Termite infestations in your home: How to find, treat and …

Posted: May 16, 2020 at 4:47 pm

Ah, spring.

This is the season yes, right now when wood-eating termites set out in search of new digs to expand their colonies.Given the right conditions, they can tear a house to shreds all in plain sight of the unsuspecting homeowner.

Related: Got termites? Get packing

The thing about termites thats so frustrating is the damage they do is so in your face,said Michael Bentley, an entomologist who serves as director of training and education for the National Pest Management Association (NPMA). You think, Ill know it when I see it, right? And next thing you know, youve suddenly got a major issue on your hands.

According to the NPMA, termite infestations cause more than $5 billion in property damage in the U.S. each year costs not typically covered by home insurance policies.

Signs of termites

Spotting the indicators of termites is critical in eliminating and preventing future infestations.

While not everyone will witness the swarms descending on their home, they may stumble across other signs, such as what looks like sawdust piling up around the perimeter of the house but, on closer inspection, is really termite excrement.

Still, some people may find discarded termite wings collecting on windowsills or baseboards, as well as in spiderwebs.

Termites use their wings to put distance between them and their old colonies. Once they land, they lose the wings and set up settlements in and around your home.The most destructive of these are subterranean termites that (unlike drywood termites, which can infest outdoor wood structures and furniture) thrive on moisture.

If youve got water damage in your house, theyre going to find it and start feeding on that wood, Bentley said. And if they hit a gap in that wood, rather than allowing themselves to be exposed theyre going to build a tiny tunnel made of mud and other things to trap in moisture while they travel to a food source. So what you end up with are these tiny little mud tubes that you can see going from a baseboard to a windowsill.

Damage caused by termites

If allowed to feast, the damage proves devastating, as illustrated by the NPMAs commissioned Tiny Termite House project.

Built on a poured cement foundation, the Tiny Termite House has insulation, plumbing, and electricity, plus an in-ground swimming pool.

And its home to 500,000 termites.

The insects were poured onto the soil where they quickly entered the house through faults in the foundation. High-definition cameras have captured them eating through the house.

Moisture from theirmultiple mud tubes has caused the hardwood flooring to buckle. Mud tubes have also started forming around the homes foundation.

Its amazing how when you start to take down drywall in a home thats had termites for 8 months or a year, Bentley said. You find all the two-by-fours decimated. The structural integrity of the wall is now compromised and has to be rebuilt. And then it continues into the rafters.

Treating termites

While the subterranean colony is allowed to run amok in the Tiny Termite House, the critters shouldnt be allowed to in your home for all the reasons mentioned above.

There is nodo-it-yourself treatment for this; you need to call in a professional, Bentley said. Theyre trained to identify the evidence and come up with the best solution using the right products and applying those productsin the most effective way.

The NPMAs PestWorld.org has a find-a-pro locator where people can go to find a local licensed pest control specialist that offers different treatments depending on the species of termite.

Some companies offer tent fumigation services, while others offer a non-toxic alternative microwave treatment that kills the termites and their eggs where theyre actively reproducing using wall-penetrating heat.

Companies also use termite insecticides, including some naturally derived from plants.

The products used by pest management professionals are all evaluated by the EPA, so theyre tested for their safety, for their effectiveness, and for their ability to not persist in the environment after a certain period of time, he added.

Once a home has been treated, homeowners can discourage the return of termites by eliminating the conditions the critters like best. These include fixing plumbing leaks, ensuring gutters direct water away from the home, and eliminating wood-to-soil contact at the foundation, including mulch.

Just because a house was treated for termites doesnt mean another colony wont move in. To protect your investment against a later invasion, schedule annual pest control inspections.

I know this sounds cheesy but its true: there are two types of homes out there, Bentley said. There are homes that have termites and there are homes that are going to get termites.

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