You can’t see them, hear them or smell them, but they are in your home eating, drinking and merrily carrying on. It’s not your teenage children having a party while you’re away for the weekend trying to enjoy some quality time. It’s termites! They are methodically consuming the wood that supports your door, window, and house frames. Yikes! If you have been a homeowner for any length of time, you have probably had to deal with the dreaded “Eastern Subterranean Termite” …or have at least heard a few horror stories.
There is a logical reason why you’ve heard of termites before; they cost property owners billions of dollars of damage to homes and commercial property in the America every year. The average Eastern Subterranean Termite colony contains 60,000 individual insects and can get much larger—upwards of hundreds of thousands—with the proper “diet” and favorable conditions.
The first thing you should know about termites as a homeowner is that, they don’t need moisture (i.e.: leaky roof, leaky window, leaky pipe, leaky shower, ect.) to exist in order to infest your home. The most common “manifestation of infestation” in a home is an area where the wooden part of your home is in contact with or close (6 inches) to the soil. To get the proper picture you have to envision of termites as ants. They send out scouts and “randomly” wander in search of food. When they find food, they mark the trail and alert the others. Soon, the party begins! The difference between ants and termites is that termites do this all below ground. Most of the wandering is going on a mere three inches below the surface.
Other interesting bits of termite trivia gleaned from university researchers.
- They are beneficial insects because they are part of nature’s recycling “muscles.” If a tree falls and a wandering termite finds it, the termite marks the trail and the recycling begins (with the additional help of funguses and other wood consuming insects.) We don’t want them infesting our homes, but we should leave them be in their natural habitat doing what they do best.
- The average termite colony consumes 1/5 oz of wood each day, thus it would take 118 days to eat one foot of a 2×4. It may not sound threatening, but it all depends on the size of the colony, how long they’ve been consuming and whether they’re consuming a pile of wood under the porch or the main beam of your home.
- Wood/cellulose is their primary source of nourishment.
- Termites prefer softwoods (i.e. 2×4, 2×6) as opposed to hardwoods.
- Homes with solid concrete foundations are less susceptible to termite attacks because they offer the least opportunity to find a hidden pathway from the soil to the wood frame of your home. Brick and cinderblock foundations offer a lot more opportunity/hidden passages.
- They do give off an odor when they have infested wood. There are companies in the pest control industry that have trained Beagles that can smell termite activity.
What can we do to prevent the infestation/consumption of our homes from termites?
- Correct any wood-to-soil contact. The closer the wood is to the soil, the more likely the termites will wander into it. The most vulnerable areas for attack are:
the garage door frame base
hatchway doorframe base
basement window frames
cellar stairs at their base, and
entryways with steps that come up over the sill plate of your homeRemove wood debris from crawl spaces and from under porches and decks.
- Direct moisture away from our homes.
- Consider using stone instead of bark mulch. Four to Six inches of mulch around your home provide the moisture, temperature and ease of movement that gives termites a reason to wander around.
- Get an annual “Peace of Mind” inspection by a pest control professional. These inspections are very cost effective and you will gain the knowledge necessary to make your home undesirable to a termite. Also, if you are planning to sell your home in the near future, it’s a good idea to get your home inspected prior to putting it on the market. If there is a problem, you can deal with it in a measured and more cost effective way.
Should you be the unlucky homeowner who finds termites during a renovation project or you get a termite swarm inside your home (it’s snowing ants!) you’ll need to call a professional to evaluate your specific situation and recommend the best treatment options for you.