Keeping Termites At Bay
Donna Wilson/The Leaf-Chronicle
Donna Wilson/The Leaf-Chronicle
Termite damage is evident in this tree stump. Homeowners
should have their homes inspected annually for termite
Consumer tips for homeowners dealing with termites
• Termite damage typically isn't covered by homeowner's
insurance. Read your policy.
• Get your home inspected annually for termites.
• Thoroughly research pest control professionals,
call the Better Business Bureau ask for referrals from
friends as well as references from the pest control company.
Talk to the pest control professional about their procedures
and what products they recommend.
• "Take your time and look at all of your options,"
says Dr. Karen Vail, an urban entomology specialist and
associate professor at the University of Tennessee Agricultural
Extension Service. "They're not going to eat your house
in a day."
• Read and understand the limitations and any guarantees
in a pest control contract.
• There is no fool-proof system, termite prevention
is constantly changing.
• Some professionals recommend a combination of
products. Bait systems have not been in use as long as
liquid termiticide soil treatments.
• Do-it-yourself options for termite control are
available, but read the product information carefully
and understand the limitations.
Sources: Agriculture Extension Service, The University
of Tennessee; America's Bugbusters Inc., Nashville; Texas
Agricultural Extension Service; Bayer Environmental Science;
Gannett News Service.
Don't Let Your Home Be On The Termite Dinner Table
By STACY SMITH SEGOVIA
Knowing that termites serve
an important purpose on Earth, breaking down dead wood to make
room for new growth, won't take a dime off the $800 or $1,500
bill to rid your house of them. But maybe it will ease the sting
out a bit.
Humans have been fighting
nature since the dawn of time, damming up rivers, clearing pathways
through forests and hunting animals for food. Our fight against
termites is simply the modern equivalent of wanting to have
things our own way.Termites eat very slowly, perhaps a two-foot
length of 2-inch-thick board in a year, according to David Hinson,
manager of Servall, one of Clarksville's largest pest-control
"If you call for a termite
inspection and they say, 'Yes, you have termites,' your house
isn't going to fall down this afternoon," Hinson said.
You can safely, effectively
kill termites that are damaging your house. And if they haven't
gotten to your house yet, it's possible that a combination of
chemical barriers and a few do-it-yourself preventive measures
can keep you termite-free for good.
Hinson said the most prevalent
misconception about termites is that they live in your house.
In fact, the termites in our area live in huge underground colonies.
Too many people think that
if they kill the termites they see, they're in the clear, Hinson
"You can't just find a
wad of termites, kill them and be done with them," he said.
"It's not like finding a nest of wasps --you spray the nest
and they're gone."
For every termite you see,
thousands more live underground. Termite colonies send workers
to find food. Even when a food source is identified, the search
"It doesn't matter what
they've got," Hinson said. "They're always looking."
Worker termites randomly,
continuously forage for food. Workers find wood, or any wood
product, like paper or particleboard, and deliver it in pieces
back to the underground colony. Because they need moisture and
protection from light to survive, the workers build mud tunnels
through which they travel to and from food. If they find their
way into your floor joists or plywood framing, they will continue
to eat from it for as long as you allow, because your home is
a reliable food source.
For many years, chemical
barriers, which either killed or repelled termites, were the
only big guns available against termites. But barrier systems
are not failsafe. Since 1995, with the introduction of Sentricon,
homeowners have a new weapon in the fight. Sentricon and other
baiting systems rely upon the placement of termite food, usually
small pieces of wood, at regular intervals around the perimeter
of the house. Pest control technicians return monthly or quarterly
to monitor the bait. If they find evidence that termites are
snacking there, they replace the wood with a stick of termiticide.
The worker termites carry the lethal "food" back to the colony,
and soon the entire colony is killed.
Although you can look for
signs of termite infestation yourself, the easiest way to stay
on top of the threat is to have a professional inspection.
"Have it checked at least
once a year is usually a good rule of thumb," said Mike Lyons,
owner of Lyons Pest Control.
Almost all local pest control
companies do free termite inspections. If the diagnosis is "You
have termites," but you are skeptical, go into the crawlspace
with the technician and ask to see the indicators. If that isn't
possible, send your camera down with the technician and ask
him or her to snap a few pictures of the damage.
Lyons said he does numerous
free termite inspections every week. About one out of three
houses he inspects have a termite problem, he said.
Although using professional
termiticides is often necessary despite prevention efforts,
homeowners can do several things to lessen their chances of
being the next house on the block infested with termites. According
to Mike Potter, extension entomologist for the University of
Kentucky College of Agriculture, homeowners can reduce the risk
of termite attack by following these suggestions:
Eliminate wood contact with the ground.
Many termite infestations result from structural wood
being in direct contact with the soil. Earth-to-wood contact
provides termites with simultaneous access to food, moisture,
and shelter, as well as direct, hidden entry into the
structure. Wood siding, porch steps, latticework, door
or window frames, posts and similar wood elements should
be at least six inches above ground level.
Don't allow moisture to accumulate
near the foundation. Termites are attracted to moisture
and are more likely to enter a structure if the soil next
to the foundation is consistently moist. Water should
be diverted away from the foundation with properly functioning
gutters, downspouts and splash blocks.
Reduce humidity in crawlspaces by
providing adequate ventilation. Shrubs, vines and other
vegetation should not be allowed to grow over vents since
this will inhibit cross-ventilation. Moisture in crawl
spaces can further be reduced by installing 4-6 ml polyethylene
sheeting over about 75 percent of the soil surface.
Never store firewood, lumber or other wood debris against
the foundation or inside the crawl space. When stacked against
the foundation, these materials offer a hidden path of entry
into the structure and allow termites to bypass any termiticide
soil barrier, which is present. Vines, trellises, and other
dense plant material touching the house should also be avoided.
Use decorative wood chips and mulch sparingly, especially
if you have other conditions conducive to termite problems.
Any cellulose-containing materials, including mulch, can
attract termites. Termites are especially drawn by the moisture-holding
properties of the mulch.
Stacy Smith Segovia can
be reached at 245-0237 or by e-mail at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
Originally published Thursday, August 21, 2003