Termite control methods vary depending on the type of termite involved. Drywood termites have the ability to nest in dry wood without any contact with moist soil. Subterranean termites must nest in the ground as they require the moisture soil provides. Drywood termites may be controlled with fumigation, also known as “tenting.” Subterranean termites however, cannot be controlled by fumigation. They require either soil treatments or baiting methods for control.
Subterranean termites are widespread across the U.S., mostly in the southern states. Because of their wide distribution, experts say subterranean termites cause most of the termite damage to homes and other structures every year. Around $4.5 billion is spent annually for termite control and to repair the damage caused.
To gain entrance to a home, subterranean termites prefer wood that is in contact with the soil. If they cannot find such a situation they can build “mud tubes” from the soil to the wood. Mud tubes are essentially “termite highways” that allow termites access to the wood without being exposed to either weather or predators.
The nature of termites is to remain hidden. They avoid exposure to the outside environment. In addition to the use of mud tubes, they also prefer to remain hidden on the inside of wood. This makes termite control all the more difficult. Infested wood may appear perfectly normal on the outside while the inside is largely eaten away.
Due to the elusive nature of subterranean termites, signs of their activity are minimal. First, look for mud tubes as these are a warning sign. Fresh accumulations of wings are another warning sign. If suspicious areas of wood are located, tap the areas lightly with the handle of a screwdriver. Hollow sounds are another warning sign. Call a termite control professional to confirm your suspicions.
Soil treatments and termite bait are the 2 effective termite control methods. Each has advantages and disadvantages. Soil treatments tend to be disruptive for the homeowner. In addition, large amounts of chemicals are used. On the plus side, infestations can be eliminated fairly quickly and protection continues for several years.
Baiting systems work by offering termites small amounts of wood as bait. When termites locate the bait, the wood is replaced by bait that contains a slow-acting poison. When it is taken back to the colony and shared, the colony dies. The advantages of this termite control system are that it is not disruptive, and that it uses very small amounts of poison. The disadvantages are that it may take several months to eliminate the colony, and that the cost of monitoring make it a bit more expensive than the soil treatment.
Understanding subterranean termites, as well as their behaviors and preferences, is the first step in termite prevention. The next step is identifying potential trouble spots and making the changes necessary to reduce the risk of infestation. Professional termite inspections are a key to damage prevention. If an infestation is spotted, proper termite control methods by a professional is required.
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