Professor Pest's Termite Control Guide provides tips, tricks, and best practices for effectively managing termite infestations in a range of environments. There are 4 primary types of termites in the United States, each with their own unique behavioral tendencies requiring their own unique treatment efforts.
Subterranean Termites: Found in every state other than Alaska, the subterranean termite is by far the most commonly encountered termite in the U.S. These termites make their colonies below ground, foraging above ground in search of cellulose-containing food sources. Treatment approaches for subterranean termites include liquid soil treatments, termite bait & monitoring systems, and localized termite foam applications, as well as prevention with borates. The formosan termite is a type of subterranean termite often requiring additional treatment measures beyond that which is needed for control of an eastern or native subterranean termite.
Drywood Termites: Found mostly in coastal southern states from California through South Carolina, the drywood differs from the subterranean termite in that it spends the entirety of its life within the wood that it is infesting (other than a potential brief swarm). Treatment approaches for drywood termites include a structural (tent) fumigation along with directed surface spray or injection treatment applications with termiticide liquids, foams, dusts, heat, or other technologies. Treatment for drywood termites does not include soil applications.
Dampwood Termites: Limited to select areas of Florida and Hawaii (in the U.S.), the dampwood termite is associated with moisture-saturated wood. This termite is significantly less common than either of the other two termite types.
Pest Control Everything provides access to many of the most effective termite control products on the market. A word of caution: effective termite control requires a comprehensive inspection in combination with a certain level of understanding as to the biology and habits of specific types of termites. In many instances, termite products are best applied utilizing very specific application equipment with very specific personal protective gear. It is highly advisable to consult a termite professional before attempting to do you own termite treatment.
Properly identifying termites is the obvious first step to remediation. But unless you've been trained in the pest control industry, you probably don't have any idea what to actually look for.
Presence of Live Termite Swarmers
One of the first indications of a termite infestation is often a termite swarm, where termites begin flying or fluttering through the air in short distances. This swarming activity is indicative of a maturing termite colony that is now looking to continue expanding. During this process, swarmers (called termite alates) emerge from their colony in search of a mate. Once connected or paired together, the new termite couple will quickly search for a suitable habitat to begin reproduction and start their own new termite colony. Fortunately, termites are sensitive to the elements, and desiccation and predators prevent most couples from successfully reaching safe harbor. The few that do, however, will begin the process of new colony formation.
While all termite species swarm, each species has its own unique swarming tendencies that can help with proper identification. Many subterranean termites species, for instance, typically swarm in the Spring or early Summer on warm, sunny days preceded by heavy rainfall. Drywood termites customarily swarm in late summer to early fall, often at nighttime. Although these swarming tendencies can help with termite species identification, it should be noted that under ideal circumstances, termites can swarm year-round. So swarming behavior should not be considered a definitive determination of termite species identification.
Presence of Termite Wings
Sometimes a termite swarm comes and goes without anybody actually seeing it. Fortunately, visible evidence of a termite swarm is generally left behind. One of the key indicators of a recent termite swarm is finding nearly translucent wings deposited on window ledges, baseboards, thresholds, lampshades, or other areas of the structure often in proximity to sources of light. When termite plates pair up, they will generally discard their wings as they move together towards a suitable mating site. The wings of each termite species are also unique, and can be used for definitive identification of termites. If you discover what you believe to be termite wings, be sure not to dispose of them as they may be critical to helping determine what kind of termite you're dealing with and where their colony may be located.
Remember, the presence of a termite swarm or termite wings inside your home indicates an established termite colony nearby, usually also within the home. (In some instances, a termite colony in the environment outside can produce swarmers that work their way inside the building, but these instances are relatively uncommon. If you discover termite swarmers or termite wings indoors, a comprehensive termite inspection should follow. It should also be noted that many species of ants also swarm and may deposit wings that appear similar to termite wings. So the presence of wings alone may or may not specifically be associated with a termite infestation.
Presence of Termite Mud Tubes, Pellets, or Frass
Subterranean termites, the most commonly encountered termite in the United States, travel above ground from their underground colony via termite mud tubes or mud tunnels. In many instances, these termite mud tubes are readily visible on the exterior foundation of the home, along utility penetrations, on block supports or other piers, or along structural wood members. In advanced termite infestations, termite mud tubes can also be seeing hanging or dropping down from the ceiling (termite drop tubes) or emerging through infested walls. Unlike subterranean termites, drywood termites spend the entirety of their lives inside the wood they are infesting (other than during their brief swarm) without the need for any contact with the soil.
Instead of mud tubes, drywood termites will kick out tiny frass or pellets from pinholes in the wood they are infesting. A tell-tale sign of a drywood termite infestation is a pile or smattering of uniform pellets directly below the point of infestation.
To see if a termite mud tube is active, scrape away a small portion of the tunnel. If termites are actively foraging, they will quickly emerge and begin to repair the broken tube.
Drywood Termite Damage and Pellets
Presence of Termite Damage
Finding termite damage is another obvious indication of a termite infestation. In some instances, damages from mold or various types of wood rot might be confused for termite damage, so a professional inspection is advisable anytime structural damage is discovered. It is critical to have the damage assessed prior to initiating repairs or sealing the area back up in order to make sure a comprehensive treatment can be performed.
Depending on the age and history of your home, termite damage can remain after a termite problem has been resolved. So it is important to determine whether the damage is from an active termite population or if it is simply remnants of a previous problem that has already been taken care of.
Presence of Live Worker Termites
Unlike the termite swarmers, which are visible outside the colony and aren't actually eating any of the wood inside your home, the worker termites are the ones actually doing the damage. And they are the termites you are least likely to encounter, because they spend their existence either within the wood they are consuming, traveling inside their termite mud tunnels, or back at their underground colony. If you do happen to break open some wood or other part of the structure and discover them, however, a comprehensive termite inspection should follow. Most termite colonies are made up primarily of worker termites (the ones doing the work and foraging for food), the soldier termites (whose responsibility it is to protect the colony from predators and other threats), the reproductive termites (swarmers, alates), and of course the queen termite.
Which Termite Bait Systems are the Best?
Termite bait & monitoring systems can be a highly effective way of protecting structures from termites, and in some instances, eradicating an active termite infestation. Here is a quick overview of how termite bait and monitoring systems are designed to work:
Initially, a series of termite monitors are installed in the ground around the perimeter of a structure, typically within 3 feet of the foundation and spaced every 10-15 feet (spacing may vary depending upon the particular termite monitoring system being used). These termite monitors initially contained untreated and/or a preferred termite food source, but no termiticide or termite bait.
After installation of the termite monitoring devices, monitoring begins with inspections of each termite monitoring station at intervals designated by the product label. If and when termites are found actively feeding within any termite monitoring device, the wood / monitoring component is removed and replaced with an actual termite bait device, which contains the active ingredients that will kill termites. Termites then begin feeding on the newly introduced termite bait, pass toxic levels along to all the other termites they come in contact with on their way back to the colony, and slowly begin to die out. Eventually, this transfer process or domino effect is designed to work the toxic levels throughout the entirety of the colony, resulting in total colony elimination.
Termite monitors are an excellent option for termite protection and prevention, as it enables pest professionals or do-it-yourselfers the ability to detect the presence of termites in proximity to a structure before they have an opportunity to gain access. In instances where an active infestation of termites already exists within the structure, additional liquid or foam termite treatments may be advisable in combination with a termite monitoring system.
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