Termites and Their Control

Signs that you may have a termite problem

Close-up of termite alates, or 'swarmers'

Subterranean termites are one of the most economically destructive insects in Dayton, Ohio and throughout most of the United States. Every year, termites cause many millions of dollars in property damage to wooden homes and structures. Left untreated, long-standing termite infestations can literally destroy a home.

As the name implies, subterranean termites live underground. The alates, or "swarmers" shown here are the stage that most people see, but they're not the ones that do the damage. Alates are adult reproductive termites that are leaving an established, mature nest, in pairs, to establish their own colonies elsewhere.

The overwhelming majority of alates in a swarm will die without having achieved their mission. They're the ones whose dead bodies you fin along door and window frames or along the walls in the basement. They have a very short time to find a suitable piece of earth and start a nest. If they don't, then they die.

Nonetheless, if you see swarmers in or around your house, that's a sign that you've had termites for at least a few years, because only mature nests produce swarmers. So even though the swarmers themselves don't do any damage, they're a sign that some damage has already been done. It could be very minor or very major, which is another why you need to contact us for a professional termite inspection if you see termite swarmers in or around your home.

 

Termite shelter tubes on a wall

Another sign that you have or have had a termite problem is the presence of mud shelter tubes, or "mud tubes," like the ones shown here. They may be found on the inside or outside of a house, in a basement, or extending from the ground to the wood above it in a crawl space.

Termites build the tubes to protect themselves from light, air currents, and predators as they travel between their underground nests and the source of food (the wood in your home). If the gap is very small, then the tubes will be very small. But in some cases, they can be five feet or more in length. They can also be built inside hollow cinder blocks or in the gap between the framing of a home and the brick face or stucco.

If you break open a shelter tube and see cream-colored, grub-like workers inside, then the tube is active and you have an active termite infestation. Even if you don't see any termites inside, but the tube is repaired in a day or two, then you have an active termite infestation.

If you break open a shelter tube and don't see any termites inside, and the tube isn't repaired in a day or so, then possibly you (or the previous owner) had a termite problem that has since been treated. It's also possible that the colony died for other reasons, although that's unusual.

But it could also mean that you still have an active infestation, but that that particular tube is no longer being used for some reason. Possibly someone did a "partial" termite treatment in that particular area, but not the rest of the home.

Whatever the case, if you see what appears to be inactive termite tubing, you should give us a call to check it out. We'll let you know if the termites are active or not. We usually can also tell whether or not there was a previous treatment, and we can arrange for regular inspections, if you like, just to be on the safe side of things.

 

Small, grub-like termite workers in wood

The termites that do the damage are the workers, who are very small, grub-like, and cream-colored. They are rarely seen by homeowners because they are sensitive to both light and air currents, so they stay in the ground, the wood, or in the shelter tubes. If you do happen to break a tube and see the workers, they will immediately start to repair it.

Worker termites live in the soil, but they spend most of their time going between the soil and the wood to gather food for the colony. If there is an exposed gap between the two, they build and maintain mud shelter tubes and travel through them.

Other workers forage laterally through the soil looking for more wood, and when they find some that they like, they tell their buddies. Most colonies have several sources of food (although they may just be different parts of the same house).

The worker termites are also responsible for feeding the king, queen, and (if present) the soldiers, as well as helping to rear the young and generally maintain the nest. They communicate with each other through a system of chemical messengers called pheromones, and share food through a process called trophallaxis, which is basically the direct transfer of food from one termite to another.

All this direct contact between termites is one of the keys to effective control, as we'll see in the next section. If you can get a worker termite to eat something, eventually they'll feed it to the rest of the nest.

 

Earth-Friendly Termite Control

Back in the old days, termite control was performed using highly-repellent liquid termiticides like Chlordane to form a "chemical barrier" under and around a home. Starting in the early 1980s, however, public health experts starting having concerns about the toxicity of chlordane, and it was banned nationwide in 1988.

In the years since chlordane was banned, many different products have been developed for effective termite control. We offer two termite-control methods that we think offer the best balance of effectiveness and respect for our environment. Which one is best for you depends on things like the extent of the infestation, your home's design, your soil type, and your personal preferences.

Option 1: The Advance Termite Baiting System

Cross section of the Advance Termite Baiting System, an earth-friendly termite baiting system.

The first termite control method we use is the Advance Termite Baiting System. This is a solid-bait system that doesn't involve any application of liquid termiticides to the soil. We like it because it's effective, but also because it's one of the most environmentally-friendly of all the new termite control methods that have been developed since 1988.

The Advance Termite Baiting System doesn't use any liquids at all, so there's no need to worry about insecticides leaching into the soil or infiltrating into the basement. There also are no vapors and fumes, so there is no smell. In fact, there's no human exposure to the insecticide at all.

Instead, heavy-duty bait stations are installed directly into the ground, where termites live and forage. The stations are flush with the surface of the soil once installed, so they're not unsightly. They contain a dry, cellulose-based bait that is even more attractive to termites that the wood in your home. When the termites find it, they quickly run back to the nest and tell their friends in the colony. Before long, the termites start feeding preferentially on the bait.

Unfortunately for them, that bait may be tasty, but it's also deadly to termites. It contains a slow-acting active ingredient called diflubenzuron that the termites bring back to the nest and feed each other; and within a few weeks to a few months, the termite colony is eliminated.

Other advantages to the Advance system include ease of application. Unlike liquid termiticide treatments, there's usually no need to drill through concrete, no need to lift flooring or carpeting, and no need to dig trenches. This makes an Advance installation more economical, in addition to being more environmentally-friendly. It's truly an example of a "green" success: an earth-friendly termite control product that actually works.

Option 2: Termite Control with Termidor

Drawing of how termites bring Termidor termiticide back to the nest with them.

There are situations where a liquid termiticide treatment is a better choice for a particular property. In these situation, the only termiticide we use is Termidor, which has a 100 percent effectiveness rate for termite control in USDA tests.

Termidor is a non-repellent termiticide that works in a completely different way than old-fashioned "chemical barrier" treatments. Those termiticides were really more repellents than anything else. As a result, when the barriers were broken (for example, by missed spots during treatment or landscaping after the treatment), the barriers lost their effectiveness.

Termidor changed all that. Termidor is non-repellent by design. Termites don't even notice that it's there. It has no repellent taste, odor, or irritant effects to them. As a result, they freely travel through Termidor-treated soil in the course of their foraging; and in so doing, they get the insecticide on their bodies and bring it back to the colony with them when they return. Unlike baiting systems, the termites don't actually have to eat Termidor. They just get it on their bodies as they travel through it.

Once they get back to the colony, they transfer the termiticide to the rest of the members. This is because termites feed and groom each other, spreading the insecticide throughout the colony in the process. The scientific term for this is trophallaxis, but the makers of Termidor just call it the "Transfer Effect."

The active ingredient in Termidor, fipronil, is slower-acting than older termiticides. This is by design. Because Termidor is non-repellent and is intended to be brought back to the colony by foraging termites, we don't want something that's going to kill them too quickly. We need them to stay alive long enough for the whole colony to be exposed. By the time the termites realize that something is wrong, it's too late. The whole colony has been poisoned and will soon die.

There are several advantages to Termidor compared to baiting systems. One is that Termidor, when properly applied, always works. There are some situations when termites simply ignore termite baits, no matter how well they're placed. The second advantage is that Termidor works more quickly than baits. We guarantee colony elimination within three months, but usually it only takes a few weeks to a month.

 

Whichever method you prefer, please contact us if you think you may have a termite problem. We'll be happy to schedule a no-obligation inspection; and if you do have termites, we'll explain both termite treatment options to you in the context of your particular situation so you can make an educated decision. We look forward to hearing from you!

 

Jarrod's Corner

Google Plus link from heat treatment in Greenville 12/11/17

 

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