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Termite Treatment for Your House

A termite colony can grow to a very destructive size in about a five year time period. If an infestation goes unchecked they can cause a small fortune in damage repair.

The type of termite treatment needed for your house will depend on what type of termite infestation you have. Defender Termite and Construction can inspect your home and help you determine the right termite treatment for your home. The two most common termite species in California are the Subterranean Termite and the Drywood Termite.

Subterranean Termites

This species of termites live under ground in colonies that can number over a million. They build mud shelter tubes that lead from their nest in the ground to the wood source that they are feeding on. They typically will be drawn to moist or rotting wood, but are not limited to just that. Subterranean termites are small and white in color depending on their role within the colony (worker, warrior, etc.). Reproductive termites are black with wings and have a two segmented body and look very similar to a carpenter ant. Of the two prominent types of termites that we have in California, these are by far the most destructive. If you are seeing what you think are subterranean termites, we recommend addressing it right away so that it doesn’t cost you a lot more later in damages to your home.

  • Subterranean termites live underground.
  • They get into your house through cracks or other openings in the foundation or floor slab.
  • They can also construct their shelter tubes over the surface of the foundation or pipes.
  • They can do a lot of damage if not controlled.
  • Control involves the use of mechanical barriers, baits or liquid treatments. Baiting can be very expensive and control is often uncertain. Liquid treatments are less costly, and take effect much more quickly. Liquid treatments do require some preparation and involve some minor disruption while the work is being done.
  • Controlling termites is not a do-it-yourself kind of job.
  • We can’t make them to stay away forever. Any work that is done needs to have a plan for follow-up included. (The only thing worse than having to pay for a termite job is having to pay for another termite job for the same house!)
  • We take the time to do the work right! And our prices are very reasonable.
  • We’ll provide a comprehensive report with pictures. Just call our office at (833) 878-PEST (7378) for an appointment.
  • Subterranean termites have a lot in common with ants. They are about the same size as common Argentine ants; they build nests in the soil like ants; and they live in colonies where the workers go out and get the groceries while the queen stays at home and lays eggs. This is where the similarities end.
  • Termites can’t survive out in the open air. A termite’s shell (an insect’s skin) is so thin it does a poor job of retaining the insect’s body moisture. As a result, if a termite is exposed to the open air for very long it will simply dry out and die.
  • Even the winged reproductives (swarmers) released each spring can only live a little while outside of the soil. The swarmers in the customer’s windowsill at the left had emerged shortly before the customer called. Most of the swarmers were dead (from dehydration) before this picture was taken a couple of hours later.
  • This is why subterranean termite colonies are underground and their “trails” are in the form of underground tunnels. They actually burrow through the moist soil. These underground colonies can be really big! (Feeding territory may reach the size of a football field.) Their main food source is dead wood, which they can chew up and digest. They carry the food back in their stomachs, digesting it as they go, and then regurgitate it to the other members of the colony.

If you have subterranean termites in your building, you have three choices of control strategies:

  • Liquid treatments – Treat the entry points to stop them where they are getting in. (The ones in the house will die in a few days.)
  • Baits – Use some form of baiting program that will kill the termites (once they find the bait stations).
  • Mechanical barriers or alterations – Adding materials such as (concrete, metal or gravel).

Which approach is best? No two situations are identical so we need to approach each situation with an open mind. Generally we prefer traditional treatments using the most modern materials. This combination usually gives the customer excellent control and the best value for the money spent.

Drywood Termites

With our warm and sunny climate, drywood termite infestations can happen any time throughout the year. Drywood termites swarming season is typically between August – October, so you may notice an increase in kick-out holes, dust piles or wing-sheds during that time period. Drywood termites are different than Subterranean termites because these insects do not require contact with the soil like Subterranean termites. Drywood termites infest dry wood, like window frames, eaves, decks, trees and wood fences.
Drywood termites form colonies of up to 2,500 members. Unlike subterranean termite species, drywood termite colonies do not have a worker caste. The work is done by immature termites before they reach adulthood. These termites bore through wood, leaving holes to “kick out” waste material and fecal matter. These small holes are called Kick-out holes. The waste material and fecal matter combined form pellets and are often found near the site of kick-out holes. Each year, drywood termites leave their nests and fly to new locations. This process is called swarming and it often takes place during the fall season in California.

We believe that it is best to approach drywood termite control with an open mind.

The key to understanding drywood termite control is to realize that:

  • The entire colony exists in a few connected wood members of the structure. The goal is to locate and eliminate that colony (or colonies in some cases).
  • Drywood termite colonies tend to develop very slowly and they almost always start at exterior walls. This often means that new infestations are more accessible for detection and treatment.
  • Just because drywood termites were detected at one spot in the structure does not necessarily mean that the building is generally infested.
  • We (the termite control industry) don’t have the diagnostic tools to tell you what is going on in all of the concealed wood members of the walls, ceilings and floors. (But people are working on this.)

To eliminate drywood termite colonies we have three choices:

1. Remove and replace the infested wood members.

  • Removal is useful when a termite colony is found in an exposed and accessible wood member. An infested patio cover support post, for example, should probably be removed and replaced.
  • We usually don’t recommend removal when the termites are in finished areas. To access the colony for removal we must remove the sheetrock and the infested framing from finished walls, ceilings or floors. New sheetrock must then be installed, textured, painted, etc. This process can get very expensive very quickly.
  • Removal is only effective on the colony you have found and removed (obviously). If there is another colony (or colonies) somewhere else in the building, they won’t be controlled.
  • And, it is always possible that the entire colony won’t be removed. Termites that survive could become the source for the infestation to reappear a few years later.

2. Localized treatment

Localized treatment

  • Localized treatment of drywood termites has gained significant acceptance recently because of advanced detection tools and termite management products.
  • Localized treatment is often a good choice for buildings less than 10 – 15 years old. Generally speaking, the newer the structure the less likelihood of multiple colonies. Therefore newer structures are often good candidates for localized treatment.
  • Buildings with wood siding are more vulnerable to drywood termite infestations. But they are also much easier to treat using localized treatment techniques.
  • Localized treatment can be extremely valuable for large structures and multi-family buildings such as condominiums and apartments. The cost and inconvenience of fumigating a multi-family building or other very large structure often makes localized treatment far more practical than fumigation.
  • Periodic inspections are crucial to providing long-term control. New infestations may occur at almost any time (most will start during the fall of the year). New colonies or older ones that were previously not visible will require additional treatments.
  • Localized treatments are simply not appropriate in some situations.
  • If you have drywood termites and would like a no charge evaluation to determine if your building is a good candidate for localized treatment, please call our office for an appointment.

3. Structural fumigation

Structural fumigation

  • If your home is an older home and/or there is evidence of multiple drywood termite colonies in the building, a structural fumigation may be the most economical method of control.
  • When fumigation is selected, we don’t need to worry about opening walls and we don’t need to be concerned about a hidden colony that we didn’t detect.
  • Structural Fumigation is a process that has been around for decades. The products and procedures used have an outstanding track record for both safety and effectiveness.
  • Fumigation is a science and may only be done by a licensed fumigation company. If we find Drywood termites in your building, and if fumigation is recommended, we will select a reputable fumigation company and subcontract with them to do your fumigation. (If you desire you may also choose to select your own fumigation company.) If you contract with us you will have our assurance that your work will be done by one of the best fumigators available in the area. You will also have a guarantee given by the fumigator, that your job will be effective and with a minimum of disruption to you. Fumigations are guaranteed for a period of two years from the date of completion.
  • The fumigant leaves no residue. There is no need to wash countertops or dishes following fumigation. This lack of residue also means that termites may re-infest the building. Periodic inspections are strongly advised.

Call Defender Termite and Construction at (833) 878-PEST (7378) to get your property inspected for termites, fungus and dry rot.

Wood Destroying Beetles

Beetles are the largest order of identified species on the planet. Most beetles are harmless to man and his crops or structures. There are a few species that attack and damage the woodwork within buildings that people build. When conditions are right they can do serious damage to a structure.

Adult wood destroying beetles lay their eggs in target wood. The eggs hatch into larvae (sometimes called “wood worms”). The larvae are capable of digesting the wood for the stored starches in the cellulose. The larvae pupate (go into their cocoon stage) within the wood, emerge as adults, and then after mating lay eggs back in the wood.

Typically, all of the species that attack seasoned wood in structures require a fairly humid environment to be at their best. Our dry, Mediterranean climate is our first and best defense.

We encounter wood destroying beetles most often in wood floored houses with poorly ventilated crawl spaces. This situation provides the beetles with the conditions they require.

Control Methods

Control of wood destroying beetles requires correction of commonly controllable moisture conditions, repairing the damage the beetles did, and steps taken to exterminate the infestation.

Before anything is done an accurate identification is critical!

With most types of beetles, correction of the moisture problem is the most important step. Once the wood dries out and the damage is repaired, many species of beetles simply will not re-infest.

With other species, or where complete moisture correction isn’t practical, some form of treatment is necessary. Treatment may involve topical applications of wood preservatives, such as boric acid compounds, or may be as involved as a structural fumigation.

As in all other aspects of wood destroying organism control, a well trained and experienced professional is your best hope of gaining control of these pests in the most cost-effective manner.

CARPENTER ANTS

Carpenter ants are large black or black and brown ants. They are most active during the evening hours, especially during the warm summer months. They are called carpenter ants because of their habit of hollowing out wood to create a nesting site.

We don’t encounter carpenter ants all that often in the Sacramento area. They are not a major pest problem on the Central Valley floor. They are, however, a very serious pest problem to structures in our mountain communities, such as North and South Lake Tahoe, Colfax, Pollock Pines, etc. They are also a major pest problem in the damp Pacific Northwest areas of Washington, Oregon and the rest of Northern California.

Carpenter ants are large ants that build semi-permanent colonies. They burrow into wood to create nesting galleries. Although they do not actually eat the wood (like termites do), they manage to do considerable damage when conditions are right. Usually the main colony will be in a damp area. The queen requires a damp environment to raise her brood. An old rotten log or tree stump could be a perfect place for a queen carpenter ant to set up housekeeping.

In addition to the main, reproducing colony, they also create “satellite colonies” during the summer months. A satellite colony may be many yards from the main colony. When set up within the dry walls or attic of a house, the satellite colony seldom does any significant damage to the woodwork. However, if the woodwork is damp due high humidity, a leak or other moisture source, a reproducing colony may establish in the house. Then these insects can become very destructive.

Sometimes during the spring months Carpenter ants will set up a satellite colony inside a house. The young winged males will emerge and fly around the house. When this happens it usually prompts a panic call to the termite man. These are “false alarm” termite swarmer calls.

Ants are pretty easy to distinguish from termites. Ants are related to bees and wasps. Termites are not related to ants at all. They belong to a completely different group of insects. A trained set of eyes can distinguish the two very quickly.

Carpenter ant infestations may be handled by either a general pest control company or a termite control company. The state of California leaves it up to the licensee, in the case of carpenter ants.

Please call if you have any questions. (833) 878-PEST (7378)

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