Home ownership can be an unending series of adventures, especially for those homeowners who love good home improvement projects. Some projects are fun and improve the value of a home instantly, while others are undertaken to address a potentially serious issue.
Discovering that termites are taking up residence where you live can be disconcerting, but termites are a very common occurrence. Understanding termites and recognizing the signs of termite damage early on can help homeowners reduce the havoc that such critters can wreak on their homes.
Termites are social insects that live together in colonies. These colonies eat nonstop, dining on wood and other cellulose plant matter. They also eat materials made from plants, like fabric and paper. According to the National Pest Management Association, termites cause more than $5 billion in property damage a year. Studies show that queen termites can live up to decades under ideal climate conditions while workers and soldiers live approximately one to two years.
While there are many varieties of termites, all are silent destroyers capable of chewing undetected through housing structures. To eradicate termites, homeowners must first identify the insects and then contact a termite management specialist to address the pest problem.
Termites may not always be visible. Subterranean termite homes are usually formed in soil, where the termites build elaborate tunnel systems that channel through to above-ground food sources. Drywood and dampwood termites may live within the wood they consume and be undetectable until the wood collapses or rots away. Homeowners often realize they have a termite problem when they witness swarming termites. At this point there already may be a mature colony at work damaging a home. Swarming, winged termites form in a mature, established colony. Winged termites emerge and fly off looking for mates. Afterward they will locate a new breeding site and form another colony, potentially spreading infestations through multiple locations. Winged termites are attracted to light and can be seen by windows and doors in spring.
Other signs of termites include accumulation of soil or dirt at the base of wood structures or the foundation of a home. There also may be fissures or cracks near wood surfaces. Sometimes "frass" or termite droppings can be seen. They appear as rough, granulated sawdust.
Covered mud tubes, or channels of mud leading from the soil up the foundation of a home, are indicative of the presence of termites. Even if termites are no longer present in these tubes, that does not mean the termites have moved on. They simply may have chosen a new path to your home.
Keeping termites away
Once termites have been identified, it is time to eliminate them. This means getting rid of water and food sources that are close to a home.
* Repair leaky faucets and other water drips in and around the house.
* Keep gutters and downspouts clean.
* Seal entry points around water and utility lines or pipes.
* Divert water away from the foundation.
* Keep lumber, firewood or paper away from the foundation of the home.
* Clear away stumps and tree debris.
* Prevent untreated wood from contacting the soil.
It is very difficult for homeowners to get rid of termites by themselves. Very often they require the work of professionals. A termite exterminator will conduct a visual inspection of a home and property and may do extensive testing involving expensive acoustic or infrared equipment to probe the soil beneath the house.
Depending on the species of termite, the exterminator will suggest various treatments. These may include the application of pesticides and making areas around the home less hospitable to termites. Severely damaged wood may need to be removed and replaced.
Termites are problematic in many areas of the world. These insects often stay hidden and do serious damage that can cost homeowners a fortune. Treating termites promptly is essential.