Stop termites early to prevent infestation
termite damage home
You may have houseguests eating you out of house and home and not even know it. These voracious eaters might more accurately be called house pests because their snacking often goes on undetected until it’s too late to avoid expensive repairs.
We’re talking about termites, and March and April is when their appetites get whetted. They usually start from the basement level and work their way up, potentially causing significant damage for unsuspecting homeowners. The best way to keep them at bay is an annual inspection timed for when they’re waking up from winter.
“It’s good to have an inspection every spring when termites are more active,” says Marion A. Hall, president of highly rated Circle City Pest Control Company. “They’re not as active between freezes.”
The winged, subterranean termites don’t just get hungry in the Spring, they begin to reproduce, too. Their offspring are hungry, too. And there can be thousands of them.
“They’re usually attracted to somewhere wet, such as a leaky window; it’s going to be a moist area of the wood,” says Gregory Johns, vice president of highly rated Gold Seal Termite & Pest Control Company in Indianapolis. “They eat through the wood through a process called cellulose. They can be pretty destructive.”
Termites work in a caste system, with the queen laying as many as 2,000 eggs a day. The “worker” termites dig through the wood looking to expand the colony. Johns says he’s serviced homes where the damage has started in the basement and spread to the attic. He says one home alone has the potential to have up to 10,000 or more termites, including multiple colonies.
“They can get all the way to the attic without ever really showing their selves,” Johns says. “They’re very deceptive.”
Termites work together to build their nest underground before tunneling through the house foraging for food. Termites start damaging wood underground or in a basement, structural damage can often go unnoticed. In some cases, termites can also damage furniture and insulation.
There are a few helpful tips that can help homeowners avoid the pests this year. Number-one, make sure you have a good, solid roof. Secondly, do not store wood or build a wood structure right next to the home.
“Look for mud tubes in the basement and on the foundation wall,” Hall says. “They’re about the size of a pencil.”
Homeowners can inspect on their own, but pest control experts may have a better eye.
Johns says many pest control companies do free inspections to see if there is a termite infestation. Typically, one-time treatments cost between $130 and $150. For ongoing service, expect to pay between $80 and $110 for quarterly treatments, or $40 to $60 for monthly treatments.
An average treatment to resolve a major problem can run between $800 and $1,500.
Johns says there are generally two ways to take care of termite problems. You can either use a colony baiting system that goes underground around the outside of the home. The baiting system uses toxins to kill the worker termites, which are necessary for the queen to continue producing. Companies can also use a more traditional way by using termicide, a pesticide that kills all the termites at once.
Hall says the baiting system can be installed as a preventative measure, not just when a problem arises.
If you think you may have a termite problem, it’s time to call a professional to take a look around your home. Pest control specialists should carry an Indiana State Chemist license and be properly insured. Search for a reputable company with good reviews that you can trust.
“Make sure whomever you call is reliable,” Hall says.
Editor's note: This article was originally published in March of 2013.