Termites are one of the most damaging pests a person can have. Not healthwise, as they are not dangerous to humans and pets and they do not transmit diseases. However, they can cause a ton of damage to your property, they spread extremely fast and are very hard to kill because of their reproductive abilities and long life. Still. Easy to say, termites can be a great nuisance and aren’t something that should be taken lightly.
In this article, we will shed some light on the most common signs of a termite infestation, ways to prevent one and what to do once they have already invaded your property.
Signs of a termite infestation
If you have any doubts that your house is the victim of a termite infestation, there are certain signs and things you need to look out in order to be completely sure.
Keep in mind that termites are often mistaken for white ants due to their colour and front body part, however, all similarities stop there. The wings of the ant are actually different in size – one pair is larger than the other, whether the termite ones are absolutely the same. The ant’s antennae are bent unlike those of termites that are completely straight and their bodies, in general, are quite thick in comparison.
So here are the main things you should pay attention to if you are worried about having termites.
Also known as flying termites or swarmers, they are the males and females who have set out to a new journey to mate and create a new colony. If you see any, there is still probably time to eradicate the infestation as they might not have settled in yet. Most of the alates swarm after a big rain and on warmer days. Keep an eye on for discarded wings as the swarmers lose theirs once they’ve mated and settled. After that, the king and queen of the termites look after their young until there are enough workers to replace them. An interesting fact is that even though worker termites usually live up to 2 years, the queen and king can look after a colony for a full decade.
- Termite faeces
If you have an infestation, it’s very unlikely that you don’t see any live termites, but it’s not impossible. In that case, look out for their droppings, also called “frass”. While some species, like the subterranean termites, use their faeces to build the tunnels and foundations of the colony, the ones that invade homes usually pile them up at the entrances of the tunnels. So if you see a concentration of dark powdery substances near small holes, it’s most likely frass.
Termites can be quite noisy when they are working, so keep an ear out for low clicking sounds coming from your walls. This is actually the termites banging their heads against the walls in order to notify the other members of the colony in case of immediate danger. It may sound weird and that it’s not enough to signal the whole colony, but termites can actually detect very quiet noises and vibrations because of the several organs dedicated especially to this function. It’s been speculated that they can even tell the size of the wood by using those vibrations to analyze it from the inside.
They are also quite loud when eating so if you put your ear close to a wood piece, you might hear the sounds of them munching from afar.
- Hollow wood
One of the most obvious signs is, of course, finding hollow wood as termites normally eat it from the inside out. Initially, you might notice tunnels, also known as galleries, in pieces of fallen timber, meaning it’s already been invaded by termites. Very often they will just leave the coat of paint or the most top layer of the wood. First, the sound when you knock on the furniture will change to sounding papery and hollow and after that, at the end stages of the carving, you will be able to just run your finger through the surface without any problem.
- Mud tubes
You’ve probably seen wasp or hornet tubes outside your home, but these ones are a bit different. While wasp tubes are usually concentrated in one area, the ones of termites are spread across the exterior of your home, climbing the foundations, wood beams, and even reaching attics and crawl spaces.
- Doors and windows are hard to open
Termites produce a lot of moisture when digging and eating window and door frames. This causes the wood to warp making the windows quite difficult to open and the doors extremely tight-fitted.
DIY methods to prevent and control termites at home
If you´ve noticed any of the signs we´ve mentioned above, the wisest thing to do would be to seek professional treatment or use products made especially for dealing with a termite infestation. Most DIY methods do not guarantee a 100% eradication of the pest and would just slightly slow down the whole process.
How to prevent termites from entering your home
- Protect your home with Termirepel™. You can use the product in the form of a masterbatch, liquid concentrate, lacquer, wood polish additive, or spray! Apply Termirepel™ to the areas that look attractive to termites and save your home and your wallet.
- Repel them with essential oils. It’s been recently proven by scientists from the Clemson university that the scent of geranium, cedarwood, and tea tree oil can actually be fatal to termites. When they become in contact with those oils, their nervous system is affected in a way that blocks their neurotransmitters’ receptors and might also disrupt their whole metabolism, leading to death. Simply apply those oils to endangered surfaces. However, they will only work for the insects they actually come in contact with.
- Remove wood in your home that is in direct contact with soil. This isn’t always applicable, of course, but it’s important to mention that the termite’s most common point of entry are damp and moist wood areas in the foundations of the house. The same goes for window and door frames. Make sure that there is some distance between them and the ground so that they aren’t used as entries.
- Maintain your crawl spaces and basements. Make sure they are dry and there aren’t old, damp and moist wooden areas that might attract the termites. Place vents where it’s needed and regularly check if they are working properly. You can additionally help your underground spaces stay dry by installing a 4 to 6mm polyethylene plastic sheeting over at least 75% of the overall surface.
- Be careful when applying mulch to your garden. Never place it close to the foundations of your home or near wooden frames. Yes. it is very useful to plants and gardening in general, because of its moisture-retaining properties. But those same properties will be the ones to attract termites to your home if you are not careful enough.
How to get rid of termites at home?
Still, if you are in the beginning stages of a termite infestation here is what you can do and the products you can use.
- Sunlight and cold. As strange as it sounds, termites are actually incapable of surviving in harsher weather conditions. If you find a piece of wooden furniture that is infected by the pest, you can simply take it outside to stay under direct sunlight for about 3 days, and the termites will die. If you want them dead even faster you can put them in a place with 50°C for around 40 minutes and it’s adios termites. The same goes for freezing temperatures – if they are exposed to them for more than 1 day, the termites will die. However, this method is only applicable when it comes to separate pieces of furniture and obviously not an entire room or a window frame.
- Diatomaceous earth. This is a natural pest killer that is often used with spiders and other crawlies. The way it works is quite brutal but very effective. You have to apply it to the highly infested areas and the sharp microscopic particles will cut through the termites’ hardcover, penetrating the organs and killing them. Be careful when applying it and always wear a mask and goggles. Also, keep in mind that diatomaceous earth works only when applied to dry timber and it’s completely useless if there is even a bit of moisture.
- A simple cardboard trap. Termites love munching on cardboard as it contains plenty of cellulose which they require for nourishment. So what you need to do is break down a cardboard box and take two of its sides. Wet them so that they are quite moist but not too much to fall apart. Place them on top of each other close to a termite nest in order to attract them inside. They will be quickly tricked into going in between the cardboard to feed. Once you see there are enough of them inside, just take the cardboard outside and burn it. Keep in mind that this technique will not help you get rid of an entire colony as they reproduce extremely fast and probably not all of them will decide to actually get inside the cardboard.
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