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 are termites?
- Termite damage
- How many years can a termite infestation be invisible for?
- Signs of Termites
- How to Get Rid of Termites: Best Termite Killers
- 7 Termite Control TIPS
What Do Termites Look Like? Termite Damage: Why Are They So Dangerous?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Termites are most active from spring through fall and it’s the best time to start getting rid of them. If you notice that you have been attacked by the termites, you may try dealing with this problem by yourself. You’ll succeed if you carefully study all the advices given further and approach the issue with responsibility.
Boric acid – This has been a proven method for centuries. This is proven not only by its real effectiveness, but also by the fact that most of the brand pesticides are designed on the basis of this compound. Its functionality is quite simple – boric acid is a stomach poison that causes insects to die from starvation. Of course, you don’t have to spray all of the termites as they would also die if they eat the poisoned wood. Price: PestGuard Boric Acid: ~$6.99.
Cardboard trap – This is a method which won’t bring you an unconditional victory in this war, but surely will help you greatly. Moreover, it’s quite simple, useful and is practically free of charge. The idea is the following: you take two small pieces of cardboard, wet them and kind of stick them to each other. This looks like a delicious cellulose sandwich to the termite. You just have to wait for them to fill it, and then you take it out and burn it. You may (and should) repeat this procedure several times.
Nematodes – The idea here is to attack our enemy with its own weapon. Nematodes are garden insects’ 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. These worms can be bought at your closest gardening department store or ordered on Amazon.com. The downside is that the nematodes die if they do not infect the host soon after being planted. A pack of such insects costs from $15.86, so this method is worth trying. Note that over half of the customers gave this product a top 5-star rating, which is a good result. Price: Scanmask 10 Million Live Beneficial Nematodes: ~$12.99.
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 enough. Freezing is even more complicated. Put your furniture in a huge freezer, if you have one. The termites 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 you to combine those measures with the following ones, and as a result their combined efficiency shows an exponential growth.
This concentrate is one the best termiticides on the market. Its effectiveness is supported by its high rating on Amazon.com: It has 4.6 out of 5 stars! Talstar Pro Termiticide has a wide range of application and is able to exterminate over 75 types of insects. You can banish them with the help of this product at home, outside; you can spray the fruit and obviously, remove the termites. The effect lasts approximately for 3 months: that means you won’t have to re-apply the termiticide, even after it rains. The product doesn’t smell, doesn’t leave any traces after drying and is not harmful for your skin.
The main benefit of this product is that you won’t be harmed when working with it if you follow the basic safety guidelines. In addition, you’ll be buying a concentrate that has to be dissolved. After preparing the insecticide you’ll have 32-96 gallons of fluid. Of course, much depends on the area that is to be disinfected, but in general this will help you save up. The fact that the product’s qualities fully correspond to those which are beautifully described in the manual is proven by plenty of positive feedback from the customers. Those who have already purchased this insecticide recommend to others:
- To purchase a large chemical spray container, in case you need to spray large area – tiny spray bottles are not really convenient.
- Many of the users recommend dissolving the product in a larger amount of water. According to them, this eliminates the costs while retaining the positive effect. You may take a chance and experiment, but keep in mind that it is your own accommodation that is at stake.
- If termites are not the only insects attacking you, you might surprisingly find some positive side effect as the spiders, ants and other pests leave your homestead.
Price: ~$40.82 Check the current price
This device has two directions of action. First, it is a termite detector. Setting it up is a piece of cake: Dig a small hole, put Termite Detection in the soil, and then you wait. Once the device detects any termites, a red pillar will pop up and signal that there’s some danger.
Second, the termites will be trapped, because the chemical there acts simultaneously as a lure and poison. 15 devices are supplied with the stakes for ~$55.03. Placing them strategically will let you protect up to 2,500-3,000 square feet. A single trap will serve up to 12 months before needing replaced. This is what consumers say about the effectiveness of the device: “I saw some indications of termites on wood under my shed. I bought these last year and haven't seen any more indications. I bought them to replace last year’s stakes”. You may read other customers' reviews on Amazon.com.
Price: ~$55.03 Check the current price
Foam is another method of fighting against the termites. The idea of using them is extremely simple - you’re going to completely isolate the termites. However, there are some complications when applying the foam. There’s no point in foaming each individual termite with the Termidor Foam.
Your job is to find their nest, or at least a large gathering of them. Here, you’ll be able to observe their life and use the previous device - Spectracide Terminate Termite Detection and Killing Stakes. Having properly utilized these stakes, you’ll be able to find their nest. Then, you have to abundantly foam and simply wait afterwards. If you have covered all the edges with this foam, the termites won’t be able to get out (the foam itself is very dense, and it contains lethal for termites chemical compounds).
Price: ~$23.94 Check the current price
Specialist’s help: consulting an exterminator
The effectiveness of the products to which I’ve drawn your attention is rather high and has been proven over time. But remember, spraying insecticides and using foam on the surface of infested wood may kill the termites that you see now, but it doesn’t stop the infestation nor protect your house from future attacks of termites.
So if you see that the infestation is too big or you’ve found out that it’s a “secondary infestation”, you should consult an exterminator.
The services will cost a fortune, but
- An exterminator is supposed to give you a warranty for the results of their work.
- An exterminator is a specialist in this field.
- They typically use the substances that are not accessible to regular people.
Mind that scamming is everywhere and you may lose not only your money, but also your house because of poor disinfection or harmful strong insecticides. Study several options on the exterminating market. Try to learn as much as possible about a company in question. If there is no feedback on their web site, or worse – there is only praising feedback, be careful as it looks like fraud. Warranty for quality and durability of services should be provided in written form and any repeat check-ups and visits for maintain the work performed should be free of charge.
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
- After construction, keep the soil around the foundation dry through proper grading and drainage (including maintenance of gutters and downspouts).
- 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).
- Fix leaks immediately.
- Keep vents free from blockage, including plants.
- Ensure that trees and shrubs are not planted too close to the structure and do not allow them to grow against exposed wood surfaces.
- Do not pile or store firewood or wood debris next to the house.
- Inspect periodically to help ensure that termite colonies do not become established.
Rust-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
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.
Best Termite Control Products Comparison Chart
Best Termite Control Products Comparison Chart
PestGuard Zap-A-Roach Boric Acid Biological killer Boric acid is a stomach poison that causes insects to die from starvation.
Beneficial Nematodes, 10 million active units
There are garden insects’ parasites that enter the host’s body and destroy it
Talstar Pro 3/4 Gal Insecticide
Concentrated termite poison, environment-friendly
Spectracide Terminate Trap/poison Termite-detecting trap. The species in the trap will be killed Termidor Foam Foam/poison Poisonous for termites foam, which would block their nest Rust-Oleum Wood Preservative Insecticide Preventive measure when processing the wood: most useful before actual termites appear