April 1, 2013
TOM KRAEUTLER: Welcome to The Money Pit Pest Prevention Podcast: Presented by Orkin. I’m Tom Kraeutler. Well, as the weather warms, it’s always great to be able to get out of the house and start to enjoy the sunshine. But it’s also the time of year when TERMITES do exactly the same thing! Termites nest deep in the soil around your house and when spring starts to thaw the ground they’ll swarm and when that happens, it’s often quite dramatic!
But besides having to deal with hundreds of flying insects, the presence of those swarms leaves no doubt that termites are not only living in, under or around your house, they may very well be feeding on your home as well!
Greg Bauman is the Vice President of Training and Technical Services for Orkin and joins me now with tips on how to protect your home from these wood destroying insects.
I am talking to Greg Bauman, the Vice President of Training and Technical Services for Orkin, about TERMITES and how to identify, prevent and get rid of a termite problem in your house.
Greg Bauman, Vice President of Training and Technical Services for Orkin, thanks for joining me
TOM KRAEUTLER: In the 20 years I spent as a professional home inspector, we used to say that there are three kinds of houses out there: those that have a termite problem, those that had a termite problem and those that will get a termite problem! How big of a problem are termites?
GREG BAUMANN: According to the National Pest Management Association, termites cause more than $5 billion in damage every year in the United States. In the United States, most people think termites are just a problem in the Southeast, but unless you live in Alaska, your home or building can be a target for termites. Termites live in colonies, and they need to eat cellulose from wood or wood products to survive. Termites are most active when temperatures are above 60 degrees. However, cold weather doesn’t kill termites. If they live in a home, the temperature is adequate for them to live year-round. Outside of the home, termites burrow deeper into the soil during the winter. Termites are among the most ancient of pests, surviving for more than 250 million years. Depending on species and location, an average lot surrounding a home can support three to four colonies, which vary in size from thousands to millions of termites. Termites can travel up to 100 feet from their colony in search of food.
TOM KRAEUTLER: Are all termites the same? How many different species are we talking about?
GREG BAUMANN: There are more than 2,000 species of termites, most of which do not cause structural damage. Orkin focuses its treatment efforts on the two most common types of termites that are pests in and around our homes – termites that live entirely in the wood (drywood/dampwood) and those that tunnel through the ground (subterranean).
Native subterranean termites cause the majority of all termite damage in North America. This species of termite lives in colonies in the ground, building tunnels that look like mud tubes above ground to keep them moist while allowing them to search for food. Mud tubes are typically the color of the soil in which the termites are crawling. Subterranean termites need moisture to survive. Colonies can contain thousands of members, and there can be numerous colonies in one acre of land.
Formosan termites are an extremely aggressive species of subterranean termite found in tropical and sub-tropical climates. Formosan colonies are often 10 times larger than those of other subterranean species. They are able to cause damage at an accelerated rate.
The Asian subterranean termite, native to Southeast Asia, is now being found in South Florida cities such as Key West, Miami and Fort Lauderdale and has infested structures, trees and several boats. According to termite researchers at the University of Florida, South Florida is the only place on earth where both the Asian subterranean termite and the Formosan termite share the same territory.
Drywood termites are not as widespread as subterranean termites, but they can also cause serious damage to structures. This species of termite does not need contact with the soil to survive. Drywood termites commonly target the wood in your home’s structural timbers, framing, furniture and hardwood flooring. Drywood termite colonies can contain a few thousand members.
TOM KRAEUTLER: How do you know if you have a termite problem?
GREG BAUMANN: It’s important to be on the lookout for termites. Warning signs include: a temporary swarm of winged insects, usually in the spring; discarded wings from “swarmers;” cracked or bubbling paint; wood that sounds hollow when tapped and mud tubes on exterior walls. For additional information and images of termite warning signs, visit www.orkin.com/termites.
Termite hot spots around the home include tree stumps and roots, which provide a source of food, water and moisture; mulch placed too close to the home; foundations that are not sloped away from the home; and concrete around utility pipes, as it leaves hidden spaces for termites after it has cooled and contracted. Get an Inspection: It can be difficult, since termites eat wood from the inside out. That’s why Orkin encourages homeowners to schedule an annual inspection with a licensed professional.
TOM KRAEUTLER: How do you prevent termites or get rid of them if they have already arrived?
GREG BAUMANN: Most homes, typically regardless of construction type, are vulnerable to termite attack. Termites are silent invaders. They can enter your home through cracks as tiny as 1/32 of an inch. You can do a few things to make your home less attractive to termites, such as eliminating moisture and removing wood sources, including mulches that are close to the home.
Tips to help prevent a termite infestation include:
- Do not pile mulch or allow soil to accumulate against your home’s siding. This could provide access for termites to enter your home.
- Pay close attention to dirt-filled porches and crawlspaces. Termites could have easy access to wood through cracks in foundation walls or if wood is in contact with the soil
- Keep gutters clear, and direct water from downspouts away from your home
- Move firewood away from your house
Taking steps to prevent termites from entering your home is important, but if you do have a problem, it takes a truly integrated service to control termites and keep them from coming back. Effective control requires directed liquid treatments and continued monitoring by a professional. Professionals are trained to locate the four most common conditions that attract termites to your home – disturbed soil, moisture (such as run-off from air conditioning units), temperature and objects that provide a warm and moist environment (including roots, twigs and pipes).