Entomology departments often receive more calls about termites than any other household insect. Subterranean termites are serious pests, whose control is best left to professionals. Termites and termite management services can be confusing, however, and there are more options available today than ever before. Some of the most common termite questions raised by homeowners are answered below.
» Why worry about termites?
» Why are infestations often discovered during March - May?
» How will I know if my home is infested?
» Can I treat the house myself?
» How do I choose a termite control company?
» Why is there such variance in price?
» Which treatment methods and products are most effective?
» Does the entire house need to be treated or can they just treat areas where I see termites?
» How long will the treatment last?
» Will the chemicals harm my family or pets?
» Have I been "cheated" if termites continue to infest my house after treatment?
Q: Why worry about termites?
A: Termites cause billions of dollars in damage each year. They primarily feed on wood, but also damage paper, books, insulation, and even swimming pool liners and filtration systems. Termites can injure living trees and shrubs, but more often are a secondary invader of woody plants already in decline. While buildings may become infested at any time, termites are of particular importance when buying or selling a home since a termite inspection/infestation report is normally a condition of sale. Besides the monetary impact, thousands of winged termites emerging inside one's home are an emotionally trying experience - not to mention the thought of termites silently feasting on one's largest investment
Q: Why are infestations often discovered during March - May?
A: Spring typically is when large numbers of winged termites, known as "swarmers," emerge inside homes. In nature, termites swarm to disperse and start new colonies. Triggered by warmer temperatures and rainfall, the winged termites emerge from the colony and fly into the air.
Q: Why worry about termites?
A: Termites cause billions of dollars in damage each year. They primarily feed on wood, but also damage paper, books, insulation, and even swimming pool liners and filtration systems. Termites can injure living trees and shrubs, but more often are a secondary invader of woody plants already in decline. While buildings may become infested at any time, termites are of particular importance when buying or selling a home since a termite inspection/infestation report is normally a condition of sale. Besides the monetary impact, thousands of winged termites emerging inside one's home are an emotionally trying experience — not to mention the thought of termites silently feasting on one's largest investment.
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In nature, termites swarm to disperse and start new colonies. Triggered by warmer temperatures and rainfall, the winged termites emerge from the colony and fly into the air.
Above: Winged termites emerging indoors are a suresign that the building is infested.
The swarmers then drop to the ground, shed their wings, pair off with a mate, and attempt to begin new colonies in the soil. Few swarmers emerging outdoors survive to start new colonies. Swarmers emerging indoors are incapable of eating wood, seldom survive, and are best removed with a vacuum. They do, however, indicate that an infestation is present.
Q: How will I know if my home is infested?
A: Discovering winged termites indoors almost always indicates an infestation warranting treatment.
People often confuse winged termites with ants, which often swarm at the same time of year. Termites can be differentiated by their straight antennae, uniform waist and wings of equal size. (Ants have elbowed antennae, constricted waists and forewings that are longer than the hind wings.)
The swarmers are attracted to light and are often seen around windows and doors. Termite swarmers emerging from tree stumps, woodpiles, and other locations out in the yard are not necessarily cause for concern, and do not necessarily mean that the house is infested. On the other hand, if winged termites are seen emerging from the base of a foundation wall or adjoining porches and patios, there's a good chance the house is infested also and treatment may be warranted.
Other signs of infestation are earthen (mud) tubes (shown right) extending over foundation walls, support piers, sill plates, floor joists, etc. The mud tubes are typically about the diameter of a pencil, but sometimes can be thicker.
Termites construct these tubes for shelter as they travel between their underground colonies and the structure. To help determine if an infestation is active, the tubes may be broken open and checked for the presence of small, creamy-white worker termites.
If a tube happens to be vacant, it does not necessarily mean that the infestation is inactive; termites often abandon sections of tube while foraging elsewhere in the structure.
Termite-damaged wood is usually hollowed out along the grain, with bits of dried mud or soil lining the feeding galleries. Wood damaged by moisture or other types of insects (e.g., carpenter ants) will not have this appearance. Occasionally termites bore tiny holes through plaster or drywall, accompanied by bits of soil around the margin. Rippled or sunken traces behind wall coverings can also be indicative of termites tunneling underneath.
Oftentimes there will be no visible indication that the home is infested. Termites are cryptic creatures and infestations can go undetected for years, hidden behind walls, floor coverings, insulation, and other obstructions. Termite feeding and damage can even progress undetected in wood that is exposed because the outer surface is usually left intact.
Termite damage to baseboard. Hidden infestation
was discovered when vacumn cleaner attachment penetrated surface of baseboard.
Confirmation of infestation often requires the keen eye of an experienced termite inspector. However, even the most experienced inspector can overlook infestation or damage which is hidden.
Q: Can I treat the house myself?
A: Ridding a home of termites requires special skills. A knowledge of building construction is needed to identify the critical areas where termites are likely to enter. Many of these potential points of entry are hidden and difficult to access. Termite control also utilizes specialized equipment such as masonry drills, pumps, large-capacity tanks, and soil treatment rods. A typical treatment may involve hundreds of gallons of a liquid pesticide, known as a termiticide, injected into the ground alongside the foundation, beneath concrete slabs, and within foundation walls.
In short, termite treatment is a job for professionals. A possible exception would be if a mailbox post, sandbox or other small wooden object not attached to the house was infested. "Do-it-yourself" products, sold to homeowners at retail stores or bought over the internet, will seldom eradicate an existing termite problem.
Q: How do I choose a termite control company? Why is there such variance in price?
A: These are complex questions. The company should be licensed by the Department of Agriculture or agency responsible for regulating termite control in the state. Membership in their state pest control association and/or National Pest Management Association suggest the company is an established firm with access to technical and training information needed to do the job correctly. As with any service company, references are invaluable. Consider calling at least 2-3 companies. Requesting inspections and estimates from more than one will help verify the existence of a termite problem and allow you to compare services.
Companies offer different types of treatment methods and warranties. If termites happen to return, most will retreat the affected area(s) at no additional charge. Some companies also will repair damage occurring subsequent to their treatment, although dating onset of damage is a hard thing to determine. In some cases, no warranty will be offered if wells, cisterns, subslab heating ducts, drainage systems, or inaccessible crawl spaces make it impossible to treat in accordance with industry standards.
Take your time when selecting a company. Termites damage wood slowly; the amount of damage caused by taking an additional day, week, or month to make an informed decision generally is insignificant. Avoid firms that try to pressure you into signing a contract immediately with "specials" or scare tactics. The overall quality of the job depends less on the sales person than on the individual who does the work. A safe and effective treatment requires an experienced technician, not someone who was hired a few weeks ago.
Q: Which treatment methods and products are most effective?
A: Another challenging question. There are two general categories of termite treatment, liquids and baits. Soil-applied liquid termiticides have been around for decades. Their purpose is to provide a long-lasting chemical barrier that excludes termites in the ground from entering buildings. In most cases, termites in the structure die off as well, since they cannot return to the soil. Most former products were repellent rather than lethal to termites foraging in the soil. Newer materials, such as Premise® (imidacloprid), Termidor® (fipronil), and Phantom® (chlorfenapyr), are non-repellent and termites tunneling into the treatment zone are killed. Overall the non-repellent products are proving to be more reliable in their ability to resolve termite problems in the first attempt. All registered termiticides (both repellent and non-repellent) can be effective, however, and homeowners should not base their purchasing decision on product alone.
The other broad treatment category is baiting. Termite baits consist of paper, cardboard, or other palatable food, combined with a slow-acting substance lethal to termites. The baits are installed below ground out in the yard in cylindrical plastic stations. Others are sometimes placed indoors over active mud tubes. Foraging termites consume the bait and share it with their nestmates, resulting in a gradual decline in termite numbers. On some properties, baits may constitute the only form of treatment; on others, they may be combined with liquid applications. to areas where termites are observed.
Termite baiting is a very complex subject. For further information, see our entomology extension publications,Termite Baits: A Guide for Homeowners. Regardless of which method or product is selected, it's important to have an experienced technician, backed by a responsible pest control firm.
Q: Does the entire house need to be treated... or can they just treat areas where I see termites?
A: Subterranean termite colonies may contain hundreds of thousands of individuals, foraging in many different directions. For the homeowner, localized or "spot" treatments are generally a gamble except in cases of retreatment. Most reputable pest control firms will not warranty spot treatments, since it's likely that termites will eventually find other points of entry into the structure.
Some companies may offer to do a so-called "perimeter" treatment, using one of the non-repellent liquid termiticides (Termidor, Premise, etc.). Typically this will involve a thorough application around the entire outside foundation wall of the building, and spot-treating any infested or high-risk interior areas. If the homeowner is considering such a treatment, they should inquire whether it will be accompanied by a service agreement in case termites return. (Service renewal agreements usually state that if termites return, the company will return and retreat the affected areas at no additional charge provided the renewal agreement is maintained.) It's a bit of a gamble to purchase any termite treatment option without an ongoing service agreement.
Q: How long will the treatment last?
A: All liquid termiticides are supposed to control termites for at least five years when applied according to label directions. The actual length of control on a given structure will depend on such factors as thoroughness of the application, environmental conditions, and density of termites in the area. If termites swarm again and continue to be a problem the year after treatment, it's usually not from degradation of the termiticide — but because termites have found an untreated gap in the chemical barrier.
Q: Will the chemicals harm my family or pets?
A: Termiticides are tested extensively for adverse effects on health. Before a product can be used, numerous studies are conducted by the manufacturer and independently evaluated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Based on the current body of knowledge, registered termiticides pose no significant hazard to humans, pets or the environment when applied according to label directions. Despite the negligible health risk from a properly performed termite treatment, people with lingering concerns should consult their physician. Most of the newer liquid products have essentially no odor. Clients who are still apprehensive may want to consider having their home treated with baits.
Q: Have I been "cheated" if termites continue to infest my house after treatment?
A: Not necessarily. Unlike other services such as plumbing or electrical work, termite control involves living creatures. The best treatments performed by knowledgeable firms may fail at times, when termites find their way through tiny, untreated gaps in the soil. While the intent is to establish a continuous, impenetrable chemical barrier, this is all but impossible to achieve in actual practice. In the case of baits, it may take several months for termites to initially find the below-ground installations and several months more to achieve control.
The key is to hire a reputable pest control firm employing experienced, conscientious technicians. Companies will return and retreat affected area(s) at no additional charge provided the service agreement is purchased and maintained
The following links are some of the many resources which are available to answer home owners questions related to;
Protecting your home against termites
» Termite Control and Termite Baits
» Lawn and Garden Care
» Pest Control and Termites.
» Maintenance and Prevention.
Pest Notes (such as Lawn Diseases and Lawn Insects).
This database supplies the University of California's official guidelines for pest monitoring techniques, pesticides, and nonpesticide alternatives for managing pests in homes and landscapes. Spanish edition (Notas Breves en español) is also available.
Termite Baits: A Guide for Homeowners. No structural pest causes more confusion than termites. Most homeowners have little knowledge of these troublesome insects, and what it takes to get rid of them. Our understanding of termites has progressed considerably in recent years.
Protecting your home against termites. Know what can be done to protect their home from termites or if a certain practice or condition is likely to cause termite problems. Homeowners can reduce the risk of termite attack by following the suggestions listed. Additional Information.
Gardening Web Site
The Statewide Master Gardener Program has developed a new Web site for California's home gardeners. This site will be the UC gardening portal, extending UC research-based information about gardening, landscapes, lawns and insect or pest prevention and maintenance of techniques for gardens. The site focuses on sustainable gardening practices and uses a question and answer format.
UC Guide to Healthy Lawns
The UC Guide to Healthy Lawns is designed for home gardeners and managers of parks, school grounds, and other low-maintenance turf. The sections include choosing and identifying turf species, preparing a site to plant turf, lawn care for both new and established lawns, lawn renovation, and pest management.
UC Agricultural and Natural Resources (ANR) Turf and Lawns Publications
UC ANR Communication Services produces a variety of practical, research-based educational media -- publications, videos, slide presentations, interactive distance learning, audio recordings and electronic multimedia relevant to Pest and Disease Management. This link will take you directly to the turf and lawn section of the UC ANR catalog.
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A bug and insect Identification Guide
Bell Termite Control Inc. proudly uses the following Termite and Pest Control Products:
Termidor ® termiticide / insecticide is 100% effective at controlling 100% of termites in three months or less - a statement no other termite control product can make. That's why since its introduction in 2000, pest management professionals have made Termidor America's leading termite control, with over 3 million structures treated.
Termidor eliminates termites by both ingestion and contact, and is lethal to termites simply through contact with other Termidor-tainted individuals. And because Termidor is a non-repellent - undetectable to termites - the pests freely forage through treated areas, unknowingly ingesting, picking up and transferring Termidor throughout the population. It's the product's unique "Transfer Effect™," allowing Termidor to achieve 100% control of termite populations at the very low rate of just 0.06% active ingredient.
The results for Termidor speak for themselves - more than one million homes treated in just three years. And in ten-plus years of concrete slab testing, as well as seven-plus years of testing on ground boards, (including USDA Forest Service testing for both) Termidor has repeatedly been 100% effective on subterranean termites (including Formosans) in all states at all labeled rates - even the most challenging situations, climates and environments. That's a perfect score on every test, a performance record no other termite control can match. Plus, Termidor is now labeled for control of drywood termites, with both field and lab trials demonstrating outstanding drywood control at the 0.06% labeled rate
The industry-changing effectiveness of Termidor has shifted the outlook of so many pest management professionals, giving them the confidence to take on termite work without fear of frequent callbacks or costly damage repair costs. Termidor users are saving a small fortune thanks to declines in retreat and labor costs, as well as overall customer retention. You simply can't find a better termite control for your business.
Premise ® termite control termiticide from Bayer Environmental Science provides immediate protection from termites like no other product. Termites are eliminated as they ingest or contact Premise in a treated soil area around the perimeter of a building or other timber structure.
Premise ® was first released for use in the public arena in the USA more than 7 years ago – it is the original non-repellant termiticide (discussed below). Premise has since built a solid reputation as a reliable long term termite control product with virtually no serious problems encountered in the market place.
Since Premise ® is a non-repellent, termites can’t detect it; instead, they come directly in contact with the active ingredient—imidacloprid. Most of the other commonly used pre-treat termiticide products are repellent, which means that termites avoid treated areas, but continue to search for gaps in the treatment from which they can attack the structure.
The Bayer Written Guarantee of Protection: Bayer is so confident of the effectiveness of its Premise product, that they provide a written guarantee to termite controllers in the USA who fully treat the soil areas at the base of a structure as per the Premise label requirements.
Part of the Bayer terms and conditions of such a guarantee states in effect “if Premise fails to stop termites at any time within seven years of initial treatment, Bayer will reimburse up to 100% of product and labor costs involved in retreatment to a maximum of $1000 for residential accounts and $5000 for commercial accounts. Bayer will also guarantee to pay the termite controller's damage claim insurance deductible up to $500 per structure”.
It is a condition of this guarantee that annual inspections are carried out by the same company installing the Premise termiticide soil treatment. Full details are available from your Bell Termite authorized Premise termiticide applicators or schedule a FREE consultation today.
Phantom ® is an indoor/outdoor termiticide and insecticide that kills termites, ants, cockroaches, and now bed bugs, through a powerful non-repellent active ingredient. Pests can't even detect Phantom, so they walk right over it and then spread it to other insects hidden behind walls or in their home colony, killing every other pest they come in contact with. Phantom is virtually odorless, clear in color and provides superior pest control with a long-lasting residual
For a complete list of Termite and Pest Control products used by Bell Termite Control Inc. Click Here