The start of spring brings balmy afternoons, the thwack of baseball bats, and emerald lawns and flowers bursting into bloom. But it’s not all pretty. Throughout the United States, termites, carpenter ants and an army of other household pests are swarming around houses, foundations and woodpiles, preparing themselves for their annual munch fest. Now is the time for spring pest control.
This year pest experts estimate roughly 50 billion termites are gearing up to attack homes; maybe yours. The unwanted pests cost homeowners approximately $2 billion per year.
Home Improvement expert Bob Vila knows all too well what termites can do. He and his wife purchased a 200 year-old Cape on Martha’s Vineyard. Termites had already eaten their way through most of the floorboards and the windowsill plates. Repairs are about 75 percent complete. “We’ve never spent a night in the house”, Vila said. “This summer, hopefully, we’ll get in”.
Unfortunately, by the time a homeowner realizes he or she has a pest problem; the damage has already been done.
“You hardly ever know, unless it’s in an advanced state”, said Villa.
Termites can be tough to spot, unless you happen to be around during a swarm, a part of the termite’s life cycle where they fly off and reproduce. When this happens, you’ll either spot the swarm itself or find the clear wings termite swarms leave behind, typically near windows or on sills.
Mud tunnels running along a homes foundation or on floor framing are another indicator that termites may have chosen your house for a meal. Termites construct these tunnels to keep themselves moist during the journey from nests deep in the ground around your house to the wood floor or wall framing they’ll often feed on.
Unfortunately, termites typically enter your home in areas that are difficult to spot, like inside dark crawlspaces or the basement. Getting a yearly professional inspection, which usually costs $50 to $100, is the best pest control preventive medicine to avoid termite and other wood destroying insects all year long.
If termites are found, a new breed of undetectable pesticides like Termidor Termite Defense is one way to deal with them.
Unlike the old repellent treatments or baits that take too long to work, undetectable termiticides are installed into the soil where termites live, creating an effective pest control. The insects unknowingly pass through Termidor and then take some of it back to the nest where it is passed to the rest of the colony, killing the entire infestation once and for all.
The spring pest problem isn’t limited to termites.
Though hard to imagine, carpenter ants can chomp their way through wood sections of a house even better than a termite. Ants are probably the number one pest in the United States.
Some sections of the country, particularly the southeastern United States, are harder hit than others with carpenter house infestations, simply because the weather is warmer much of the year. Carpenter ants love moisture and warmth, and are only as active as the environment is.
Before you reach for the can of Raid, make sure you know what you are dealing with. Take a sample of the pest to your local county agricultural agent, or call in a pest control expert for an opinion.
If pesticides are called for, companies these days are using integrated pest management, which basically translates into tailoring the pesticide to the pest, then using as small an amount of pesticides as possible to do the job.
By combining integrated pest control techniques, the exterminator could apply less pesticide, thereby minimizing exposure to the consumer and liability to the applicator.
Homeowners don’t have to sit idly by until their rafters and floorboards collapse. There are pest control steps and preventative measures that can be taken to keep the bugs at bay:
- Keep your house dry. Termites and carpenter ants love moisture. Check your gutters and downspouts to make sure water drains away from your house.
- Keep all firewood and wood products away from your foundation. Vila suggests buying only enough firewood to get you through the season.
- Trim fence slats and any wood trim around your house like garage door jams up off the soil.
- Remove all wood, cardboard to paper from the crawlspace or basement floor. If storage is necessary, be sure to keep storage off the floor to avoid attracting insects.
Most importantly, if termites or carpenter ants do infest your home - don't panic! These insects work very slowly. Take your time and find a qualified pest management pro to help you kill them once and for all.