Termites can literally eat into your home equity and even your cash flow. The wood-munching insects ate nearly 10 million Indian rupee notes (approximately $222,000) at the State Bank of India in 2011, the N.Y. Daily News reported—we wouldn’t want to have been in that branch manager’s shoes.
But bank notes are not the usual main course for termites. Wood is, to the chagrin of the American homeowner. The costs for termite damage and control is more than $5 billion every year in this country, according to termites.com. That’s more damage annually than fires and floods cause combined.
The Biology of Termites
Termites are a class of insect with more than 2,000 species, about 50 of which are found in the United States. Termites that affect American homes are generally of three species: subterranean (the most common species found in the U.S.), drywood and Formosan termites. Termites feed on organic material, such as wood, boxes, paper and cellulose insulation. Subterranean termites also need some type of moisture to survive.
All U.S. states, except Alaska, have some type of termite. These insects particularly thrive in warm, damp environments, which makes the southern states particularly vulnerable. The incidence of termite damage decreases the further north you travel in the United States.
An Ounce of Prevention…
Termite infestations have warning signs, if you know where to look. Wood that looks like its been devoured except for the grain, and piles of small insect wings in spider webs are two of the most obvious tells.
There are several measures you can take to prevent termites from gaining a foothold on your property, according to Orkin.com termite control
- Keep mulch and wood chips away from the foundation of your house
- Seal cracks and gaps in the foundation, windows and near attic vents
- Regularly inspect wooden decks and fences for damage and keep gutters and downspouts clear of debris
- Make sure water doesn’t accumulate around your foundation and grow plants at least six inches away from the house
…the Pound of Cure
Preventing termites is a lot easier than getting rid of them once they have established a colony. If you spot termites, though, don’t panic; they are notoriously slow eaters. The typical termite colony eats just one pound of wood in five years, according to MSN.
Getting rid of termites is usually best left to a professional. Most companies offer a free inspection and estimate. There are two main weapons against termites: liquid termite control and baiting. Liquid termite control involves injecting termiticide into the ground around your home’s foundation. As termites travel back and forth to the colony, eventually this treatment will eradicate the entire colony.
The other method of termite control is baiting. This involves placing baiting stations around the perimeter of your home. Once the bait is found, the exterminator replaces the bait with a piece of wood laced with insecticide, which the insect carries back to the colony. The advantage in this method is that less insecticide is used. However, baiting generally takes longer to be effective than the liquid method.
No one wants to hear that their house has termites. But with the help of an exterminator, you can keep these bugs from literally eating you out of house and home.