Termites are one of those pests that inspire fear in the hearts of homeowners everywhere. After all, over time termites can cause serious destruction to your biggest investment: your home.
Yet termites are still poorly understood and cause a lot of confusion. Many homeowners don’t know what a termite looks like, how to spot the signs of termites, and how to tackle a termite problem.
When it comes to pest control, knowledge is power. You have to understand the pest you’re dealing with in order to fight it! We created this list of frequently asked questions—many of which our technicians hear on a regular basis—to help clear up confusion.
Read on to learn more about termites—and feel free to call us if you have any questions.
#1 What do termites look like?
Although there are thousands of different species of termites, only a few cause problems in the Ohio area. The most common termite type in our area is the eastern subterranean termite.
This type of termite is small, about the size of an ant (hence the confusion between the two pests). The appearance of subterranean termites actually depend on its “caste,” or role in the colony.
- Worker termites have bodies that are pale and white to light tan in color. Their “waists” are fairly straight (as opposed to ants, which have “pinched” waists.) These termites have six legs and two straight antennae jutting out from a large, bulbous head. They measure less than an inch in length.
- Soldier termites have similar bodies to the workers; however, their heads are a darker brown, and they have what looks like pincers in the front. They measure less than an inch in length.
- Swarmers—the termites that leave the colony to reproduce and create new termite colonies—have a body that is brownish-black in color and have opaque white wings. Their front and back wings are both the same length, and thin. Swarmers measure about one inch in length.
#2 How can I prevent termites?
Unless you live in a steel fabricated building with no wood whatsoever, there’s no way to really make your home 100% termite-proof. However, you can make it less likely that termites will find and attack your home.
Here are a few tips:
- Keep wood from making contact with soil. Door frames should sit 6 inches above the ground, and wooden steps or posts should have a concrete base.
- Remove wood that is touching your home’s foundation. Cut back shrubs and trees so that they don’t make contact with your house. Also, make sure to leave space between your home and mulch you put down.
- Get rid of firewood, stumps, and any decaying wood near your home.
- Eliminate excess moisture—which attracts termites—from around your home’s foundation. Fix any leaky pipes or gutters that don’t drain properly.
- Inspect lumber before using it in home improvement projects.
#3 My deck is made of pressure-treated wood. That means it’s safe from termites, right?
Pressure-treated lumber is wood that has been treated with chemical preservatives. Like the name suggests, the chemicals “preserve” the wood and delay the process of rot and decay. As a bonus, the preservatives make the wood resistant to termites.
But wait! If you read closely, you’ll notice that the phrasing is “resistant to termites,” not “termite-proof.” That’s important. Even pressure-treated wood can begin to rot if damp long-enough—and that’s when termites can feed on it. In addition, you should know that any new cuts or drill holes made into the wood will eventually give termites an entrance, as the termites can get past the outer protected surface into the untreated wood inside.
#3 What are the signs that my home has termites?
Termites are a tricky pest. Since subterranean termites live underground and feed inside wood, it can be months or even years before homeowners realize their house has termites. And that’s a big problem: termites, individually, are small, but in a big colony and over a period of time, they can do some serious damage.
While it’s tough to spot termites, they are a few clear signs (when you know what to look for):
- “Mud tubes” (the tunnels that termites build to travel) along the home’s exterior walls and foundation. These tunnels are typically ¼-1 inch in width and earth-colored.
- A “muddy” appearance on wood, which happens when termites “eat through” to the outer surface of the board. (It’s actually a mixture of soil and termite waste.)
- Piles of discarded wings, shed by swarmers after leaving the termite colony to mate in the spring
- Bubbling or discolored paint (similar to water damage)
- Sagging or excessively creaky wood floors
- Small holes in wood
- Wood that sounds hollow when tapped with a hammer
#4 How did termites get into my house in the first place?
“Fun” fact: termite workers don’t even have eyes! Yet they’re still able to find homes to attack, as they are attracted to wood and moisture. They are constantly in search of food sources to bring back to the other members of the colony—and if they find one in your home, they’ll stick around to keep feeding on (aka destroying) your home.
After they stumble upon your home, termites can get inside through the tiniest of cracks: think cracks in your concrete foundation or in brick mortar. They then create their mud tubes (building as they eat) to reach all the wood parts of the home.
#5 Can I DIY termite removal?
Some pests can be eliminated using the DIY route…but termites are not one of them.
That’s because termite treatment requires specialized knowledge and equipment. When eliminating termites, you must be able to locate and eradicate the entire colony. If the whole colony isn’t eliminated, the termites will rebuild.
The vast majority of homeowners don’t have the tools or experience needed to get rid of termites, and that’s why we strongly recommend you call a professional if you suspect your home has termites.
#6 My home has termites. How do I get rid of them?
Call a pest control professional for inspection and recommendations. A professional will help you do the following:
- Determine the extent of the problem (and damage)
- Locate the termite colony
- Create a treatment plan
#7 Is termite control safe for children and pets?
If you have children and/or pets in your home, you want to make sure that pest control won’t harm them.
The good news is that, when you work with a pest professional, he or she will help you ensure that the pest control harms only the termites. A professional will use the appropriate amount of treatments when and where necessary, and will advise you of any steps that need to be taken to avoid exposure by children and pets. (Plus, treatments like termite bait stations come with lockable caps to minimize tampering by kids/pets.)
These aren’t the only questions we’ve received, so stay tuned for future FAQs. If you see termite activity in your home, don’t hesitate to call us.
Contact Scherzinger Pest Control, a trusted pest control company in the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky areas, including Dayton, OH, and now Columbus, OH. We’ve been pioneers, engineering new standards for ways of eliminating and controlling bugs and pests. Contact us by phone at 1-877-748-9888 or through our website, Facebook, or Twitter.