If you started noticing tiny holes in the wooden parts of your house or homestead,  or a “hollow sound” which appears when you knock against the wall… then it’s time to be alarmed! It is 99% likely that your house was attacked by termites. How serious is this? It’s more serious than you expect.

One of the main dangers of termites is that they are a very secretive enemy. You don’t have to observe any traces of their life. They might penetrate into your house from the foundation, very quickly, and empty all of the internal wooden floors of the house.

This guide will be useful when you have already encountered this problem and if you want to protect your house from the appearance of these disgusting insects. Today we’ll learn what the termites are, how they live, why they destroy our accommodation and then we’ll cover the most effective ways of controlling these pests, prevention methods and the opinion of some acclaimed experts on the matter.

Table of Contents:

What Do Termites Look Like? Termite Damage: Why Are They So Dangerous?

What are termites?

They are tiny insects with white bodies, which somewhat resemble ants. Many people think that all of termites have wings, but it’s not true: according to the book “Urban Entomology” written by Walter Ebeling, who is a professor of entomology, “Colonies of termites comprising winged and wingless reproductive forms and numerous wingless sterile workers, nymphs, and soldiers”. Termites follow a strict hierarchy typical of such insects. Once you see them in real life or at least via some online pictures, you will hardly mistake any other insects for termites.

Termite damage

Termites feed on cellulose. As we know, wood contains most of cellulose, and so do other derivatives of this material, such as paper, cardboard etc. When speaking about wildlife, you can hardly call termites pests as they only feed on dead wood. However, since the houses are built from processed wood, they become a wonderful treat for these insects. The rot which they leave at the crime scene proves that termites are more interested in cellulose rather than the actual wood.

How many years can a termite infestation be invisible for?

Michael Waldvogel, entomologist from NC State University found that termites can cause serious damage in 3-8 years of their activity. They can continue to feed on your wooden house year-round if they have a good protection from colder temperatures. Thankfully, you have some years to find out and destroy termites or prevent them.

What types of termites are dangerous?

There are three ecological groups of termites – subterranean termites (inhabit both the soil and the trees), drywood termites and dampwood termites (prefer wooden constructions). But the most widespread groups of pest termites are the first and the second. The subterranean termites also dwell in the barns, garden houses and dunghills. They do much more harm to your property. It’s because the subterranean termite colonies are much bigger than drywood termite colonies that is confirmed by entomologists from the Clemson University.

How to determine whether your house is infested with termites? Signs of Termites. Do your own inspection!

termite damage signs

Take some immediate measures or consult a specialist if you find at least one of the following:

  • Tiny round holes and tunnels – Termites gnaw holes and tunnels, which is both their means of eating and their way of travelling. If you have found any cracks or other damage, try to work it up a bit wider and check whether it is regular damage or a trace left by termites.
  • Rot – Pieces of rot near the holes described above is another sure sign of termites’ presence.
  • Mud tubes – Termites are clever and may stay invisible for a long time. They also can build mud tubes from soil and parts of wood and travel inside these narros tubes. Michael Waldvogel from NC State University claims that it may be a very important sign of their activity: “Termite tubes on ceilings may indicate a "secondary" infestation”. It means that the termite colony actually lives in the building and the infestation is too dangerous to treat the house by yourself.
  • Waste – Termites are good at hiding their presence, but terrible at hiding their feces. With that, you can track these insects.
  • Wood attacked by termites has runways or passages that are coated with an earth-like material glued to the wood and may be rotten in appearance. Upon probing such wood with a screwdriver or similar tool, many of the hidden worker termites may spill out, says Steve Jacobs from The Pennsylvania State University.

Helpful Tip if You Are Going To Buy an Old Wooden House: It’s very important to check walls and floor in all rooms and outbildings. Don’t forget about wooden furniture! Do not be lazy: inspect every inch and pay attention to the suspicious areas and parts of wood – if the material is too soft and sounds "hollow" when you tap it, it may be a sign of termite infestation.

How to Get Rid of Termites: What Do the Entomologists Say?

If you happen to discover termites at home, most likely an entire colony has settled. People often confuse flying termites with ants as they breed at more or less the same time. When breeding season comes, males and females with wings leave their home colony. These pests are distinct from ants by their straight antennae, wide waist and two pairs of wings of the same size (ants’ rear wings are shorter than front ones).

Where can you most frequently encounter termites? Young individuals are attracted by light; they are often seen near windows and doors. If you notice them somewhere near a woodpile or somewhere else in your backyard, you don’t have to worry about this. However, if winged insects crawl out of the building’s foundation, it is highly likely that a termite mite is located in the house. Sometimes, they enter the house through the pipes under the foundation that allow them to penetrate rooms freely. These trails are as thick as a pencil and can be opened. In this case, you will see white insects swirling around. The trails might be empty as well, meaning that the insects have gnawed other paths.

Where can you most frequently encounter termites?

The scariest thing is that you may not notice these woodworms at home for years as they live deep down and barely show on the surface.

Can you get rid of termites on your own? The scientists from the University of Kentucky note that it is highly unlikely that you will be able to get rid of these pests on your own unless the population is small and they have invaded small areas, such as a sandbox or small wooden buildings distant from the house.

Ridding a home of termites requires special skills. Knowledge of building construction is needed to identify the critical areas where termites are likely to enter. Many of these potential points of entry are hidden and difficult to access. Termite control also utilizes specialized equipment such as masonry drills, pumps, large-capacity tanks, and soil treatment rods. A typical treatment may involve hundreds of gallons of a liquid pesticide, known as a termiticide, injected into the ground alongside the foundation, beneath concrete slabs, and within foundation walls, - according to state Kentuckian scientists.

Which Termite Control Products Are Recommended By Entomologists?

Liquid insecticides and baits will help you remove termites from your home. Soil-applied liquid termiticides have been around for decades. They create a long-lasting chemical barrier. Newer materials, such as Premise® (imidacloprid), Termidor® (fipronil), and Phantom® (chlorfenapyr), are non-repellent and termites tunneling into the treatment zone are killed.

Barrier applications of insecticides may be made around structural perimeters by professional applicators through trenching, drilling or rodding. Examples include pyrethroids, as well as newer non-repellent insecticides such as fipronil, chlorantraniliprole, and imidacloprid. The experts from the National Center for Biotechnology Information note the “strong colony-level effects of soil treatments with imidacloprid”. They treated 12 pest colonies with this insecticide and 75% of the colonies were removed completely within 90 days.

The University of California entomologists claim that injections of insecticidal liquids, dusts, or foams may be made directly to drywood termite galleries or sometimes to shelter tubes of subterranean termites. Desiccants, oils, pyrethroids, neonicotinoids, fipronil, and many other active ingredients may also be used.

Baits. Baits are installed in the ground in the backyard in special plastic stations. Foragers taste the bait and share it with other insects. After that, everyone who has tried this bait dies. In some cases, baits may be combined with liquid insecticides. There are two types of baits: consumer bait products and professional ones.

bait for termites

SPECTRACIDE TERMINATE™ with hexaflumuron, a slow-acting insect growth regulator (IGR) is available on the retail market for amateur treatment. A single pack contains several inch-long hollow plastic tubes containing sulfluramid-treated cardboard. This bait is to be installed outside and checked regularly. This method is far cheaper than professional products, but bait use is not recommended to be the only measure taken. Moreover, success depends on correct use of the product.

Advance Termite Bait System is distinguished among professional treatments. This latest innovation has been designed especially for getting rid of Subterranean Termites. The active ingredient in the Advance system is diflubenzuron, a slow acting insect growth regulator. The price is considerably higher than that of the products for homeowners. For comparison of the two bait systems, scroll down to Top-7 Best Termite Control Products.

The more bait stations installed, the better the chances of locating termites. Installing more stations increases the odds of encountering multiple colonies, or weakly associated "satellite nests" of the same colony, any of which could be of potential risk to the structure. That is why baits are sold in packages containing several units.

Virginia State University scientists warn that because the in-ground bait stations are placed outside the structure, they do not directly affect termites that are already foraging inside.

What Is Better: Liquids Or Baits?

A limitation of all termite baits is that they are relatively slow acting compared to the effects of liquids. Several months may pass before termites find the baits underground and distribute them to their nest-mates. Consequently, the elimination process can take several months or longer to complete, and a degree of feeding and damage may occur before the bait takes effect. Homeowners with a severe termite infestation, or those involved in a real estate transaction may not want to wait this long — preferring instead that a liquid be applied alone or in combination with baits, as the University of Kentucky entomologists comment.

How to Get Rid of Termites Naturally

If the invasion is small-scale, begin with the most humane method. As the University of Washington experts note, small pieces of wood containing live termites can be soaked in soapy water to kill the insects. Larger pieces can be taken to a landfill or natural area where the decomposing abilities of the termites are helpful.

Nitrogen and electric current. If you find parasites in dry wood, remove them with liquid nitrogen. Drill small holes in infested wood to inject nitrogen there. Another physical measure that could be taken is electricity. A special Electrogun ™ sends a low-current, high-voltage electric charge on any insects located inside dry wood. Microwave radiation is also used for this purpose.

How to Get Rid of Termites Naturally

Cardboard traps. A DIY cardboard trap has limited effect. Wet the two cardboards placed one on top of the other. Once they are full with insects, destroy cardboard with any means available. You can burn it, for instance. It’s important that you understand that this method won’t deal with new individuals appearing. Insecticide manufacturers also sell sticky cardboard traps. One such trap can be found in our list below.

Sun or freeze. These measures are rather complicated and will only be suitable for furniture and other smaller objects. You can take out the infected wood so that it “warms up” in the sun. But scientists from the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources warn that “The treatment process involves heating all wood in the structure to a minimum of 120°F and holding this temperature for at least 33 minutes”. Can you provide these conditions? It’s difficult. Freezing is even more complicated. Put your furniture in a huge freezer, if you have one. Insects will die within 1-2 days.

Don’t worry if you weren’t able to solve your problem with the means at hand, because less than 4% of such attempts succeed. I recommend that you combine those measures with the ones below, and as a result, their combined efficiency will produce an exponential growth.

Organic Termite Killers

organic termite killers

Dusts & powders. Drying the insects with the help of special dusts, like diatomaceous earth and silica aerogel is another control method. They cut the insects’ chitinous cover and penetrate it, causing any liquids to leave their bodies. The dust is safe for humans if not inhaled. In order to avoid any irritation of mucous membranes, wear a protective mask and safety goggles. The scientists’ opinions regarding the effectiveness of diatomaceous earth are contradictory. Some consider it effective, while others don’t. The reason for that is in one of its properties: diatomaceous earth loses its effectiveness if there is the slightest moisture. That is why it can only be used indoors on dry wood.

Natural enemies. You don’t have to eliminate the insects on your own. You can damage their trails lying from their colony to feeding spots, allowing the termites’ natural enemies, such as ants, to enter there.

Nematodes are yet other enemy of termites. The idea here is to attack our enemy with its own weapon. Nematodes are garden insect parasites. In order for them to function, they have to enter the host’s body and consequently destroy it. A termite lives 48 hours after being infected. The downside is that the nematodes die if they do not infect the host soon after being planted. These worms can be bought at your closest gardening department store or ordered on Amazon.com. Scanmask 10 Million Live Beneficial Nematodes: ~$12.99.

Boric acid. Last but not least, let us present you with boric acid, a true and tested treatment against many pest insects. This simple and available product is widely used in all its forms: as a dust or bait ingredient. This is a slow-acting stomach poison that the insects will spread around the colony. Once an insect tastes boric acid, it will slowly die of depletion. PestGuard Boric Acid: ~$6.63.

How Termite Killers Work

Type of Treatment Ingredient Action When and For What Should Be Used Effectiveness
Liquid Insecticides Fipronil It is a relatively slow-acting poison causes paralysis and death For elimination and creating a barrier around the house Effective, but takes time to kill the colony
Granules imidacloprid It is a slow-acting poison, kills on contact To pour as a barrier outdoors Is effective against any outdoor insects as it creates a protective barrier around the house
Foam Fipronil It is a relatively slow-acting poison causes paralysis and death Foam trails and galleries Dense foam won't a leave termites a chance to get out and will kill them within a few days
Dust Diatomaceous Earth or Silica Aerogel Kills by dehydrating Pour in places where there are many insects For outdoor use on dry wood only
Boric Acid Boric acid Slow-acting stomach poison, causes death by depletion Pour down the trails and galleries Effective, but takes time to kill the colony
Cardboard Traps Cardboard, water, glue, bait Traps the insects Apply near food sources, where they have appeared Will only trap insects on the surface
Nematodes Biological killer Nematodes parasite and feed on termites Inject into an infested tree or soil near the colony 50-99% effective depending on whether the nematodes will be able to attack termites
Baits with IGR Hexaflumuron or diflubenzuron - a slow acting insect growth regulator (IGR) Sterilize the queen causing the entire colony to die For oudoor use only Is very effective but takes a long time

Top 7 Termite Removal Products

Termidor SC Termiticide

This is a powerful professional insecticide. This concentrated ~$80.99 termiticide’s active ingredient is relatively slow-acting 9% fipronil. Once the insects come in contact with this substance, they swallow it and contaminate their nest-mates causing the entire colony to perish. All you need to do is to dissolve Termidor in water according to the manual and fill a moat around your house’s foundation. Once the product reaches the soil, it will create a long-lasting barrier protecting your place from insect pests.

Termidor SC Termiticide

Termidor SC is for outdoor use only! The exceptional reasons for indoor use are:

  1. Point elimination of parasites
  2. Removing a colony settled in the wall voids.

The product promises to solve any termite problem for less than 90 days. Apart from termites, target pests are ants, centipedes, cockroaches, crickets, earwigs, silverfish, spiders and other insects. The product has an incredibly high rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon.com and it seems like this time the product’s premium price is actually justified. Read over 500 customer reviews to know more about its efficiency.

Price: ~$77.69 Check the current price

Bayer Diy Termite Killer

~$44.97 granules containing slow-acting imidacloprid are also highly rated by the customers. They are affordable and their use is simpler than that of liquid insecticide. You no longer need to dig any trenches! Place the granules around any wooden structures (i.e. buildings, fences etc) and pour them on the soil, mulched lots and lawns. Water activates granules, so water the treated territory and check out the killing effect on contact. Nine pounds of granules are enough for treating up to 200 linear feet of territory. The manufacturer promises that a single use will be sufficient.

Bayer Diy Termite Killer

Bayer Granules are not repelling, killing only, as the users confirm. According to the users, the pests may disappear within a week. If you don’t want to bother with digging trenches and dissolving a concentrate, these granules are your best option.

Price: ~$44.97 Check the current price

Termidor Foam – A Foam for Removing Colonies in the Wall Voids

Here is a yet another Termidor product, ~$24.12 foam aimed at removing pests in the walls. It contains the same active ingredients, relatively slow-acting poison fipronil. The foam is packed in a pressurized cylinder and can be successfully used as a complement to a classic insecticide. Spray it in the wall voids and other inaccessible places where a pest colony has settled. The foam is very dense so the pests won’t be able to overcome its barrier and survive, they will die of fipronil action within a few days.

Termidor Foam

Although this spray is quite expensive, users unanimously admit that it is effective and is far cheaper than consulting exterminators. Its high rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars attests to this.

Price: ~$24.12 Check the current price

TERRO 16 oz. Carpenter Ant & Termite Killer Aerosol Spray

This ~$12.94 killer spray’s active ingredients are powerful pyrethroids: tetramethrin and deltamethrin. Its thin and long nozzle allows spraying this foam type of liquid deep down the wall cracks, corners, inaccessible spots, holes in wooden structures where insects have started their activity as well as straight into the nest. The spray quickly kills termites and carpenter ants on contact. It also promises to create a protective barrier against any insects acting for up to four weeks. It can be used both indoors and outdoors.

TERRO 16 oz. Carpenter Ant & Termite Killer Aerosol Spray

The users claim that this spray is quite effective and is cost-saving as you won’t have to hire an exterminator. Many people have a stock of this spray in case of a pest attack. Terro is better-suited for quick protection of certain objects, so opt for slow-acting products for long-term eradication of a large colony.

Price: ~$12.94 Check the current price

36 Catchmaster Rodents & Insects Traps

36 Catchmaster Rodents & Insects Traps

36 universal cardboard traps that can be folded or used plainly are available for ~$14.99. They won’t treat your house from new termite invasions but can instead serve as local protection for individual objects. They also partly help you monitor the presence of pests. It’s interesting to know that these traps are sticky enough to trap not only insects, but also mice, lizards and even snakes. This is a cut-rate pest control option that will surely be handy.

Price: ~$14.99 Check the current price

Termite Bait Systems

Let’s now compare two slow-acting products that kill the entire population. We are talking about baits. The first one is for homeowners and the second one is professional Advance bait.

Spectracide Terminate Termite Detection & Killing Stakes

Five bait stations for house areas contain hexaflumuron (a slow-acting insect growth regulator (IGR), are registered by the EPA and are available for ~$21.74. They are plunged into the ground and attract foraging termites before killing them. This device has two directions of action: detection and killing. Setting it up is a piece of cake: Dig a small hole, put it in the soil, and then wait. Once the device detects any termites, a red pillar will pop up and signal that there’s some danger.

Spectracide Terminate Termite Detection & Killing Stakes

The stakes are for outdoor use exclusively. Placing 15 stakes will let you protect up to 2,500-3,000 square feet. A single trap will serve up to 12 months before its replacement is required.

The manufacturer warns that Spectracide is not recommended for use as the only sort of pest protection. Professional products will be required against active invasions.

Price: ~$21.74 Check the current price

Advance Termite Bait Stations

Professional products are many times more expensive. A pack of ten Advance stations costs ~$123. Furthermore, you will have to invest into special Compressed Bait Cartridges with Poison (with an orange lid). A pack of six will cost you additional ~$111. This is the most recent bait product on the bait market, specifically targeting subterranean termites. The active ingredient in the Advance system is diflubenzuron, a slow acting insect growth regulator.

Advance Termite Bait Stations

Cartridges contain a lot of bait, enough to feed a whole colony. However, the reduction in the population will be noticeable only after a few weeks when the bait reaches the queen and sterilizes her. Without any doubt, it is worth waiting for. The total cost of these stations and the actual bait amounts to ~$230. It is costly enough but much cheaper than hiring an exterminator.

Price: Advance Bait Stations: from $123 Check the current price

Price: Advance Bait Cartridge: ~$111 Check the current price

7 Termite Killers Comparison Chart

Product Type (Slow-Acting/Fast-Acting) Active Ingredient Peculiarities Price

Termidor SC Termiticide

Termidor SC Termiticide

Relatively slow-acting fipronil A powerful insecticide which can be used twice a year only. Dig a moat around the house before use.

~$77.69

Bayer Diy Termite Killer Granules

Bayer Diy Termite Killer Granules

Slow-acting imidacloprid Granules are activated in water and kill on contact. They create a protective outer barrier against the insects penetrating your house.

~$44.97

Termidor Foam

Termidor Foam

Relatively slow-acting fipronil Dense foam for removing colonies in inaccessible places and nests in wall voids.

~$24.12

TERRO Carpenter Ant & Termite Killer Spray

TERRO 16 oz. Carpenter Ant & Termite Killer Aerosol Spray

Fast-acting

Tetramethrin

Deltamethrin

This spray for inaccessible spots is a quick way to kill the pests, is not appropriate for long-term protection.

~$12.94

36 Catchmaster Rodents &Insects traps

36 Catchmaster Rodents &Insects traps

Sticky glue base Cardboard traps for catching and monitoring pest population.

~$14.99

Spectracide Terminate Termite Detection & Killing Stakes

Spectracide Terminate Termite Detection & Killing Stakes

Slow-acting hexaflumuron (IGR) Stakes with IGR bait kill termites and allows their breeding to be monitored. In the long run, it sterilizes the queen, hence the destroyed colony.

~$21.74

Advance Termite Bait Stations

Advance Termite Bait Stations

Slow-acting diflubenzuron (IGR) Pro bait stations designed specifically Subterraneans. Is effective for unhandled invasions as there is enough poison for many months' treatment.

total (bait stations +bait) ~$230

7 Termite Control TIPS

If you haven’t yet come across any termites in your backyard or have already successfully defeated them, then undoubtedly you have to work on further prevention. Here is some advice from the respected organization, the EPA:

Maintaining termite prevention

  1. After construction, keep the soil around the foundation dry through proper grading and drainage (including maintenance of gutters and downspouts).
  2. Reduce openings that offer the termites access to the structure (filling cracks in cement foundations as well as around where utilities pass through the wall with cement, grout, or caulk).
  3. Fix leaks immediately.
  4. Keep vents free from blockage, including plants.
  5. Ensure that trees and shrubs are not planted too close to the structure and do not allow them to grow against exposed wood surfaces.
  6. Do not pile or store firewood or wood debris next to the house.
  7. Inspect periodically to help ensure that termite colonies do not become established.

Rust-Oleum 01901 Coppercoat Wood PreservativeRust-Oleum Coppercoat Wood Preservative is one of the best preventive products. This product has been registered with the EPA and is completely safe for humans. It’s most effective to use this repellent when constructing, but don’t worry if you have missed that moment. Take a brush and apply this liquid to all the wooden structures: rub it in abundantly and leave it to dry. Note that it is recommended to use this product outside, so you bear full responsibility if you apply it indoors. This effective product has a high Amazon.com rating – 4.4 out of 5 stars.

Price: from ~$25.95 Check the current price

Summarizing!

Eliminating termites requires a responsible approach. First of all, there’s no other way of banishing them. Second, your house is likely your most valued asset and thus it is unacceptable to lose it to some insects. Use various products, combine them and you’ll definitely win the fight.