When you think of termites, you’re not likely to feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Termites are serious pests and can cause significant damage to your home or business. They are nicknamed the “silent destroyers” because they may cause serious destruction without your knowledge. Remain vigilant when looking for termites to avoid costly repairs. Professional termite management solutions are always recommended when dealing with termites.
What Are Termites?
Despite their reputation, termites aren’t all bad. They actually benefit the environment by breaking down waste products as they introduce critical nutrients into soil. Unfortunately, these silent invaders perform the same actions on your home, leaving a path of destruction. They feed mostly on wood, and they can significantly damage the structural integrity of buildings. Damage from termites can even make your home uninhabitable, requiring costly repairs.Termites are social insects with a king and queen residing in an underground nest. The wood-munching bugs typically make their nests near tree stumps or wood piles to easily access a food source. A termite queen can lay thousands of eggs annually and continue to reproduce for as long as five years. Mature colonies can expand to contain anywhere from hundreds of thousands to millions of termite workers. The worker termites are responsible for colony protection and foraging for food.
The reason subterranean termites can destroy an entire home is due to their structural makeup. Termites have razor-sharp jaws and the capability of eating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Termites will look for food up to 200 feet away from their nesting sites. The larger termite colonies are likely to have multiple nesting sites on a single property. Unfortunately, although termites can have large colonies, the insects can easily go undetected for years. In many cases, termite damage may not even be seen until structures fail or home renovations are underway. This is the reason termite inspections are a required part of selling a home.
Termites can be as small as 1/4″ and grow to an average of 1/2.” King and queen termites are always the largest with measurements up to one inch. Termites have the following distinctive features to identify them from other types of bugs:
- Straight, beaded antennae
- Uniform waists
- Equal-sized wings (although termites typically shed their wings once they find a nesting ground)
- Long, narrow oval bodies
The color and size of termites vary from type to type. Here are a few common types of termites found around the home:
- Drywood: These termites tend to make their nests in dry pieces of wood and have a light brown color. They measure an average of 3/8.”
- Subterranean: These small termites require soil to live and typically reside in damp areas. They can range in size from 1/8” to 1.” They have a light brown color.
- Dampwood: As their name reflects, these termites prefer damp pieces of wood. They have a brownish color and measure ½” to 5/8.”
Once termites mature, they create colonies with queens and kings with the queens lay millions of eggs annually. The rest of the colony will be responsible for different duties. The workers will care for the young, feed the colony, and maintain the nest. Soldiers in the colony protect by fending off predators.
Are Termites Harmful?
Besides making structures unsafe for your family, you may have concerns over what type of effect they can have on your health. One of the biggest concerns if you live in a home with termites is that you could suffer an allergic reaction. Their presence could affect air quality since wood particles and dust are constantly being released in the air. Individuals can also be allergic to termite saliva and droppings. Home heating and air conditioner systems contribute to spreading harmful particles throughout the home. Termites may also bite and sting when they come in contact with humans and pets. However, termites are not known for carrying diseases that can compromise human health.
Another concern is if you chemically treat a termite infestation on your own- it is always better to have a trained professional do this job. Chemical pesticides can cause numerous side effects. Individuals may be allergic to the chemicals in the pesticide. Harsh pesticides can be very dangerous and potentially toxic if all instructions are not followed properly. Since termite infestations can occur deep within the bones of a home, it’s very difficult to guarantee you’re properly ventilating the area during applications.
What Causes Termites?
Finding out the cause of termites is useful for preventing future infestations. Pest management professionals can help you outline a plan to keep your home safe from termites. Home repairs and relocation of plants and trees are a few steps you can take to stop termites from reentering your home. Keeping the foundation sealed and dry will make a big difference in the long run. Seal all openings from top to bottom. Termites can even enter from the roof if you have any limbs touching the top of your home. If you have gone through a termite infestation, you may already know what areas are vulnerable. If a tree or shrub is infested on your property, you may need to remove it.
You may also want to find out if your state is prone to termites due to the climate. Areas with warmer and wetter weather are more likely to see higher incidences of termite swarms. The United States Forest Service has a map available to give you an idea of your area’s probability for attracting termites. Termite swarms are particularly common when temperatures have risen after the winter thaw.
On average, termites will cause at least $3,000 in damage to your property when they strike. Since termites can destroy the value of a home, termite inspections are required before selling a property. This is to protect new buyers from shelling out thousands in repairs.
Don’t attempt to tackle a potential termite problem on your own. Contact the professional team at Carolina Pest Management for help. For decades, they have served the Charlotte area and take a personalized approach to pest management. Contact us for more information on termite control in Charlotte.
Signs of Termites
In most cases termites can go undetected for a good amount of time. You may not actually become aware of termites until you come across a swarm or note damage to building materials.
Early action is critical for preventing extensive termite damage. By knowing the signs that you may have termites, you can work with a professional to quickly evict these destructive insects from your home before catastrophe strikes.
1. Evidence of a Swarm
Winged termites on a mission to reproduce emerge from the ground in massive groups known as “reproductive swarms.” These swarms typically occur in the spring or early in the summer, and they include insects seeking a mate, reproduction and establishment of a colony. If you spot a pile of small, transparent wings in your basement or around your home, a termite colony may have taken up residence in your house.
2. Construction Damage
Property damage is another sign of termites. Since termites can get inside the walls of your home and cause damage, you may not notice any signs until it is uncovered during a home construction project or remodel. In the worst-case scenario, you may not find the problem until the damage is serious enough to cause structural damage. The best plan of action when discovering termites is consulting with pest management professionals who can address the problem and take steps to protect your home in the future.
3. A Tell-Tale Home Inspection
If you’re buying or selling a home, an inspector may spot evidence of termites. In most cases, buyers will want to know if termites are active, which can be tough to determine. Since termites live inside walls, most of their activity is beyond view. But evidence of termites alone is no reason to abandon a deal, especially if the damage is minimal. A professional can take steps to control termite activity and protect the property from further damage.
Termites are ravenous eaters and their presence can cause problems such as sagging floors, cracked areas of paint, bubbling paint and sagging ceilings. If you notice any of these, the home is likely unsafe for occupancy. You should call for a termite inspection in Charlotte right away.
4. Transit Tunnels
Narrow mud tubes running along your outside walls are evidence that termites have built tunnels between their nest and their source of food — the wood in your home. Tunnels along your foundation can indicate access by subterranean termites. These tunnels are approximately the size of a pencil.
5. Hollow Sounds
Have you noticed a wooden portion of your home that sounds hollow when you tap? Termites eat wood starting on the inside, so a hollow sound could indicate damage. If a professional finds a termite infestation, you’ll need to replace the wood and have your home treated to prevent future damage.
6. Damage from Drywood Termites
Drywood termites live in the southern part of the United States, including North Carolina. They set up colonies in wooden structures and feed on the wood, either inside walls or in furniture. You may notice an infestation only once damage has become apparent, often manifesting as a cracked veneer that reveals tunnels underneath.
Have you spotted any of these six signs that your home could have a termite infestation? For assistance, please contact the professionals at Carolina Pest Management.
Getting Rid of Termites
Denying access to food is typically the best bet to get rid of termites before they take hold. This could mean relocating a firewood pile or grinding down a tree stump. To get rid of termites, homeowners can stop them from entering a home for food by placing screens over any exterior vents.
Bait traps are sometimes used as a way to kill termites. A bait trap is set up nearby a colony and once the termites feed off of the bait, the colony dies off. Another technique is to apply termiticide to areas as a way to kill termites. Homeowners are not advised to use chemical pesticides to treat termites due to their high levels of toxicity.
A natural method used to kill exposed termites is the application of a salt-water solution. Acidic solutions are also employed to kill termites on contact. Examples include vinegar and lemon solutions and orange oil sprays. The acidity dissolves the exoskeleton of termites when it comes in direct contact. Beneficial nematodes can also be released into your garden soil to get rid of termites. The nematodes release bacteria that can be highly toxic to termites.
Unfortunately, many natural DIY methods used to get rid of termites are typically only useful if you can locate the termites’ colony and if they have infested an outdoor area. If termites are destroying building materials within your walls, you’ll absolutely need professional help to address the issue. The longer a termite issue remains unresolved, the more expensive it will be to repair the damage they have caused.
Termite prevention is a serious matter for all homeowners. According to the National Pest Management Association, termites are responsible for approximately $5 billion in damage annually. Most distressingly, the cost of repairs for termite damage falls into the laps of homeowners since most insurance companies won’t provide coverage for termites. In the Carolinas, the most problematic of all types of termites is the subterranean species that typically lives underground, but will move up to the surface level as a way to wreak havoc on structures.
The best-case scenario is to stop a termite infestation before it starts. Through preventative measures, you can safeguard your property from ravenous termites. Older properties are more susceptible to termite infestation. With new construction, you can actually include building materials as a way to prevent termites. For instance, a termite barrier constructed from rock particles can help prevent termites from entering the home through the ground. Stainless steel mesh is another option and is especially useful around problematic house joints.
In existing properties, you can still prevent termites from getting into your home. Here are some of our top tips for termite prevention:
Reducing Soil Contact
Start off by inspecting around your home to check for areas where any soil and wood come into direct contact. Any type of wood material should be removed from around the foundation, including paper, plants, lumber and cardboard. If you have mulch outside of your home, you should have a barrier of at least four inches between the edge of the mulch and the house. During your inspection of the foundation, you must check for mud tubes. Mud tubes are created by termites from wood and soil and are used by termites to reach their food sources. The tubes are meant to protect termites and maintain the high humidity levels needed for their survival. When the tubes are broken open, you may or may not see signs of active termites. If no termites are present, it doesn’t mean your property is free of an infestation. Rather, the tubes may have simply been abandoned.
Termites thrive in soil with high moisture levels. A home with poor drainage will be more prone to infestations. Divert water away from the home with the use of a French drain, sump pump or downspouts and gutters that are working properly. Remove any debris to allow water to flow freely. Installing splash blocks at the base of the downspout will push water away from the home during periods of heavy rain. Proper grading is also a must when trying to control moisture levels around the foundation of a home.
Repair Plumbing Issues
All types of plumbing leaks should be repaired immediately. Leaky faucets and pipes create excess moisture, which attracts termites. Air conditioning units must be free of leaks as well. Any type of overflow caused by air conditioners or hot water heaters must be diverted away from the property.
Control Air Moisture
Termites prefer humid conditions. Proper ventilation in basements and crawlspaces is a must. If you have issues with moisture control in these areas, products such as dehumidifiers, automatic temp vents or power vents are very useful. Also, check existing vents to confirm that they aren’t being blocked. Vents that lead to the outside of the home can be covered with mesh to prevent termites from entering. To control moisture in crawlspaces, a vapor barrier is available for installation on the floor.
Fix Existing Damage
Any type of wood that has been damaged should be repaired immediately. This is especially important for windowsills, floor joists and wood flooring materials. While making repairs, soil should be kept at least 18 inches away from joists and 12 inches away from girders. The roof and foundation must also be inspected for damage since they contain vulnerable areas through which termites may enter. Cement can be used to repair any cracks or holes in masonry work. Repair any broken or missing roof shingles too. Keep in mind that wood shingles are prone to damage by drywood termites.
Eliminate Wood Contact
Outdoor wood structures such as decks, fences and trellises should never come into direct contact with the soil. There must be at least two inches of clearance between the soil and the wood. When installing new fence posts or constructing a new retaining wall, choose only wood that has been treated against termites.
Although it may be convenient to have firewood next to your home, this will only invite future termite infestations. Wood should be stored away from a home’s foundation and never put away in crawlspaces. At a minimum, place firewood 20 feet away from a home. Leaf piles should be kept away from the main structure of a home too. Any tree stumps found on the property must be removed since they are common nesting sites for termites. Decorative wood chips near a home are also a major faux pas if you want to prevent termites. Avoid any outdoor climbing plants too since this allows for easier termite entry into the home.
While most termite prevention steps focus on eliminating wood and water around a home, you also must be mindful of your outdoor lighting. During swarming season after the winter frost, flying termites can and will get drawn in by outdoor lights. If possible, keep the lights off at night. Relocating any lights away from doors and windows will also prevent termites from entering the home.
When a new home is being built, it is the perfect time to include products that prevent termites from infesting a structure. For instance, a basaltic termite barrier is manufactured from rock particles and is placed beneath a new building to stop subterranean termites from entering the structure. Poured concrete foundations make termites work hard to get into a home, but infestations still happen when cracks inevitably occur in the concrete and if termites find passage through holes for pipes and other features. The type of materials used in new home construction will aid in the prevention of termites. Heartwood and pressure treated wood are resistant to termites, as is steel framework.
Chemical products are available to prevent termites from infesting a home. Termiticide is applied to the soil around a building and beneath the structure. The products are meant both to repel termites and create toxic conditions for the insects. Homeowners should not apply termiticides without professional assistance. Pest control companies can advise you on the advantages of specific treatments and warn of any potential negatives. They are licensed and will know which areas certain products can treat. Termite baits are also available and can be a less intrusive way to prevent and treat termite infestations. Your technician can let you know how long each treatment method will effectively protect against termites.
Inspections are a major part of termite prevention. Many homeowners may not feel confident enough to inspect their own properties adequately. Hiring a pest control company gives you peace of mind knowing that they are experienced in identifying the signs of termite infestations.
Talk to a pest control expert about any termite signs you have noted. It is very important to monitor any skirting boards, doorframes and windows for structural changes that could be attributed to termites. Tap any wood that you suspect could be damaged. If you hear a hollow sound, termites may be the cause. Bubbling paint is another sign that termites have entered the structure. Even if you do have termite barriers installed, they must be inspected as well to ensure they have not been compromised. This is especially important after any new additions to the home have been made. For instance, putting in a new veranda or awning could make a new entryway for termites. Scaffolding should be removed immediately post-renovations too since it can be used by termites to gain building access. Request a termite inspection after home renovations to confirm that you are still well protected against invasions.
Termites don’t damage only wood in their quest for food. Termites will also eat any products that contain cellulose such as fiberboard and cardboard. While foraging for food, they could damage cables and wires inside the walls of a home. Termites have been responsible for causing major electrical issues including whole system failure. Getting a jump on termites can save you thousands and thousands of dollars.
Termite prevention will differ from termite treatment. Termite treatment will always involve contacting a trusted pest control provider. Pest control companies help identify the species of termites and are proactive at getting rid of infestations and preventing further damage caused by termites. On the other hand, you can start a prevention program on your own which involves eliminating termite attractants around the home.
Trust the Experts at Carolina Pest Management
Carolina Pest Management takes termite control very seriously. We are here to help you inspect your property and create a plan to keep your home termite free for good. If treatment is required, we use the greenest possible solutions that are safe for both the environment and your family members. Maintenance after treatment is critical and our team will provide an annual inspection to check for any termite damage. Customers in the Carolinas can call today to learn more about our termite control services.