Preventing and Eliminating House Termites

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Few pests can cause as much property damage as termites, so homeowners should learn to spot signs of termite activity early.

Types of Termites

Two basic types of termites damage property. Subterranean termites live in the soil and feed on surrounding wood, such as a nearby tree or house.

Dry wood termites are less common and usually only found in hot, dry climates. Dry wood termites live directly in the wood they eat. Colonies of dry wood termites are smaller than subterranean termite nests. A dry wood termite colony may live in wall studs, frames or even furniture. Because dry wood termite colonies are small, their nests are more difficult to locate.

Signs of Termite Infestation

House termites can infest a house for years without detection. If you find any signs of termite infestation, arrange to have your home checked by a pest control professional. Signs of termites include:

  • Frass: Dry wood termites drill small "kick holes" in wood. The termites use these holes to eject frass, or termite droppings. Frass resembles small, tan-colored pellets.
  • Swarming: Warm temperatures and rain cause termites to swarm. A colony releases thousands of winged termites that spread out to colonize new locations. Winged termites may swarm inside an infested house.
  • Travel tubes: Subterranean termites build earthen or mud tubes to protect themselves as they move from the colony nest to wood supplies. Tubes are usually the diameter of a pencil and may show up on foundation walls, support joists and similar structures.
  • Wood damage: Wood damaged by termites will be hollowed out with soil and mud stuck to the hollowed-out area. A thin veneer of undamaged wood may cover damaged areas.

Treating Termite Infestations

Treating a termite infestation requires specialized equipment and professional help. Subterranean house termites are usually controlled with soil-applied termiticide to prevent termites from entering the house and poison bait that workers carry back to the nest.

Termite control for dry wood termites usually involves insecticides that are injected into colony nests. Large-scale wood termite infestations are controlled with fumigation.

Preventing House Termites

Any house can attract termites, but you can lower your risk of an infestation. If the soil around your home has been treated with termiticide, don't dig up soil within a foot of the home. This breaks the termiticide barrier and creates a possible route for termites to reenter the home.

Keep siding at least six inches higher than the soil line, and avoid planting too close to your foundation or walls. Plants provide cover for subterranean termites.

If you use mulch, make sure the mulch does not touch the home's foundation. Not only can mulch obscure signs of termites, some types of organic mulch provide termites with food.

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