The start of spring brings balmy afternoons, the thwack of baseball bats, and emerald lawns and flowers bursting into bloom. But it’s not all pretty. Throughout the United States, termites, carpenter ants and an army of other household pests are swarming around houses, foundations and woodpiles, preparing themselves for their annual munch fest. Now is the time for spring pest control. Preventing termites from destroying your home involves being prepared before it happens and knowing the signs of when it does.
This year pest experts estimate roughly 50 billion termites are gearing up to attack homes; maybe yours. The unwanted pests cost homeowners approximately $2 billion per year.
Home Improvement expert Bob Vila knows all too well what termites can do. He and his wife purchased a 200 year-old Cape on Martha’s Vineyard. Termites had already eaten their way through most of the floorboards and the windowsill plates. Repairs are about 75 percent complete. “We’ve never spent a night in the house”, Vila said. “This summer, hopefully, we’ll get in”.
Unfortunately, by the time a homeowner realizes he or she has a pest problem; the damage has already been done.
“You hardly ever know, unless it’s in an advanced state”, said Villa.
Termites can be tough to spot, typically entering your home in areas like inside dark crawlspaces or the basement, unless you happen to be around during a swarm, a part of the termite’s life cycle where they fly off and reproduce. When this happens, you’ll either spot the swarm itself or find the clear wings termite swarms leave behind, typically near windows or on sills.
Mud tunnels running along a homes foundation, on floor framing or even in drywall are another indicator that termites may have chosen your house for a meal. Termites construct these tunnels to keep themselves moist during the journey from nests deep in the ground around your house to the wood floor or wall framing they’ll often feed on.
But by the time you notice the signs of an termite infestation, the damage has most likely already been done. To avoid a surprise attack, have your home inspected for termite damage. An annual, professional wood destroying insect inspection only costs about a hundred bucks, good for the whole year and the best way of preventing termites from invading your home.
If termites are found, a new breed of undetectable pesticides like Termidor Termite Defense is one way to deal with them.
Unlike the old repellent treatments or baits that take too long to work, undetectable termiticides are installed into the soil where termites live, creating an effective pest control. The insects unknowingly pass through Termidor and then take some of it back to the nest where it is passed to the rest of the colony, killing the entire infestation once and for all.
Spring Pest Problems not Limited to Termites
Though hard to imagine, carpenter ants can chomp their way through wood sections of a house even better than a termite. Ants are probably the number one pest in the United States.
Some sections of the country, particularly the southeastern United States, are harder hit than others with carpenter house infestations, simply because the weather is warmer much of the year. Carpenter ants love moisture and warmth, and are only as active as the environment is.
Before you reach for the can of Raid, make sure you know what you are dealing with. Take a sample of the pest to your local county agricultural agent, or call in a pest control expert for an opinion.
If pesticides are called for, companies these days are using integrated pest management, which basically translates into tailoring the pesticide to the pest, then using as small an amount of pesticides as possible to do the job.
By combining integrated pest control techniques, the exterminator could apply less pesticide, thereby minimizing exposure to the consumer and liability to the applicator.
These Wood Destroyers Leave Powder Behind
Termites and carpenter ants are not the only wood destroyers that can wreak havoc in your home. Powder post beetles are found in every state in the continental U.S. and can be as destructive as termites. Powder post beetle larvae usually enter the home through infested wood, before any sign of infestation is noticed. The larvae then mature and bore their way out of the wood, leaving behind a small hole and fine sawdust, hence the name.
Powder post beetles can be found in hardwood floors, furniture and cabinets. Un-infested wood that is already finished (sanded, stained and varnished) will not become infested because adult beetles can’t get into the wood to lay their eggs. Once powder post beetles have infested wood, fumigation by a qualified pest professional is really the only way to go. Unfortunately, it does not rule out future infestation.
The best thing you can do to prevent a powder post beetle invasion is to inspect any wood before you purchase it, or ask your contractor to do the same. Moisture is a big factor in infestation, so make sure the wood is properly kiln or air dried. Also make sure the wood is sealed or use treated wood, and don’t store wood furniture outside, in a shed or a garage.
Preventing Termites, Carpenter Ants and Powder Post Beetles
Homeowners don’t have to sit idly by until their rafters and floorboards collapse. There are pest control steps and preventative measures that can be taken to keep the bugs at bay:
Keep your house dry. Termites and carpenter ants love moisture. Check your gutters and downspouts to make sure water drains away from your house.
Keep all firewood and wood products away from your foundation. Vila suggests buying only enough firewood to get you through the season.
Trim fence slats and any wood trim around your house like garage door jams up off the soil.
Remove all wood, cardboard to paper from the crawlspace or basement floor. If storage is necessary, be sure to keep storage off the floor to avoid attracting insects.
Most importantly, if termites, carpenter ants or wood destroying beetles do infest your home – don’t panic! These insects work very slowly. Take your time and find a qualified pest management pro to help you kill them once and for all.
The National Pest Management Association is an excellent resource for finding a qualified Pest Management Professional in your area who will be preventing termites, powder post beetles and other wood-destroying insects from destroying your home.