How to Spot and Treat Termites

Every year, termites cause billions of dollars of damage. They eat away at building foundations, get inside walls, chomp on joists and studs and even nibble at furniture if they get inside. I can say from personal experience that it is downright creepy to discover that termites have gotten into your house, especially because it is not cheap to get rid of the little buggers once they’ve decided your home is where they want to be.

Termites are not actually looking for a “house” as much as they want organic cellulose – and they pretty much don’t care where they find it. That’s usually dead plants and trees as well as the dead parts of living trees. They love wood and paper, which makes them such pesky household pests.

Though one termite is very small, they inhabit colonies of up to a quarter million or more, which is why they can do so much damage. They usually live in the soil or in the wood they consume. Outside, you may see them on dead tree stumps, or in big mounds they build to house their colonies. In homes, they infest walls and furniture. Most people don’t know they have termites until they see them swarm, which they are more likely to do in the spring. Otherwise, homeowners may notice the mud tunnels the insects make as they get to their food sources, or see the damage when it has gotten so severe that it shows up as a small hole or soft spot in the wall.

Some people mistake ants for termites. But ants have front wings that are longer than their hind wings, and antennae bent at a ninety degree angle. Termites have straight antennae and their wings are roughly equal in length. Plus, termites are usually white until they swarm.

The key to living with termites is to prevent them from moving in in the first place. They thrive in moist conditions where they can find plenty of food, so it is essential to take the following steps:

* Eliminate moisture around your home. Repair leaking faucets, water pipes and air conditioning units. Divert water away from your home’s foundation, keep gutters and downspouts clean and get rid of standing water on your roof. Remove excessive plant cover and wood mulch, and seal entry points around water and utility lines or pipes.

* Remove food sources. Keep firewood, yard debris and lumber away from your home’s foundation or crawl space.



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