Termites

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There is a ton of information out there about termites. You can spend a lot of time on the computer, do a lot of research, and probably get yourself confused, frustrated, scared or all three. I’ll provide you with some of the scary facts and statistics later, but first, let me give you some simple straightforward facts. Be aware, there is a lot of important stuff to cover. If you would like additional information, you can contact me at the email you see at the top right of the page. I understand “brevity is the soul of wit”. To this point, I failed miserably.

Termites are bad, very bad.

Why? You don’t see them. There in the ground or in the wood, but they’re not on the surface. If you see termites on the surface; it’s a termite swarm (also known as swarmers, see left) which is an indication that they’ve been there (wherever there is) for several years (doing damage) without you knowing it. Usually, the first and only sign of termites a homeowner will get is the swarm.

Ok, maybe you might see a shelter tube in the basement, but if you saw this, would you know what it was? A shelter tube (below) is what termites build to maintain body moisture. Termites cannot survive in dry environments so they build these shelter tubes to maintain their body moisture. That’s the only exception to being completely hidden.
Typically termites swarm once in the spring for about an hour maybe two, and then they are gone. You won’t see them again until next year when they swarm again. That is unless you don’t happen to be home when they swarm, and you miss it, or they swarm in your crawlspace or basement that you seldom if ever go in, and another year goes by. Do you see a pattern here? This is why termites can go for years undetected, doing damage.

Worse than missing the swarm, is mistaking swarming termites for swarming ants. Why? I know in that closet or under the sink is that trusty can of “bug spray”. Suddenly, and without warning, there are “bugs” coming out of a small crack in the floor molding.

“Hmmm” you say to yourself, “I have that trusty can of bug spray under my sink. I better take care of this”. So you grab that can of bug spray, and with reckless abandon, you soak those “bugs” or “ants”, or maybe you even think your killing termites. And voila, the bugs are dead and gone. Problem solved.

I hate to be the one to spoil this enchanted moment shared by many, and burst this wonderful bubble of self-gratification, but you didn’t solve anything, and especially termites. Yup, you killed a few swarmers, but that is hardly solving this problem. Swarmers are “the tip of the iceberg”. They are future breeders (reproductives), but reproductives are not responsible for structural damage, the workers are. You may have killed a few hundred swarmers, but you can bet there are thousands of workers safely in the wood, working feverishly, unaware of the carnage that you just inflicted.

Moral of the story: Homeowners and DIYers are ill-informed and ill-equipped to tackle a termite infestation.  Controlling termites isn’t easy.  Termites are a clear and present threat to homes and should be addressed by a qualified professional.

I don’t expect you to like what I have written, but it is the truth none the less. For your convenience I can be reached at info@masterspestcontrol.com if you would like to know more.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, it gets even worse!

Termites Diet

Termites are searching for wood because they gain nutrition from the cellulose in the wood. If you really want to know more about this I will cut and paste from Wikipedia, but the diet information about termites is really a big yawn. So here it is from Wikipedia:

“All termites eat cellulose in its various forms as plant fiber. Cellulose is a rich energy source (as demonstrated by the amount of energy released when wood is burned) but remains difficult to digest. Termites rely primarily upon symbiotic protozoa (metamonads) such as Trichonympha, and other microbes in their gut to digest the cellulose for them and absorb the end products for their own use. Gut protozoa, such as Trichonympha, in turn, rely on symbiotic bacteria embedded on their surfaces to produce some of the necessary digestive enzymes. This relationship is one of the finest examples of mutualism among animals. Most so-called “higher termites”, especially in the Family Termitidae, can produce their own cellulase enzymes. However, they still retain a rich gut fauna and primarily rely upon the bacteria. Due to closely related bacterial species, it is strongly presumed that the termites’ gut flora are descended from the gut flora of the ancestral wood-eating cockroaches, like those of the genus Cryptocercus.”

That was painful, but now you know. If you skipped that part I won’t hold it against you. Here’s all you need to know; Termites eat wood. You don’t need to know why they just do. They will also damage pool liners, buried PVC pool piping, and I’ve actually seen where they have eaten a photo out of its frame on a paneled wall.

So, you ask yourself, what does this have to do with me?

If you own a house, and that house touches the dirt, you should be concerned. If you have stumps in your yard or the neighbor’s yard, you should be concerned. If there is a history of termites in the neighborhood, or you have any kind of water/moisture conditions like faulty gutter drainage or pooling water during storms near your house, you should be concerned. Even shrubs planted too close to a house can create a moisture footprint that can attract termites.

Each year over 2 million buildings are invaded by termites, causing millions of dollars in damage annually. It doesn’t matter where you live. Cold weather offers no protection as termites will move below the frost line during the cold months, and remember, your home will leave a heat footprint in the ground in the winter. With the right circumstance, termites can remain active all year long. I have seen live termites in crawlspaces in the middle of winter.

Your home can be a target for termites. Even buildings and houses on concrete slabs are threatened by termites finding their way through small cracks (1/64 of an inch). Termites are so clever and efficient that no efforts at termite-proof construction methods have worked out completely successful.

Should I be concerned?

Yes! For more information contact us at info@masterspestcontrol.com

No house is termite proof, but some house will be more prone than others. Keep in mind there are always exceptions, but my experience is that poured concrete foundations tend to be less inclined to have termites. Stack stone foundation or block foundations offer little protection. Termites can move through stack stone foundations, and block foundations can crack below grade offering termites an invisible conduit to access your home.

Dirt crawl spaces are notorious for termite activity, especially if there is a moisture condition. Some older constructed homes have crawl spaces with little or no access, and in some cases, I’ve seen construction where floors were built touching, or almost touch the ground, clearly, a recipe for a termite problem.

Often homeowners will insulate the basement ceiling limiting our ability to inspect the prone area of the sill plate and let us not forget the perils of the finished basement. Remember, termites live in the ground, hence subterranean termites. Basement floors can be 4, 5, maybe 6 feet below grade. A basic understanding of construction will illustrate why finished basements are a concern.

First, the footings are dug below the frost line. On top of this footing, but not as wide as is the foundation wall, be it poured concrete or stacked block. The soil is graded even with the top of the footing, at the base of the foundation. The concrete floor of the basement is poured on top of the graded dirt and 3 to 4 inches up the base of the foundation. I hope I didn’t lose you yet.

When this concrete cures (verb: to make a material, especially concrete or cement, harden – dries) it will contract and create an expansion joint (gap). It is this gap that the footer of the finished walls of the basement is placed over. Now we have a wooden framed wall over the top of an expansion joint. Termites can access the footer by way of the expansion joint. From the footer, they can move up the wall studs, to the floor joists, and if undetected they damage the sill plate, band beam, and subfloor. This is just one example to illustrate how construction flaws can lead to termites.

So what do I do now?

  • Recognize the threat is real, and be proactive.
  • Install new gutters or be sure existing ones are working properly.
  • Minimize the use of mulch. The point of mulch is to help keep the roots of your ornamental plants moist but keep in mind termites like moisture too. When you mulch next to your house, you create a moisture footprint next your foundation that could potentially attract termites.
  • Don’t store unused wood, lumber or firewood on the ground anywhere near your house.
  • Be sure water flows away from your structure, have sufficient drainage.

You can also email us at info@masterspestcontrol.com and I can answer your questions that way or we could set an appointment for a no obligation conditions conducive to termites’ audit. Take advantage of my over 25 years experience at solving pest problems to work for you.

Ok, I have termites, what do you do?

First thing I would do is inspect the area and try to determine to what extent you have termites. Generally I like to use the Ensystex termite monitoring and baiting program called Ensystex . The advantage to a monitoring/baiting is the ability to kill termites where they live, while also monitoring the soil adjacent to the foundation, and doing this without using gallons of pesticides. If warranted, we may use a pesticide application to strategically critical areas, on limited bases. It all starts with a good inspection.

The monitoring is also a great way to be proactive. Our monitoring stations allow us to inspect the soil adjacent to the foundation for evidence of termite activity often before termites access your house. When termites are observed, corrective measures are taken. We draw a graph of the footprint of the structure with the location of the monitoring stations, record the events of each inspection, and store all of the inspection data for historical reference. It is a great program and it really keeps the homeowner connected to the process. For more information about termite remediation programs, or our termite pre-emptive program contact us at info@masterspestcontrol.com.

Wow, that was a lot of information. Much was written about termites because much needs to be known when dealing with termites. This was all written by me, perhaps with some editing by the web guy, and with the exception of the Wikipedia part. My words are based on my years of experience. I can only hope that it helped you to make a prudent decision regarding this topic.

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