Termites are sneaky critters. Sometimes called the “silent destroyers,” homeowners often don’t even realize they have a termite infestation until it’s too late. Termites are so common here in the Phoenix Valley that it is recommended to periodically inspect the home for termite activity, and to take other preventative measures to protect your home and property.
Termites cost Americans more than $5 billion in damages each year, according to the National Pest Management Association. The size of the termite colony we deal with most often in the Phoenix area ranges between 100,000 to 450,000 termites. Unfortunately, most homeowners’ insurance plans won’t cover the extreme damage that termites can cause in your home. Being proactive about protecting your home against termites is a crucial step toward termite infestation prevention.
Being aware of these different signs can make you more aware of termite activity that may be present at your home or property. Indications of termite infestation include mud tubes, noticeable swarms, termite droppings, discarded wings, and buckled or warped wood. Be sure to familiarize yourself with these signs and be on the lookout for them in order to spot, and then call a specialist to eradicate the pesky wood eaters.
Our monsoon season can create damp, muggy and humid basements providing just the right amount of moisture and stickiness that draw in termites. They aren’t attracted only to the moisture itself but also what that moisture does to wood. A good rule of thumb for proper ventilation in your basement or crawlspace is to have one square foot of vent opening per 150 feet of the area. The more airflow you have in your basement or crawlspace, the better the ventilation and less likelihood of humidity, mold and rotting wood.
While mulch is great for plant health, and it’s a pretty nice little aesthetic for the outside of your home, it definitely contributes to termite problems if it’s used in excess. Mulch is often made of wood, and it retains a lot of moisture, two of termites’ favorite things. If you must use mulch, use it sparingly and never let it have contact with doors, windows or the foundation of your home.
Cardboard boxes, firewood, sawdust, lumber and even newspapers attract termites as well. If these items are stored in your garage or in and around your home, it offers a tasty treat for the termites in your home. Getting rid of vines and stumps near the foundation of your home is also a good way to reduce your risk of termite infestation.
There are many different termite species, which will differ depending on where your home is located. Although each species has different characteristics, the one thing they all have in common is the ability to cause severe structural damage to your home. The five most common types of termites include Dampwood, Drywood, Formosan, Subterranean and Conehead.
Subterranean termites are the most common type of termite found across the country, and the most common here in the Valley. They live in colonies underground and build tunnels into structures in search of food. They also build mud tubes and their diets consist of wood and other cellulose material – including carpets. There are three “castes” of a Subterranean termite colony, with each caste differing in size and defining features.
When warm temperatures and heavy rainfall occur, these guys send out a swarm of winged termites that include males and females. A common mistake many homeowners make is misidentifying a flying ant as a subterranean termite and vice versa. A good way to be sure to tell the difference is to check the wings. Flying ants have two large wings in front and two smaller wings behind, but termites have four wings that are all the same size, resembling fish scales. You’ll know if you have a termite infestation in your home if you find piles of these wings in your home, particularly in windowsills.
There are generally two approaches one can take to address this type of termite activity for a home or business: liquid treatment or baiting. A liquid treatment involves digging a 2- to 6-inch deep by 4- to 6-inch wide trench around the foundation of the home. Where there is concrete abutting the foundation, holes are drilled into the concrete to get to the soil underneath the concrete or pavers, unless it is a post-tension slab. The chosen material is then placed into the trench or injected under the slab through the drill holes. The material will travel into the soil to target the termites, since that is where the desert subterranean termite comes from. Non-repellants are the best materials to use as they cannot be detected by the termites. With non-repellants, the termites unknowingly get into the material and share it within the colony. This liquid treatment leaves a residual that can effectively protect a home from termite activity for a period of several years after treatment.
Bait monitoring stations are installed in the soil around the home using a drill or auger, spaced about every 10 to 20 feet. These bait stations have an area in which to put a cellulose material, which is then available to the termites underground. This material can include an active ingredient or simply be the cellulose material, which has no attractant; the termites have to find the material. After being placed, these monitoring stations are inspected to determine if they are “hit.” If using cellulose material only, the active ingredient needs to then be added to the stations.
No one wants termites visiting their home. Being aware of the causes that attract the pesky wood eaters will assure your home remains on a strong foundation.
• Curtis Whalen and Nate Woolf are the owners of Blue Sky Pest Control, located in Gilbert.