pesticides to remove pests is an old and effective method if planned and executed correctly. Liquid pesticides (also called termiticides) are applied underground to prevent termites from entering a building. Liquid termiticides come in two varieties: repellant and non-repellant.


Repellant Termiticides

Termidor SC Termiticide 20 ozRepellant termiticides don’t kill termites but do effectively keep them away from the area of application by creating a barrier in the soil that termites are unable to pass through. The soil around the building is treated, cutting off as many of the termites’ tunnels as possible. Often it can be difficult to access all of the termites’ entry points. You may need to drill through concrete foundations and dig up sections of the soil outside. Because termites are adept at finding tiny spaces to travel through, the barrier needs to be completely air-tight all around the building.

While repellant termiticides can be effective for preventing termites from entering a home, they are generally ineffective at eliminating a termite population that is already inside a house. Also, termites have been known to detect soil treated with repellant termiticides and search for alternate tunneling routes, and they usually find them unless 100% of the perimeter is treated.


Non-Repellent Termiticides

Non-repellant termiticides are lethal and kill termites in the area they are applied. Non-repellant termiticides are a newer method of termite control and now are more used more frequently than repellant termiticides. They are usually more effective in eliminating a termite infestation than repellant termiticides. Unlike repellant termiticides, termites cannot detect soil treated with non-repellant termiticides. Non-repellant termiticides are currently the most effective way to remove termites.


How Liquid Treatments Work

Taurus SC 78ozIf there is a termite colony inside or under your home, liquid interior treatment will identify and block all the current locations termites enter and all the locations termites are likely to enter in the future. While no method of termite treatment can be guaranteed to be 100% effective, an interior liquid treatment is usually the most effective method. The soil around all of the foundations of your home will be treated, as well as the soil under pipes and vents.

If termites are entering your home from a colony located outside, an exterior underground liquid treatment is probably all that is needed. An exterior treatment will involve adding liquid termiticides to the soil alongside the foundations of the buildling.


Are Liquid Pesticides a Health Hazard?

This is a very common question, and naturally consumers are concerned about the health effects of any chemicals that are used on the health of their families. Pesticides available for purchase have been thoroughly tested by the EPA and other independent organizations to ensure there are no long-term health effects. If applied according to the instructions supplied with the product, termiticides will not be a health hazard to your, your family or your pets.


Professional Anti-Termite Treatments

Smith Performance Sprayers R200 2-Gallon Compression SprayerIf the termite infestation in your home is confined to a small area you should be able to take care of the termite treatment yourself. However, if you have a larger more extreme infestation that covers a wide area of the property, consumer pest removal products may not be able to effectively remove termite colonies. Termites can be found in many different areas of a building, and it may simply not be possible to access the areas termites are located. If this is the case, a hiring a professional may be necessary. Most pest control companies offer pest fumigation services for ants and roaches, but not all have the specialized equipment necessary to exterminate termites. We recommend only hiring a professional who specializes in termite control rather than a general bug exterminator to remove termites your home.

A professional will have all the necessary equipment to identify where termites are located and how to gain access these areas. They may need to use specialized drills, soil treatments and earth removers to access the areas termites have infested. Hundreds of gallons of pesticides may be needed to eliminate termites from concrete support pillars, walls and under building foundations. This dangerous liquid needs to be transported in specialized tanks and handled only by experts.

In some cases, due to the architecture of a building and the inaccessibility of certain ceilings, walls, ducts or pillars, a termite treatment company may be unable to complete the work.


How Much Does An Exterminator Cost?

Advance Termite Bait StationUnfortunately, there isn’t an easy answer to this question. There can be large differences in the price quotes from different pest control companies, and in some cases they may not be able to give you an accurate estimate until they know the extent of the infestation.

To be certain that you hire only an experienced company, make sure they are licensed with your state’s pest control and termite control agency. Before hiring any company, check for independent consumer reviews and also ask for a price estimate from several companies to make sure you are getting a fair price. Also, make sure that the company will return for free to retreat your property if termites return after their initial removal.


What Should I Do If Termites Return?

Termite Exterminator CostThe pest removal company should return to retreat your property at no cost. If termites have returned after a treatment, this usually means that the removal company failed to access every area termites are gaining entry to the building. Depending on the area in question, it may be very difficult or even impossible to access certain areas due to the architecture and construction of the building. Because of the small size of termites, their natural ability to find tiny spaces to move through and the shear number of termites in a colony, even the best and most experienced termite control company can fail to effective remove them from a building.

Most professional termite treatments should be effective at keeping all kinds of termites away from the area they are applied for several years. Various factors can alter the duration termite control lasts, including climate, the species of termites in the area, the terrain and the composition of the earth.

Termites are remarkably good at finding a section of the building that wasn’t fully treated and use that as an entry point. This is why using only an experienced professional termite control company is recommended to ensure the pesticide barrier is properly established, keeping termites off the property for years to come.

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