Check Your Home For Termites
Termites have been around since the dinosaurs, when all they did was devour trees in the forest. But nowadays, they eat away at homes to the annual cost of $5 billion in treatments and damages just in the U.S.
And it’s only going to get worse.
What most homeowners don’t realize is that termites are a 24/7 pest, meaning that they toil 24 hours a day, seven days a week to gorge themselves, putting at risk the biggest investment most people make in their lifetime, their home.
It’s a growing threat, due to the onslaught in southern regions of the U.S. over the past few years of the ferocious, more aggressive Formosan termite, dubbed “Super Bug” and “Termite from Hell.” (Subterranean termites are the most common termite and also the number one wood-destroying pest in the U.S.)
Researchers predict almost 100% of untreated homes in some southeast regions of the country will eventually be infested with termites, according to a September 1999 workshop on termites sponsored by the National Park Service in Louisiana-a state especially hard hit by the Formosan termite.
Originally from China, Formosan termites are the most voracious, aggressive and devious of over 2,000 termite species known to science. They are now eagerly chewing their way through real estate from Virginia to Hawaii, including California.
Infestation by Formosan termites must be addressed “like a contagious disease,” says scientist Dennis Ring of the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center Cooperative Extension Services.
Homeowners insurance will help recover losses from fires, storms, and earthquakes, but it is impossible to carry insurance against termite infestation. There’s only one solution with two options: control them, either by yourself or by hiring a trained and qualified pest management professional.
“Detecting and controlling termites is a job for the professional,” advises Mark Lacey, director of Technical and Field Services for the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), a trade association representing 80% of the professional pest management industry in the U.S., plus international affiliations.
Through focus groups designed to learn consumers’ perceptions of the pest management industry, the NPMA discovered that protecting customers’ homes-their primary investments-is a concept that is believable, relevant, and motivating.
Focus groups found that the dangers of a termite or carpenter ant infestations are well known and feared. Both pests could literally destroy a home if the problem is undetected or ignored. This potential destruction is reinforced every time consumers purchase a home and termite and pest inspections are required.
In this context, the cost of hiring a pest management professional makes sense, participants in the focus groups agreed. The expense pales with the repercussions of not hiring a professional.
One participant said: “Instead of having to spend a lot of money on a costly repair, I’d rather spend a little here. The big money goes to the kids’ educations and family vacations.”
In the NPMA’s new consumer web site designed to answer homeowner questions about pest control issues, a frequent topic is do-it-yourself. For example, one homeowner asked if a particular bait system is available for purchase.
The NPMA replied, “Yes, it is available. And no, there’s no reason you couldn’t do it yourself. But the big question is, will you do it yourself and will it work if you do it yourself. Because if you slack off, go on vacation, and forget to manage your bait stations, they won’t work and you’ll be back to square one, with termites still eating your house down around you.”
Other scientists and researchers agree with NPMA’s Lacey that a thorough inspection by a termite-control specialist is the first and most important step in protecting property. “Experienced” eyes can locate the specific areas in a structure where termite attack is likely to occur.
At Ohio State University Extension, a recent entomology report states that, “In most cases, once a termite infestation has been found, control measures are best accomplished by a professional pest management firm rather than a do-it-yourself treatment.”
Similar advice comes from the University of Nebraska, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources. In a recent report on termites, it said: “In most cases, it is beyond the ability of an untrained person to attempt the termite treatment.”
The report added that, “Generally, termite treatments should be performed by pest management professionals. Termite treatments require special tools such as hammer drills, sub-slab injectors, rodding devices, engines equipped with pumps, protective equipment, etc.
Both universities, the NPMA and other experts all offer similar advice to homeowners. First, don’t panic if spotting evidence of termite damage. Termites work slowly, although consistently throughout the year. (But be forewarned that the Formosan termite can chew its way through beams and plywood nine times faster than other termites. In Hawaii and elsewhere, they’ve been known to cause major structural damage to new homes in as little as three months).
Don’t make any quick decisions. Get two or more cost estimates in writing and compare them. Seek value and avoid making decisions based only on price. Ask about liability insurance. Verify that the firm you select is a member of your state Pest Control Association and the NPMA.
Finally, ask friends and neighbors to recommend a firm they have been satisfied with. As a final precaution, check with the local Better Business Bureau for a company performance record.
Termites justifiably have a bad reputation in the human world, but in the overall scheme of life, that isn’t so. Since they feed on wood, termites serve an important function in nature by converting dead trees into organic matter, or humus, which is then available to nourish living trees.
Unfortunately, the wood in our homes is just as palatable to termites as the dead trees in the forest. Subterranean termite colonies live in the soil, not the building, unless the building is heavily infested.