Termites: Signs of a Problem & Methods of Prevention
Termites are insects that eat wood and plant matter. For homeowners, termites can be a source of anxiety. Left unchecked, a termite problem can do serious damage to a home, garage or shed.
However, not all homeowners know how to tell when they have a termite problem or how to prevent one. Knowing what termites look like, what the warning signs are, and how to keep termites out of your home can help you take care of your property and avoid costly damage.
How Can You Tell If You Have Termites?
There are many different ways to tell when you have termites. Visual sightings, damaged wood, and mud tunnels can all point to termites.
Termites look a little bit like ants with wings, and sometimes one can be mistaken for the other. The best way to tell the difference is by checking the length of the wings. Termites have two sets of wings, both of equal length. Ants have longer front wings and shorter hind wings. Adult termites are dark brown or blackish-brown and about 3/8 of an inch in length.
Termites are usually not seen unless they swarm. When this happens, they will emerge in the thousands from the colony, often filling a room and moving toward a light source. Termites only swarm in the early spring when the temperature reaches 70 degrees Fahrenheit or more. Usually, swarms are seen after a heavy rain.
Damaged or Hollow Wood
Termites eat wood from the inside out, so you may encounter a piece of timber or even a floorboard that has been completely hollowed out.
Sometimes with floor boards, termites eat the wood until they come to the heavily lacquered surface, and then they stop. This habit leaves the wood paper thin but still visually intact. When you touch the piece of floorboard, you’ll realize the wood is not solid inside. Or you may knock on a piece of lumber and hear a hollow sound.
Often, homeowners discover this damaged wood after or during a construction project. For example, some homeowners won't discover termite damage until they tear back a layer of carpet and discover partially or completely ruined hardwood floorboards underneath. Other times, homeowners will find damaged wood in a crawl space or in the attic.
Termites build mud tunnels for the same reason that people build subway tunnels: for transportation. Mud tunnels are pencil-thin tunnels made from a combination of wood and soil. Mud tunnels can be built out of a colony to the ground or in exploration. Often, mud tunnels are found in the basement or outside the home, along the foundation.
Many homeowners who see mud tunnels do not recognize them for what they are. These fragile tunnels can be easily damaged or destroyed. However, in protected areas (like the dark corner of a basement) mud tunnels can last for a long time after termites have been exterminated. Homeowners who find mud tunnels should not panic but instead should contact a reputable pest control company for an inspection.
What Can You Do to Prevent Termites?
Termite prevention is not foolproof. Although you can do some things to make your home less attractive to termites, no fail-safe way exists to keep termites away. Some simple suggestions include:
- Keep wood piles away from the house.
- Encourage good drainage around the house.
- Inspect the property periodically for termite damage.
- Fix leaks as soon as they develop.
- Make repairs to the roof as soon as damage has been discovered.
- Caulk or seal holes and cracks in the foundation as they are noticed.
The best way to prevent termites is to contact a reputable pest control company and have your home inspected on a regular basis for a termite infestation. This preventative measure is especially important if other homes in the neighborhood have recently been treated for termites since termite swarms will stay in the general area when looking for a new place to make a colony.
Once a home has been treated for a termite infestation, the termiticide will continue to work for years after the initial treatment. Your pest control person will tell you how long the termiticide should work. A good pest control company will also warranty their work. Find out what the terms of the warranty so you can call back your pest control company if needed.
Who Can You Talk to for More Information?
Termites can be a big pest. Homeowners who are proactive in their search for information about termites can protect their home and avoid the worst of the damage.
If you're a homeowner who is concerned about termites, or if you have questions about how to identify and prevent termites, contact us at Greenleaf Organic Pest Management, Inc.We'll be happy to answer your questions and give you more information.