As the ground warms across the country, from the South up to the North, termite populations emerge in search of a new structure to invade. They send their explorers, also referred to as swarmers, in search of hospitable habitats such as homes that may have sustained damage during the winter months due to rain or snow.  Because swarmers have such a similar appearance to that of a winged or flying ant, many homeowners may dismiss them as such upon finding them inside their home – a big mistake.  If swarmers determine your home to be their perfect home, it’s a safe bet the rest of their colony will follow.

Subterranean Termites

Signs of Termite Damage

It is not always possible for an untrained individual to see evidence of termites; however, homeowners can sometimes identify a potential termite problem by being vigilant in and around the home. If you see any of the following, it’s time to contact a professional who can immediately determine the extent of the problem and provide a recommendation about the appropriate course of treatment.

  1. Mud tubes (used by termites to reach a food source) on the exterior of the home
  2. Soft wood in the home that sounds hollow when tapped
  3. Darkening or blistering of wood structures
  4. Uneven or bubbling paint
  5. Small piles of feces that resembles sawdust near a termite nest
  6. Discarded wings near doors or on windowsills indicating swarmers have entered the home

Tips to avoid Termite Problems

Subterranean termites live in colonies deep in the ground where the queen, king, and supplemental reproductives produce nymphs  that are raised to become active members of the colony. 

       

   “Worker” termites do all the damage to wood in homes, and feed all the other members of the colony.  “Soldier” termites protect the colony, usually from ants.   “Swarmers” are the winged reproductives that swarm in order to disperse, mate, and burrow into soil to start new colonies.  Swarmers inside homes usually  fly short distances, fall to the floor, shed their wings and die since there is no soil to bore into.

Subterranean termites usually move about by tunneling underground and entering their food supply from below.  Since termites are most likely to gain entry via soil, there are some simple things you can do to decrease the probability of infestation or re-infestation in your home….even if a termite treatment has previously been applied.

Things to look for that may indicate termite activity:

– Tunnels of mud on the foundation walls, support piers, sill plates, floor       joists, headers and sub floors of the house.                                           

   – Termite damaged wood may be hollowed out along the grain, with bits of dried mud or soil lining the galleries.                                                   

   – Very small holes or weak spots on any wood surface, or wall surfaces in or outside your home.                                                                         

   – Paint that has started to buckle or look blistery on wood surfaces          

What are termites attracted to, besides wood?  Moisture. The good news is that many moisture problems start in areas you can identify and correct yourself.                                                                                                                                     

You can never prevent termite infestations with 100% certainty.  However, you can make corrective measures around the home to decrease the probability. 

___Avoid moisture near the foundation. Divert water away by sloping ground to drain surface water away from the foundation. 

___Avoid outside moisture around the house by trimming shrubs, bushes or other dense greenery away from the foundation to allow air movement for drying purposes.

___Move wood piles (or other debris) that may be up against the homes foundation.  If you burn wood in the winter, raise the wood off the ground and leave space between wood and foundation.  In spring, move remaining wood away from the home.

___Do not store wood or paper products on concrete garage floors, or in close proximity to the foundation area (or on top of the soil inside sheds, barns, etc).  These items should be in non-cellulose containers or raised up and off the floor on shelving for visual inspection under and behind. The smallest cracks in foundations, basement floors or slab concrete (i.e. garages floors) allow entry to the structure for termites looking for food.

___Leaky water pipes from any source.

___Clean gutters, downspouts and make sure the extensions carry the rain water well away from the foundation.  If water is coming between the gutter and the roof edge, it may be a sign that the gutters have pulled away from the roof line and need repair.  Water running over the edge may indicate a sloping problem or clogged gutters.  Soil eroded by water can wash away termite treated soil leaving treatment gaps. Check these areas during or right after a hard rain to locate problem areas.

___Crawlspaces should be dry, well vented and have no debris inside. Check sump pumps to make sure they are functioning properly.  Standing water can slowly dilute the termiticide barrier around the foundation areas or in the crawlspace and allow termites to once again infest the structure.

___Make sure water from any source ends up well away from the house.

___Any concrete against the foundation (porches, concrete slabs, or wood patios) should be angled to drain water away from the house itself.

___Remove any timber or cellulose material close to the structure or under open porches and decks.

___Stucco, foam or ridged insulation inside or outside the foundation allows termites to tunnel through it or behind it and limits visual signs of their activity.

___Batt insulation in sub floors (between joists) hides termite activity behind and limits visible evidence of termite foraging until major damage is done.

___Eliminate any wood in direct contact with the soil.  For example, wood mulch may attract termites, especially when moist.

___Repair roof or condensation leaks.

___Remove all debris in the crawlspace, regardless of type.  Concrete pieces, tar paper, wood debris, or stored items placed on top of soil holds moisture.  It also hides termite activity and prevents soil from drying.

___Any siding (brick, vinyl, shingles or wood) below soil level hides entry points for termites…..expose the foundation wherever possible.

In summary, termites need high moisture levels to survive.  Reducing moisture in the structure makes your home less appetizing to termites.

ANNUAL TERMITE AGREEMENT

The annual termite inspection provides a visual inspection for termite activity in critical areas were termites usually appear.   But we live in our homes, and many areas are naturally hidden from inspection, for example:  fixed or  suspended ceilings, wall and floor coverings, insulation, cabinets, freezers, refrigerators, or stored items, to name a few…. and some areas are just inaccessible.

Your annual agreement covers retreatment for termites should they reinfest the home, the annual inspection is  just a part of that coverage. Your input in keeping us informed of any possible termite activity is critical in making sure your home remains termite free.  Watch for any unusual signs of infestation while cleaning cabinets, moving large appliances, cleaning the garage or basement. removing wall coverings, ceilings or siding.   If you see signs, any time of the year, or have a question, contact us at 217-994-0517.