Termites are a menace, single-minded in their pursuits, overwhelming in number, and sneakily nibbling the inside of your walls at this very moment. No matter how long you've lived in your home or plan to live in your home, the threat of termites will always be alive and well , which is why termite prevention should never be far from your priorities.
Termites are one of the biggest contributors to home destruction, costing a staggering $1 billion in damages each year. With the import of East Asia's voracious Formosan termite, that number continues to skyrocket.
One of the few insect colonies to eat continuously, a typical termite colony can consume 2.3 linear feet of 2x4 pine in a single year. While that may not seem like a lot when you consider the scope of your entire property, consider the seriousness of the situation if that same 2x4 was also one of the supporting beams of your house.
If you’re not following a proper regimen to keep termites away, you could be harboring conditions that are actually attracting colonies to your home.Termites are not discerning; wood is wood to them. So, if you have something on your property that draws them in, anything is fair game. Scrap wood in your yard tastes just as inviting as the support beams in your walls. The only factors that truly keep these monsters away is lack of awareness and lack of access.
Killing Termite Colonies vs. Dodging Termite Colonies
You might be wondering why preventing termites from getting to your home is so important as opposed to buying poisons or hiring an exterminator if you ever see them. Think about the following numbers for a moment:
- A termite colony consists of anywhere from 350,000 to well over a million workers, soldiers, and swarmers (termites with wings).
- A single termite queen can lay thousands of eggs per day and live between 30 and 50 years. That means a queen can recoup her losses and repopulate her colony even after tremendous devastation, rendering extermination efforts ineffective.
The best way to fight this constantly replenishing foe is to prevent them from ever touching your home in the first place.
The following list will tell you what materials or conditions may inadvertently send up a flare and put you in termite cross-hairs. Some of these things can be easily dealt with, but other termite attractants are necessary like water or soil. However, by following these instructions, you can change things about the conditions of your home to hide it termites without removing necessary elements.
Most termites are subterranean, meaning that they build their colonies in the ground. They love the soil and build elaborate tunnel systems, called galleries, extending up to 3 feet below the surface. Termites will often use this versatile building material to create mud tubes, leading from their underground colonies to above ground food sources, like the wood in your home.
Never bury scrap wood or waste lumber in your yard. If it’s in the soil and underground, termites will be drawn to it like catnip.
Make a habit of clearing downed branches or decaying twigs and plants before things like time and wind submerge them in the soil. Roots from plants that have died should also be removed from underground.
Mulch provides two things to hungry termites: (1) a food source in the form of pulped up wood and (2) a water source in the form of moisture and irrigation. The qualities of mulch that make it attractive for use in the garden are the very same qualities that attract termites.
However, mulch definitely serves a useful purpose, so even when trying to stop termites from invading your property, you probably don’t want to just get rid of it. One small change you can make to your gardening habits without ditching mulch all together is to just move it. By only using mulch in areas of your yard or garden that aren’t directly adjacent to the walls of your home, you can prevent the likelihood of termites venturing that closely and deciding to make the wood in your house the main course after their mulch appetizer.
Additionally, there are now newer rubber mulches available at your local home improvement center that can be used as alternatives to wood-based mulch. Rubber mulch has the same appearance and gardening perks, but will not act as catnip for termites.
Termites will consume any material that contains cellulose, and since wood contains a great deal of cellulose, termites devour wood voraciously. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, a termite still knows about it.
Given that wood is also obviously a basic building material in homes and many other structures, there’s no way you’re just going to remove all the wood in your life, but you can minimize the chances that termites will pay you a visit.
Store all excess building materials and firewood away from the house. Scrap wood touching the ground is an open invitation to hungry termites. If your property is not large enough for wood to be stored a large distance away from the house, create barriers beneath the wood to deny them direct access. Thick concrete slabs or heavy duty metal stands can be used to raise the wood off of the ground.
Use treated lumber for any wooden structures that will have direct contact with the ground. While chemicals used in treating don’t guarantee that termites won’t invade the wood, they can act as a deterrent when used in wooden decks and patios.
Limit Wood to Ground Contact
Home improvement centers now offer concrete supports that raise the wooden support beams for decks and patios off the ground. Less wood touching the ground means a lesser likelihood that termites will be able to sniff it out or reach it.
As with most living things, termites generally cannot survive without a source of water present.
Identify and fix all water leaks in and around your home. Giving a colony a water source that close to your home just means they do not have to work as hard to find sustenance and can eat and drink in the same place at the expense of your house. Any standing or pooling water should also be dealt with.
Remove any brush or heavy growth from around your home. Dense vegetation can create areas of intense moisture, which is necessary for colony survival. Termites like it wet, so try and disappoint them as much as possible.
Proper Home Maintenance
Excessive moisture isn’t just bad in the sense that it attracts termites. It’s damaging to your home all on its own. Any home ailments, like waterlogged or leaky gutters or a poorly ventilated attic can cause moisture buildup that can do more than just bring termites down on your head.
As stated above, there’s not really a perfect termite repellant or any kind of chemical that will kill every single one. The best form of prevention is to not invite them over and to deny them any points of access.
Seal any cracks or holes within the foundation of your home. This will help prevent easy access for wandering termites.
Get your home inspected for termite damage. A once-a-year inspection can save your home with early detection. Even when termites are not found in the home, a trained pest control specialist can still offer recommendations to help you better prevent a future invasion. They may catch something you missed.
So, what happens if you take all of these precautions and termites still begin to munch on your home? Contact a pest control specialist in your area to help you deal with the problem. If you want to start tackling the problem right away, here are a few of the insect pest control options that are currently on the market.
This liquid pesticide is generally applied around the foundation of the house, as well as underneath the foundation. For new construction sites, the termiticide is applied to the graded soil as the home is being built, but for existing buildings, the foundation is partially dug out and drilled to ensure proper coverage. There are termiticides on the market that act as barriers and repellents to termite invasions, and there are termiticides that act as nerve poisons, killing the termites upon exposure.
Rather than acting as a deterrent to termite invasion, termite baits attempt to eliminate the colony at its source. Bait stations are set in the ground every 10 feet or so around the perimeter of the home. The treatment begins when untreated wood segments are installed in the bait units to determine if termites are active around the house. The units are checked once a week, and if live termites are found, the wood is replaced with a toxic bait that is ingested by the termites and carried back to the colony. The toxins in the bait affect the termites by preventing the molting process, causing them to die "within their shell." This long acting toxin allows the termites to both ingest the poison and carry it back to share with their colony.
Special bait units can also be installed inside the home if termites damage is evident. A new series of bait trapshave been developed by Dow Agrosciences to fight the more aggressive Formosan termite, which can penetrate cement, brick, heavy duty plastics, and high-pressure water lines just to get to food and water sources.
The best treatment option is a combination of termiticides and bait units set up both in the ground and throughout the house. Termites are hard to kill, and they are even harder to eradicate, so be tenacious in your efforts. Your best bet is to call a professional to help you. Over the counter solutions do not offer the same level of effectiveness that professional grade products do.