Author, Cassie Krejci, Ph.D.
Welcome to Week 5 of the TERM Barrier System blog!
We have a saying in pest management in the south and southeastern areas of the United States:
“It’s not if you get termites, it’s when!”
As I talk with homeowners, builders, and architects about the importance of including pest solutions from the beginning of the home planning process, I stress that termite problems are a major issue that will eventually need to be addressed. Termiticides, pesticides targeted for termites, are traditionally relied upon as the only form of termite control. However, research shows us that even with optimal application of a termiticide before the structure is built, the protection will not last the life of the structure.
For this reason, it is important to include barriers, like the ones we manufacture as part of the TERM® Barrier System, for long term protection of your home or structure against termites and other pests.
Today, I’d like to outline a few signs that can be specific to a termite infestation in your home or building. If you think that you may have termites, please contact a licensed pest management professional. In many cases, your first termite inspection may be free!
Inside the home
- Suspected water damage
Once termites have entered the home, they can cause expensive damage to the home’s structure before the tenants even know there is a problem. Even without wood framing to consume, termites will consume anything that contains cellulose. This includes cabinets, flooring materials, furniture, and even the paper on the back of sheetrock. Signs of termite damage inside the home may initially appear to be water damage in the form of buckling, engorged floors or ceilings. This is due to termites consuming cellulose and subsequent weakening of the building materials. Termites will eat a piece of wood all the way up to the paint layer, leaving it to collapse if touched. Often, your fingers are great tools for “feeling out” weakening in the walls, floors, or furniture.
- Termite Droppings
Drywood termites leave fecal pellets, or frass, behind wherever they go and this is often a sign of an infestation. Drywood termite frass resembles small pellets, are around 1/25” long, and have elongated ridges. Fun fact: The ridges in termite fecal pellets are unique and a biological adaption developed by the termite to retain as much moisture as possible for nutrition. Be careful! Drywood termite pellets are often mistaken for sawdust and cleaned up without a thought. However, fecal pellets can be a sign of a full-blown drywood termite infestation.
- Termite Wings
When termites swarm, the alates leave an existing colony, fly to a new location, and create a new colony. Alates are a particular life stage of male and female reproductive termites. Termites swarm once or several times a year, depending on species and environmental conditions, but in the south, we can always count on termites swarming around Mother’s Day. How nice, right?
When alate termites get to where they are going, they will lose their wings. Signs of a new infestation in the home can be seen when termite wings, which resemble transparent fish scales, are found near windows and doors.
Outside the home
- Mud tubes
Subterranean termite mud tubes are the most telling sign of a termite infestation in and around the home or structure. Mud tubes will be located on the surface of the vertical foundation and run from the soil in to the home. For a structure built with a crawl space, it is important to inspect the interior of the foundation wall, as well. Mud tubes are essential for subterranean termites, as they must maintain contact with the ground. These tubes allow the termites to regulate the temperature and relative humidity as they travel to and from the colony. Mud tubes can be disrupted by simply using a wire brush to clean the surface of the foundation, and then contacting a pest management professional for treatment options.
Finally, it is important to note that mud tubes are common both inside and outside the home.
There are additional ways in which a pest management professional may locate a termite infestation, but these are the easiest to observe by home and property owners. While termiticide pretreatments and remediations are excellent forms of control, Integrated Pest Management is key to long-term termite management. Physical barriers like the ones we have developed in the TERM® Barrier System can provide long-term protection to the home building materials against termites and other pests.
For additional information on the TERM® Barrier System products, please feel free to email me at email@example.com.