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What Every Homeowner Needs To Know About Subterranean Termites

Oct 8, 2007
What's cream-colored, less than an inch long, and can be found chewing off your home's foundation with an overall cost of $2 billion in damages each year? Definitely not your friendly neighborhood bug, that's for sure. Subterranean termites, considered to be the most destructive pest in the United States, are found in every state except Alaska.

Where do they live and what do they eat?

These dehydration-prone termites are attracted to areas with lots of moisture and must live near the soil or other above ground source to survive. Underground colonies of subterranean termites can contain up to 2 million members and are organized within a caste system, ranging from the queen and king termites who are the "colony founders" to the lower classes. Soldier and reproductive termites fall in between and help support the entire system with the former fighting off predators such as ants. Worker termites, the last group, consume wood and provide food for the rest of the termite colony.

Subterranean termites feed on anything that contain wood fiber and cellulose such as paper, cardboard, and plant products. Their primary source of food include dead trees and brush, but when the land is cleared by human intervention and houses get built, termites will start to attack the building structures.

Termites can penetrate buildings through wood that sits on soil and through building tunnels called mud tubes in foundations. They can also enter easily through cracks or openings in foundations.

What kind of damage can they do?

Homeowners are fearful of subterranean termites for good reason - these termites can collapse an entire building completely. A colony of termites can work diligently and chew through fragments of wood with their strong jaws.

Experts report that termites normally take three to eight years to cause any sort of tangible damage, based on feeding patterns. Other sources estimate that under humid and moisture-filled conditions, a termite colony composed of 60,000 workers could potentially consume a one foot of 2 x 4 inch pine in 100 to 150 days.

How can I tell if I have termites?

Since subterranean termites live underground, the best way to look for termites in your home is to watch out for mud tubes protruding from hidden areas, such as wall crevices, baseboards, and sub-flooring. Blistered wood, soil in cracks, and weak or broken structures can also be a sign of subterranean termites. If you see any appearance of termite entry into your home, call a licensed termite inspector to evaluate your termite situation and what can be done.

Anteater Pest and Lawn Services provide a proactive termite program for inspecting termites, termite damage, and mud tubes. Anteater will install monitoring stations around the perimeter of structures to serve as an early warning system.

How do I get rid of termites?

Pest control professionals utilize three different types of treatment that include soil treatments, wood treatments, and baits.

Soil treatments work to decrease the population of termites and protect the structure long-term. This treatment contains liquid termiticide diluted with water to be injected into the soil around the foundation of the home. This treatment can also be used simultaneously with wood treatments and/or baits.

Wood treatments protect wood from termite infestation and reduces the infestation during treatment by painting unfinished wood with liquids like borate materials.

Baits are put into the ground where there are signs of termites. The bait is usually an insect growth regulator (IGR) or a slow release toxic agent. Once termites eat the bait and return to their colony, it becomes manifested in the colony and reduces the termite population there through weakening the entire colony.

How can I prevent termites in the first place?

Prevention methods for termite infestation include reducing the the potential for termites to enter your home and should be reviewed by homeowners. Most of the treatments described above utilize chemicals, which can be toxic to animals and even humans.

The only permanent non-toxic termite treatment is produced by Termistop USA, which uses Flanges and Blockouts, a non-chemical solution that prevents termites from entering the home at the service penetrations through the slab. The Termimesh System, composed of stainless steel mesh, creates a "physical barrier" to termite entry when it "keys" into the concrete. By addressing these areas during construction with Termistop Flanges and Blockouts, Pest Control Operators reduce the need to apply chemical termiticides within the living space of the building.

Many green building programs around the country emphasize the use of physical barriers and non-chemical termite solutions. Termistop qualifies as a physical barrier in many of these programs, designed to eliminate the need for chemical re-treatments in the interior of the home. Anteater Pest and Lawn are also certified dealers and installers of the Termimesh System.

Prevention is the way to go

The impact that subterranean termites can have on our home is tremendous and can be economically ruinous. Preventing termites should be a priority for concerned homeowners and the permanent non-toxic termite treatment is a great way to prevent termite infestation while serving as a environmentally friendly option.
About the Author
Fran Phalin is a homeowner and freelance writer on things that work. She is based in Austin, Texas. Please visit http://www.anteaterpestandlawn.com/orlando/pest/termite_pretreatment.shtml for more info!
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