Everything You TerMITE Want to Know About Termites
Tiny termites can cause major damage to your home. They'll gnaw through wood materials until they cause structural damage if you don't get rid of them.
Learn about termites and some common termite extermination methods that might be an option if you suspect a problem.
Termites are insect pests that cause major destruction when they eat wood in homes and other buildings. Termite colonies have a distinct hierarchy, with a king and queen at the top and reproductives, workers and soldiers within the colony. Each colony can number up to a million termites. There are many species of termites, including subterranean termites that live underground, damp wood termites that like moist conditions and dry wood termites that can survive without much moisture.
Termites are relatively small — usually measuring from 1/4 to 1/2 inch in length. Their soft, oval-shaped bodies can be colored from white to light brown and are wide without a defined waist. Some termites have two pairs of wings, and the wings are equal in length. The specific appearance can vary by termite species and by caste. For example, worker termites tend to be lighter in color, while reproductive termites tend to be darker.
Termites have a similar appearance to ants — especially carpenter or flying ants — but there are some differences. Termites have wider waists than ants, straight antennae instead of bent antennae and a generally lighter coloring than ants. If you're not sure which pest you have, a termite exterminator can help identify them.
Certain termites in the reproductive stage have wings and can fly. The adult reproductive termites are also called swarmers. When it's time to mate, these termites fly from the colony to create new colonies and lose their wings shortly after. This only happens during certain times when conditions are right — usually during warmer weather that comes in the spring.
Termites can bite, but it's rare. Soldier termites can bite. They typically use that ability to protect the colony from other insects. However, they can bite humans, usually only if they're handled. In the rare instance of a bite, the termite doesn't usually cause any serious effects on humans.
You might catch a glimpse of termites if you have an infestation. One of the easiest types of termites to spot are swarmers as they fly to create a new colony. You might also find discarded wings from those swarmers. Other signs of termites include:
- Hollow-sounding wood around your home
- Blistering on wood
- Frass, which is wood-colored droppings
- Clicking sounds in walls made by soldier termites banging their heads on wood
- Warping on door and window frames that causes them to stick
- Mud tubes along your foundation
- Cracks in the walls from settling due to structural damage from termites
- Sagging, warping or buckling in floors
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You can get several DIY termite treatment products that might help get rid of these destructive pests. Termite bait stations attract the pests with poison-laced wood or other cellulose materials inside. The termites can take the poison back to the colony to kill more insects. Liquid barriers contain poison that you apply to a trench around the perimeter of your home. Since the barriers don't repel the termites, they bring the poison to the colony. You can also get spot treatment products to kill termites.
You usually install termite bait stations flush with the ground or below the ground. However, the specific installation instructions can vary based on the type of bait stations you have. They go down into a hole created by an auger and are located about 1 to 2 feet from the foundation. You'll install bait stations every 10 to 15 feet around your home. Bait stations can be used alone or with other termite treatment options.
While there are DIY termite treatments available, it's often best to call an exterminator if you suspect you have a termite problem. Termite extermination companies have commercial-grade chemicals and treatment options that can be more effective in treating the problem. DIY treatments often aren't effective and could allow the termites to cause more damage. Call an exterminator quickly to avoid additional structural damage.
Termites start to die within a few days of applying the termite treatment. However, it can take a while to get rid of all termites in your home — sometimes up to weeks or months. Termite treatments often last much longer, though. Some treatments last a year or longer. You might need ongoing visits from the exterminator to clear up the termite problem completely.
Getting rid of termites can be difficult, so it's important to prevent them from returning. Here are some ways to prevent a termite infestation:
- Move wood piles far away from your home to avoid attracting termites.
- Clear vegetation near your home.
- Remove mulch near your home as it can serve as a food source for termites.
- Improve drainage outside your home; moisture attracts termites.
- Reduce moisture inside your home with methods such as improving ventilation, fixing leaks and using dehumidifiers.
- Inspect used furniture carefully to ensure it's not contaminated with termites.
- Keep your roof in good condition since termites can attack your home from there.
It's also a good idea to inspect all wooden structures around your home regularly. Spotting early signs of termites can help you deal with the issue if you have a recurrence of termites.
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