Understanding Termite treatments

Termites can cause billions of dollars in damage each year. They primarily feed on wood, but they also damage paper, books, insulation, and even swimming pool liners. Although buildings may become infested at any time, termites are of a particular importance when buying or selling a home. A termite inspection (Wood Destroying Insect Report) is normally a condition of sale. The possibility of thousands of winged termites emerging inside one’s home is an emotionally trying experience, not to mention the thought of termites feasting on one’s large investment.

Spring is typically when large numbers of winged termites can emerge inside homes. These are called swarmers. Termites swarm to disperse and start new colonies. Due to warm temperatures and rainfall, the winged termites emerge from their colonies and fly into the air.

The swarmers will drop to the ground, shed their wings, pair off with a mate. They attempt to begin new colonies in the soil. Very few swarmers that emerge outdoors survive to start new colonies. Although swarmers found indoors are incapable of eating wood, seldom do survive. It’s best to remove them with a vacuum cleaner. Swarmers found inside a home does indicate that an infestation is present. Finding winged termites indoors almost always indicates that an infestation is needing treatment.

People often confuse winged termites with ants, which swarm at the same time of year. Termites bodies are different from those of an ant. Termites have straight antennae, a uniform waist and wings of equal size. Ants have elbowed antennae (bent), constricted waists and top wings that are longer than the bottom wings.

Termite swarmers are attracted to light. They are often seen around windows and doors. They can also been seen coming from tree stumps, woodpiles, and other locations in the yard are not necessarily cause for a concern. This also does not necessarily mean that the house is infested. Although, if winged termites are seen emerging from the base of a foundation wall or adjoining porches and patios, there is a potential of an infestation. Termite treatment may be needed. Other signs of infestation are mud tubes extending on top of foundation walls, support piers, floor joists, etc. Mud tubes are typically about the diameter of a pencil, but sometimes can be thicker. Termites make these tubes for shelter as they travel between their underground colonies and the structure. To help determine if an infestation is active, the tubes may be broken open and checked for the presence of small, creamy-white worker termites. If a mud tube happens to be vacant, it doesn’t mean that the infestation is inactive. Termites will often abandon sections of mud tubes while foraging elsewhere in the structure. Sometimes termites create tiny holes in the plaster or drywall. Ripples or sunken traces behind wall coverings can also be indicative of termites tunneling underneath. Usually there won’t be any visible indication that a home is infested. Termites are mysterious creatures and their infestations can go undetected for years. They can be hidden behind walls, floor coverings, insulation, and other obstructions. Termites feeding and the damage can even progress undetected in wood that is exposed because the outer surface is usually left intact.

Termite control utilizes specialized equipment such as masonry drills, large-capacity tanks, and soil treatment rods. A typical treatment may involve hundreds of gallons of a liquid pesticide, known as a termiticide. Termiticide is injected into the ground alongside the foundation, beneath concrete slabs, as well as foundation walls. To be quite honest with you, termite treatment is a job for professional pest control . There are TWO general categories of termite treatment: liquids and baits. Soil-applied liquid termiticides have been around for decades. The purpose of a liquid treatment is to provide a long lasting chemical barrier that will keep termites in the ground from entering buildings. In most cases, termites already in the structure die off as well because they cannot return to the soil. The chemicals used are non-repellent, therefore, termites tunneling into the treatment area are unaware that they are being killed. The non-repellent products are proving to be more reliable in their ability to resolve termite problems in the first attempt.

The other broad treatment category is Termite bait treatment. Termite baits consist of paper, cardboard, or other palatable food, combined with a slow-acting substance lethal to termites. Termite bait stations are installed below the ground in the yard, in cylindrical plastic stations. Foraging termites will consume the bait and share it with other termites in their colony, which will result in a gradual decline in the termite colony. On some properties, baits may constitute the only form of treatment, while on other property, they may be combined with liquid applications to areas where termites are being observed.

All liquid termiticides are supposed to control termites for at least five (5) years when applied according to label directions. The actual length of control on a given structure will depend on various factors such as: thoroughness of the application; environmental conditions; and the density of termite colonies in the area. If termites swarm again and continue to be a problem the year after treatment, it’s usually not from degradation of the termiticide but because termites have found an untreated gap in a chemical barrier.

Let’s be clear, termite control involves LIVING CREATURES. The best treatments performed by knowledgeable pest control firms may fail at times because the ground where a chemical barrier had been applied was disturbed. (Ex: digging up the soil to plant flowers or removing shrubs, plants, etc)  Also with the use of bait stations, if they are dug up and not replaced properly due to creation of flower beds, porches, etc, there will be a large gap between the stations to help with the control of termites as well. Therefore, termites can find their way through tiny, untreated gaps in the soil.


Termite Bait Systems

This is a picture of a cartridge from a termite bait system. These bait systems work to monitor termite activity around your home. As you can see, the termites are very much alive and active, constantly foraging, and looking for food. This picture is even more interesting because these bait stations were placed around the dwelling only 30 days prior.

If you’ve ever thought that Termite Bait Stations don’t work, think again. They do! This is a picture of a cartridge from a termite bait system. These bait systems actively work to monitor termite activity around your home. As you can see, the termites are very much alive and very active. Termites are constantly foraging, looking for food. This picture is even more interesting because these particular termite bait stations were placed around the dwelling only 30 days prior. Active management to prevent termites from entering your dwelling is key.

Wood Siding and Termites

This is what wood siding does when it's in contact with soil. It absorbs the moisture from the soil, causing it to rot. This can attract termites.

This is what wood siding does when it’s in contact with soil. It will absorb the moisture from the soil, causing it to rot. This can and will attract termites. The soil grade is too high. Our recommendations are to remove to soil off the siding to where at least 3-4 inches of the slab line is showing. Any time that wood comes in contact with the soil, the wood will absorb the water. This is not good because termites now have an easy access to your home.

Termite Season?!

It might be snowing, ice on the ground, or raining like we live in the Rain Forest. This does not mean that termites are inactive. They are still foraging, looking for food such as wood siding that’s been soaking up water because it’s come in contact with the damp soil. Be on the look out for suspicious mud tubes on the side of your home. It could be termites, even in these winter months.

Pre-Construction and Post Construction termite treatments

Before I begin, let me explain to you what it means when a company talks about pre-construction and post construction termite treatments. Pre-construction (aka “Pre-treats”) termite treatments is a liquid treatment of the soil prior to pouring the concrete foundation (aka “slab”) of a building. It should also include a final perimeter liquid treatment along the edge of the slab once the final grade is established. Usually per the Termiticide manufacturers’ label, there is a limited guarantee against termites for a certain amount of years (here come the fun part) AS LONG AS a LICENSED pest control operator has performed the treatment according to the label, mixed at the proper mix rate and applied to the soil properly! (Whew!!! Now that’s a lot of information right there!) If you’re not sure if your home or business has ever been treated for termites, check with your builder if your dwelling is under five (5) years old.

What you all have been waiting for…Post Construction termite treatments. A post-construction termite treatment is done after the home has been constructed. This type of termite treatment will provide a barrier around the perimeter of your dwelling. It is not a pre-treat where the soil under the foundation has been treated prior to construction. Post-construction treatment of termites can be completed in a few ways. If you have no active infestation and want a treatment completed then a bait system can be installed around the perimeter of your home. If you have an active infestation of termites, then a liquid treatment will be necessary in the areas where there is activity and bait stations can also be placed around the perimeter of the dwelling to actively monitor termite activity.

Either way, make sure you have an annual inspection for termites. If you need to know what to look out for, please check out our previous posts on termites.


Wood Destroying Insect Reports (WDI)

Have you ever heard of a Wood Destroying Insect Report? Here in Texas, it is required to have one completed when either buying or selling a home. I have heard some of the horror stories of home inspectors who are not licensed in Structural Pest Control look for termites and quite honestly, the methods that some of them use make me cringe.

The best recommendation would be to find a Structural Pest Control Company that actually deals with termites, just in case termites are found. I will get calls from people saying, “So and so company did the WDI for us. They discovered termites but they don’t treat for them. Can you help us?” Of course we helped them but we have to look over the WDI report and verify what the inspector found is in fact termites or not.
Here are some things the inspector should be looking for:
Conducive conditions such as soil lines that are too high along the slab of the home; Bushes, trees, plants, etc that block the view of the slab; Standing water that doesn’t drain away from the house; Previous infestation and when was it treated; New damage and determine whether it’s carpenter ants, powder post beetles, termites, or carpenter bees.
If any of these these things are found, they should be noted on the inspection report as well as any corrective measures that need to be taken.

Even if you don’t live in Texas, you should make sure to be on the look out for these things when buying or selling your home.