Termites: They crawl. They fly. They breed. And most of all, they eat. Since wood cellulose is the food of choice for several termite species, a happy home is nothing more than a free lunch to these pests. Termite infestations can occur just about anywhere people live, and once they've set in, they can be very difficult to eradicate.
Although fires, floods, storms, and earthquakes certainly get more air time, according to the National Pest Management Association, termites cost Americans more than $5 billion dollars a year in property damage – a hefty sum for such a little bug! Fortunately, there are several things that you as a homeowner can do to prevent these creatures from taking up residence in your house.
1.Preventing Damage from Dampwood Termites
Identifying potential infestations before they are firmly established and calling a pest-control professional immediately is the best way to ensure that these little bugs don't end up costing you big bucks.
In the United States, dampwood termites are most common along the Pacific Coast, in the Southwest, and in Florida. This variety of termite prefers to dine on wood that is thoroughly saturated with moisture, which is good news for homeowners. Although these bugs are less likely to infest a home than many of their cousins, they can cause damage if they are attracted to your property. To make your property less inviting to dampwood termites, draw excessive moisture away from the structure of your house by keeping gutters and downspouts clear (which also reduces mosquito spawning) and making sure rainwater is diverted well away from the house itself.
2.Preventing Damage from Subterranean Termites
Subterranean termites may live in the dirt, but their ability to cause damage to structures is truly unmatched. This species has been responsible for causing structures to actually collapse! Like dampwood termites, subterranean termites are drawn to both moisture and wood. In addition to drawing moisture away from the structure of your home, it is also important to keep any kind of wood that is in contact with the ground well away from the house itself. Piles of mulch, firewood, and lumber should be moved away from the main house and, if possible, placed on a surface that is elevated above the ground. Homes with crawlspaces underneath should take special care to keep this area ventilated to reduce moisture build-up. Subterranean termites are found throughout the U.S., meaning every homeowner should take these simple steps to prevent an infestation.
3.Preventing Damage from Drywood Termites
As their name suggests, these buggers prefer to feed on wood with a low moisture content – much like the wood in attics and walls. Drywood termites can cause extensive property damage, and though they are found primarily in the southeast, south-central, and western areas of the U.S., pockets of activity have been seen in many other areas of the country. These bugs enter the home through any available means, so preventing an infestation involves sealing up cracks and holes in exterior siding as well as consistently employing screens in windows and doors.
4.Preventing Damage from Formosan Termites
Dubbed "the most voracious, aggressive, and devious of over 2,000 termite species known to science" by the National Pest Management Association, Formosan termites have been found in California, Tennessee, Georgia, North Caronlina, South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Virginia, Texas, Louisiana, and Hawaii. Preventing an infestation of this species is a combination of the precautions used to prevent dampwood and subterranean species (ventilating crawlspaces, diverting rain water away from structures with gutters and downspouts, eliminating soil-to-wood and soil-to-structure contact).
Despite the best methods of prevention, sometimes termite infestation can still occur. Identifying potential infestations before they are firmly established and calling a pest-control professional immediately is the best way to ensure that these little bugs don't end up costing you big bucks. Mud tubes on exterior walls, the temporary existence of a swarm of winged insects, and the presence of a multitude of discarded insect wings are all early warning signs that you may be in for an infestation. In addition to keeping your eye out for these identifiers, examine piles of lumber, firewood, and mulch regularly for the presence of termites and regularly inspect the trees – living or otherwise – on your property for signs of termite activity. Homeowners should pay extra-close attention during the early spring, as this is the time when termites swarm and look for new spots to inhabit.