Entomology departments often receive more calls about termites than any other household insect. Subterranean termites are serious pests; whose control is best left to professionals. Termites and termite management services can be confusing, however, and there are more options available today than ever before. Some of the most common termite questions raised by homeowners are answered below.
- Why worry about termites?
- Why are infestations often discovered during March – May?
- How will I know if my home is infested?
- Will the chemicals harm my family or pets?
Q: Why worry about termites?
A: They cause billions of dollars in damage each year. They primarily feed on wood, but also damage paper, books, insulation, and even swimming pool liners and filtration systems. Termites can injure living trees and shrubs, but more often are a secondary invader of woody plants already in decline. While buildings may become infested at any time, termites are of importance when buying or selling a home since a termite inspection/infestation report is normally a condition of sale. Besides the monetary impact, thousands of winged termites emerging inside one’s home are an emotionally trying experience — not to mention the thought of termites silently feasting on one’s largest investment.
Q: Why are infestations often discovered during March – May?
A: Spring typically is when large numbers of winged termites, known as “swarmers,” emerge inside homes. In nature, termites swarm to disperse and start new colonies. Triggered by warmer temperatures and rainfall, the winged ones emerge from the colony and fly into the air.
The swarmers then drop to the ground, shed their wings, pair off with a mate, and attempt to begin new colonies in the soil. Few swarmers emerging outdoors survive to start new colonies. Swarmers emerging indoors are incapable of eating wood, seldom survive, and are best removed with a vacuum. They do, however, indicate that an infestation is present.
Q: How will I know if my home is infested?
A: Discovering winged ones indoors almost always indicates an infestation warranting treatment.
People often confuse winged termites with ants, which often swarm at the same time of year. They can be differentiated by their straight antennae, uniform waist and wings of equal size. (Ants have elbowed antennae, constricted waists and forewings that are longer than the hind wings.)
The swarmers are attracted to light and are often seen around windows and doors. The swarmers emerging from tree stumps, woodpiles, and other locations out in the yard are not necessarily cause for concern, and do not necessarily mean that the house is infested. On the other hand, if winged termites are seen emerging from the base of a foundation wall or adjoining porches and patios, there’s a good chance the house is infested also and treatment may be warranted.
Other signs of infestation are earthen (mud) tubes extending over foundation walls, support piers, sill plates, floor joists, etc. The mud tubes are typically about the diameter of a pencil, but sometimes can be thicker.
They construct these tubes for shelter as they travel between their underground colonies and the structure. To help determine if an infestation is active, the tubes may be broken open and checked for the presence of small, creamy-white worker termites.
If a tube happens to be vacant, it does not necessarily mean that the infestation is inactive; termites often abandon sections of tube while foraging elsewhere in the structure.
Termite-damaged wood is usually hollowed out along the grain, with bits of dried mud or soil lining the feeding galleries. Wood damaged by moisture or other types of insects (e.g., carpenter ants) will not have this appearance. Occasionally termites bore tiny holes through plaster or drywall, accompanied by bits of soil around the margin. Rippled or sunken traces behind wall coverings can also be indicative of termites tunneling underneath.
Oftentimes there will be no visible indication that the home is infested. Termites are cryptic creatures and infestations can go undetected for years, hidden behind walls, floor coverings, insulation, and other obstructions. Termite feeding and damage can even progress undetected in wood that is exposed because the outer surface is usually left intact.
Q: Will the chemicals harm my family or pets?
A: Termiticides are tested extensively for adverse effects on health. Before a product can be used, numerous studies are conducted by the manufacturer and independently evaluated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Based on the current body of knowledge, registered termiticides pose no significant hazard to humans, pets or the environment when applied according to label directions. Despite the negligible health risk from a properly performed termite treatment, people with lingering concerns should consult their physician. Most of the newer liquid products have essentially no odor. Clients who are still apprehensive may want to consider having their home treated with baits.
When termites become a concern to you, you should call a professional that is skilled in identifying termite problems in your home and how to protect your home from these unwanted pests.
We at Southern Pest Control have been providing termite protection for many families in the Gulf Coast area for over 35 years. Please give us a call at 800 527-9852 to have one of our skilled technicians come give you a Free Estimate to have your home protected from termites. You are also welcome to visit our website at www.southernpestcontrol.biz to meet our team of trained professionals.