Regardless of how well woodwork is built or maintained, once wood-boring pests like beetles, termites, and carpenter ants find their way into the wood, they can wreak havoc. Wood-destroying insects are more than a nuisance; they are dangerous and can cause significant costly damage. What’s worse, they can cost a small fortune to treat and eradicate.
Estimates indicate that subterranean termites cause close to $5 billion worth of damage to structures in the U.S. Statistically, almost one in thirty U.S. homes have some level of termite infestation. Unfortunately, it can take ten years or more for the problem to become noticed; by then, substantial damage may have already been suffered.
If you think that concrete and steel-beam construction of your home makes you immune to termites, think again. These wood-gnawing pests attack decks, door frames, and railings. But how do they get in? Often, termites will hitchhike inside wood products like antique furniture, bed frames, nightstands and desks, many times heralding from overseas. Going antiquing this weekend…be careful because you may be bringing home more than you ‘bargained’ for.
What’s likely worse, you often don’t see them until the damage is being done. Damage to wood by termites happens while they’re feeding; they create tunnels and nests within the wood food source. Do they leave behind any other telltale signs? Frequently these wood-destroying pests leave pinholes on the surface or a little pile of sawdust signaling their chewing and tunneling handiwork.
Termites are the most economically important wood-destroying and are found throughout the country aside from Alaska. There are generally three types of termites: drywood, subterranean and dampwood, with the subterranean form being the most common and costly. Typically, the adults and juvenile forms cause the greatest destruction to wood-constructed structures and furniture items.
Throughout the US, termite issues tend to increase in severity as temperatures rise and rain is more common; early to mid-spring in most areas. Inspection is key especially in the lower floors or areas in buildings or private residences. If a piece or section of wood easily breaks off or feels spongy, termites are likely at the root of the problem. And don’t think that termites simply crawl; be on the lookout for flying ant-like insects that typically ‘swarm’ in the early spring or late fall. You may actually see a pile of wings under a window sill or door jamb. Evidence of termite activity and a definite sign to call your pest management professional.
Is there anything that the homeowner can do to make their environment less friendly or inviting for these strong-jawed insects? Here are just a few ideas for you to consider as offered by the National Pest Management Association:
• Keep basements, attics and crawl spaces well ventilated and dry
• Repair leaking faucets, water pipes and A/C units on the outside of the home or building
• Repair fascia and soffits and rotted roof shingles promptly and properly
• Replace weather-stripping and repair loose mortar around basement foundations and windows
• Direct water away from your home or building through properly functioning downspouts, gutters and splash blocks
Remember, termites are attracted to moisture so inspect the perimeter of your home and make certain that you have good drainage that leads away from the perimeter of the foundation. Try to keep lumbar and firewood off of the soil and away from touching your home; these are delicacies for these voracious wood feeders. Mulch is another tasty for termites, so try to keep it away from the outer walls of the building. And if your garage is a separate standing structure, don’t forget it too must be protected by inspection and a few easy to implement steps.