Preventing termite damage is a never ending task for home owners that if ignored or delayed can lead to major and costly repair work. Key to preventing termites and exterminating termites when they are found, is having some knowledge about these insect pests, their habits, identification, and products to use against them.
It is important to know what termites look like and where they are likely to be found. Termites are often called "white ants" because of their similar size and shape, but whereas ants have narrow waists between their abdomen and thorax, termites do not. Termites are often white or cream colored and have straight unjointed antennae while ants are darker in color and have bent, elbow like antennae. Both termites and ants go through a swarming stage when existing nests produce sexually active, winged adults that fly to spread to new areas. Termite's two pair of wings are nearly equal in size while ants have larger front wings. Often seeing winged termites inside a house, flying around a light or piled up along a window sill, is the first sign of a termite problem. Another sign of termites is the presence of mud tubes on walls and support structures. Being soft bodied and lacking most body pigments, termites like to stay out of the light and where it is moist. They build the mud tubes for protection as they travel to the areas where they feed. Most termites do not nest in the wood they are feeding on, instead they have a nest in the ground where their queen is housed along with the developing young. To get rid of termites their nest has to be destroyed and their queen killed. Both formosan and dry wood termites do not need to nest in the ground, and some of the signs they leave include pile of wood frass which looks like dry sawdust and weakened boards riddled with holes. Checking for signs of termites should be done regularly by doing a walk through and around. Check along foundations, basement walls, crawl spaces, and in attics for sign of termites. Look for discolored water stained boards and tap on baseboards and wood framing to see if the wood is sound.
Learning how to prevent termites is important because often by the time they are found, termites have already done major damage to wood structures. Soil treatments are one of the best ways to prevent ground termites from attacking a house. There are many chemical termiticides for treating the soil around a house but applying them is a job best done by professional exterminators that are licensed. A furrow has to be dug all the way around the foundation that is around a foot wide and half a foot deep. A termiticide solution is mixed up and poured along the furrow to soak the soil. Some soil treatment products for termites include, Premise 75, Termidor 80, and Phantom which kill termites that try to dig through the treated soil, and Talstar, Demon, Prevail FT, Permethrin Pro, and Bifen I/T, which are termite repellents. If termites are already present under the foundation then holes have to be drilled through it and gallons of the treatment solution pumped in as well as a putting a perimeter barrier in place. During termite season, when the weather is warm and wet, fumigants can be used in attics to repel any termite swarmers that might fly in to set up a nest. Termites are attracted to rotting wood so it is important to guard against this by keeping the wood dry. Watch for leaky faucets or plumbing around the house. Keep gutters clean and repaired so they don't overflow and soak attic or foundation boards. Check for roof leaks after storms and check basements and crawlspaces for leaks or stopped up drains. Caulk any cracks in exterior walls or basement floors as termites can get through the tiniest ones. Look for any places where water stands next to the house after a storm and install drains or slope the lands so the water will flow away from the house.
Any termite infested wood must be removed and replaced after the termites are killed. Damp wood that is not infested and still sound should be dried and treated with a boric acid based product to repel and kill termites. Some products to use include, Borrada, Borid, Timbor, and Bora-care. Boric acid is the active ingredient in most roach powders and is consider to be one of the safest insecticides for household use. It will remain active as long as it stays dry and will kill all kinds of insects. Simply killing the termites in the house will not totally take care of the problem as the nest of ground dwelling termites will still exist. One way to deal with them is through the use of termite baits. Termite baits are meant to be found by the termite workers, who carry it back to the nest to be fed to the rest of the colony including the queen. Once the queen termite has been killed the nest will die out. Some brand name termite baits include, Firstline, Advance, Exterra, Tericon, Sentricon, and Hex-Pro. Termite baits are considered one of the most environmentally sound ways of fighting termites. There are also biological termite treatments that use fungi, bacteria, and even nematodes to kill termites. Biological termiticides include, Bio-Blast which uses a fungi and two products from Arizona Biological Control Inc. that use a bacteria and nematodes. Because they contain living organisms these products have to be applied in a narrow range of conditions but they are species specific and are non toxic to other life forms.
Knowing how and where to check for termites, how to prevent termites, and what to use to treat termite infestations, will hopefully help when it comes to keeping your house termite free.