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Termites and their Control....
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Last Update: 05/26/14
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|| Ants verses Termites ||  When the Inspector says you have termites in your yard ||  Citronella Ants ||
|| Termite Q&A || Tour a Termite Job || Flying ants || Termites in Firewood? || Nightmare Termite Jobs ||
|| Try our (free) online Termite Job Estimator Gizmo || Treating Slabs with cast-in Heating Vents ||  
|| How to Choose an Exterminator || Preventive Treatments || Chemicals & Safety || Questions? ||

T
he good news is that New Jersey has only one kind of termite.  That's just about the only good news.  The bad news is that New Jersey has the highest order of
termite, the Reticulitermes flavipes, and one of the more difficult to control. Our New Jersey termites, one of the eastern subterranean termites, lives below ground and only comes above ground to attack wood or other cellulose materials. Buildings are built on top of the ground, of course, and termites exploit the small cracks in building foundations to enter a structure. Once these termite pathways have been established, termites will work 24 hours a day, all year long. Workaholics in the true sense of the word.

Termites, of one type or another, live everywhere the soil isn't permanently frozen. Some areas naturally have more termites than other places.  The further you go towards the equator, the more types of termites inhabit the environment.

Termites will consume anything that contains cellulose, including some that don't. That includes wood, paper, leather, fur, feathers, just about any natural material. They made short work of the books in the picture, all ready-made termite food. They especially enjoyed Pearl S. Buck...
Books consumed by termites



SWIMMING POOLS ALSO GET TERMITES...
Do you have a swimming pool with a vinyl liner? One where the liner is in contact with the ground? Termites will eat right through that, too.  (Details here.)



DRYWOOD TERMITES

Fumigation Tour in Hawaii
Sometimes they have to tent the entire building. Depending on the physical shape of the structure, this can be quite difficult.  The likely candidate for this is the drywood termite.  Drywood termites do not (naturally) survive in the temperate zone.  Drywood termites can, however, be imported from their native habitats, often in furniture and other wooden or decorative items.

Generally, in the tropical parts of our world, fumigation is required to completely rid our homes and businesses of termites.



Powder post beetles are another one of the wood destroying insects, normally not as much of a problem as termites, for pictures, go here.




DAMPWOOD TERMITES

dampwood termite
In our Great Northwest we have the dampwood termite, which attacks wet or damp wood only.  It is one of the largest termites in our United States.  This picture was sent in by a gentleman who discovered them all over his house in the swarming season.



The eastern subterranean termite, Reticulitermes flavipes

This picture of subterranean termites shows workers, nymphs, soldiers, and also a supplementary reproductive.  In the higher termites (Isoptera), a "supplementary reproductive" is a replacement reproductive that becomes a fully developed adult and completely functional reproductive (morphologically indistinguishable from the founding king or queen) within the original natal nest.
termites
Photo courtesy of Fidelity Exterminating Company

These special reproductives are usually generated when termites have been disconnected from the main nest but still have moisture and food.  This activity can continue for as long as they have access to moisture.





Differences between flying ants and termites

Flying ant
Swarmer Termite




CITRONELLA ANTS

Oftentimes, citronella ants, so-called because of their distinctive odor of citronella, will nest in structures, mostly under concrete slabs. These ants often "swarm," just like termites, in the spring and/or fall, always raise havoc because they are so often mistaken for termites. Citronella ants, however, are harmless.
citronella ants

New Jersey Citronella ant
When this swarming happens on the inside, regardless if they're termites or flying ants, you can vacuum them up for a non-toxic solution to the problem.  This problem can also be "historic," and happen each year. Consult with your exterminator about continuing swarming problems.

Swarming eastern subterranean termites look like this:
termite swarmers



TERMITES OR ANTS?

A LITTLE TRICK TO FIND OUT WHAT YOU HAVE....
If you have a swarming insect problem and don't know for sure if it's flying ants or termites, this is a way for YOU to find out.

What you do is to take a few LIVE (unsprayed) samples and put them in a jar, then put the jar, closed, of course, on a sunny windowsill.

If it's termites, they'll die within a few hours, almost certainly overnight.  Termites will often shed their wings, and the next day you'll see dead termites and shed wings.  Check where they were coming from.  You should see shed wings there too.

If they're ants, they won't shed their wings and the ants will still be alive.  Ant swarmers are very long-lived and will often live a week or more.  (I had specimens, in a test tube, on the dashboard of my truck, which lasted almost two weeks.)

OTHER DIFFERENCES:
When compared together, as above, ant and termite swarmers look different.  They also ACT different.  Termite swarmers are short-lived, numerous but very fragile, and appear to be completely indifferent and oblivious to anything except strong light sources and the other sex.  Predators carry them off or eat them on the spot. All without any resistance or awareness of their plight.  The termites neither see nor acknowledge anything else, friend or foe.  They are also clumsy fliers and not well adapted to surface travel as are the ants.  Immediately after mating, in nature, the female will attempt to burrow into the ground, and ultimately, if she's successful, will form a new colony.

Ant swarmers, however, just in case you're interested, act quite differently.  Compared with termite swarmers, they even seem "intelligent."  They are strong and long-lived, obviously aware of their own immediate surroundings, respond to approach and will attempt to avoid predators.  As the ants are terrestrial, they are much better suited to survival on the surface.  Since the ants are so successful, there are substantially fewer reproductives that need to be produced by the colony, and in some years, small swarms might not even be noticed or discovered.




Termites and ants are mortal enemies.  When they do meet, there is WAR!  Usually, the ants win, they are much tougher than termites.  Besides, the ants are terrestrial, while termites are not, and the open ground is where they generally meet.  These two pictures show what happens when ants meet termites.

ants verses termites
ants verses termites!




FLYING OR SWARMING ANTS

If you live in the northeastern United States, as well as many other areas, the fall (and the spring, too) often brings episodes of "flying ants," the swarmers of the ant world. They act much the same as termite swarmers, look somewhat the same, (see above) and like termite swarmers, can appear within seconds, bringing to mind some of the worst Hollywood movies.  But, in fact, this is a normal occurrence, only a product of Nature, happening every fall in most parts of the temperate world.  So if it's fall, and kind of a nice, Indian Summer-type day, and your swarmer looks just like an ant with wings, and it's red or brown - it's a flying ant.  Naturally, swarming termites or ants can actually happen at ANY time, but weather is the best creator of the spikes of swarming you can experience in the spring, early summer and fall.

If you're under contract with an exterminator, you'll want to save a sample for him to examine.  Save a few in a jar so he can stop by and identify it, to make sure it is not a termite problem.

In fact, any good exterminator ought to be able to tell you the difference, over the phone, between flying ants and termites, if you have the samples in front of you and you can give a good description.  Make sure you always have intact samples if you invite an exterminator to your house.   Without a target, there is little he can ethically do.

SHOULD I WORRY, DO THESE FLYING ANTS MEAN ANYTHING?
Not really.  Ant (or termite) swarmers do no damage, are not interested in feeding on anything inside or outside your house, vector or carry no diseases and are perfectly harmless in every way.  

WHAT TO DO?
If this is happening on the outside, don't worry about them.  Let the birds or other animals have their fill.  These creatures do absolutely no harm and no treatment is recommended, outside or inside, even if you find these swarmers next to or even on your house or it's foundations.  Sometimes, these episodes can happen just once, and not in the following few years, or return just occasionally or even skip a year or two.  A successful colony (termites or ants) can swarm twice per year.

PANIC IS YOUR BIGGEST ENEMY
Swarmers emerging on the inside of a structure will often move towards a sunny window and they can therefore be easily vacuumed up on windows or even from their emergence points.  The use of Raid or other insecticides you buy at the grocery store or Home Depot is not necessary or even recommended, you'll run the definite risk of staining something for sure.  No panic is necessary, no visits from the exterminator, no treatment of any sort is required, and the swarming episodes usually will end quickly without any chemical or physical intervention at all.  It is indeed hard for me to imagine that any ethical exterminator could justify the use of harmful chemicals on such a harmless animal.

WHERE DO THEY COME FROM SO QUICKLY?
It is often hard to determine exactly where these insects may actually have their nest home.  Over the years, their nest moves and changes dynamically, depending on many factors, so this swarming can be quite common in crawl spaces and even in basements. If the ants are coming up from a crawl space, just turn a light on in the crawl space, leave it on 24/7 until the next cold snap.  At which time any swarming will be over and done with. This is the best non-toxic, cheap fix, all that's necessary.  You can use the same trick if they're coming up from the basement.

Carpenter Ant
If there is any kind of moisture problem, and the ants are within the structure or it's foundations, you might just want to gravitate on over to the carpenter ant page.  Get the real scoop on what you have to do, or what you don't have to do, about your "ant" problem.




WHAT ABOUT TERMITES AND FIREWOOD?

If you keep firewood in a pile, on the ground long enough, yes, it will definitely get termites.   Subterranean termites, foraging below ground, will soon find your firewood treasure pile and will attack it just as well as your home - or any other cellulose material that is on or in the ground.  Woodpiles, in place more than a year or so, are almost certain to be found by termites normally foraging in the ground.

CAN I BRING TERMITES INSIDE?
If you do have firewood infested with subterranean termites, you do not have to worry about "bringing termites inside."  Termites, once disconnected from their nest and the ground, with no moisture, will soon perish.  They must have constant contact with both the nest and their queen, as they regularly make the back and forth trip to the main nest. If they cannot do this, they will not be able to survive on their own.  Use the firewood for it's purpose, termites and all.

KEEPING THE BUGS AWAY FROM THE FIREWOOD
First of all, NEVER spray firewood with insecticides.  When burned, certain chemicals will release toxic components into the air.  If you want to keep the termites from infesting your firewood, or even being attracted to it's location, keep firewood up off the ground. You can keep it outside in a shed or in a garage or even out in the open.  If you stack it too close to your house, you may have other critters in your woodpile. Also, if you stack it NEXT to the house, you (or the exterminator) will not be able to see what's going on behind your woodpile.  This will make any exterminator worth his salt extremely suspicious.  Keep wood stacked next to your house at least 18 inches away from the structure.  Also keep it up off the ground, keep leaves and debris from hiding any space between your woodpile and the house.

THE BUGS YOU WILL SEE IN FIREWOOD
Be warned that if you bring in firewood from the outside, you're almost GUARANTEED to bring in many other different insect pests that will have used your firewood as a home to rest or overwinter in.  Wood purchased and used as firewood is often loaded with insects that have been in there since the tree was harvested.  Also, these firewood harvests are often made on trees that are already insect infested and usually poor candidates for any other use.  So make sure you bring in your wood and use it immediately.  Leaving wood inside, when it warms up, means that you must expect visitors.  Nothing harmful, and usually nothing that reproduces or even survives on the inside, but a sudden and unexpected invasion of, say, Locust borers or Metallic beetles, on Christmas Eve, swarming all over the place, could be quite disconcerting.


TERMITES OR CARPENTER ANTS IN YOUR MULCH?

Sometimes you can find termites in the mulch you have around your home.  Is this any
kind of problem and how do you deal with it?  I explain it
right here on this popup




I HAVE TERMITES ALL OVER MY YARD!
DOES THIS MEAN I'LL GET TERMITES?

I get this all the time.  Naturally, there are somewhat different answers for different
situations, but you can get the gist of it on
this popup.

Or perhaps the inspector just found termites in your yard somewhere... Our own National Pest Control Association has issued a guideline on that problem.



Termite Biology

Termites develop via gradual metamorphosis, from eggs to nymphs, through several molts, to adult stage.  They are social insects, just like ants and bees, and are, in fact, related to both.  Each year, usually in the spring, each mature nest sends out special adults, called alates.  These are most commonly known as "swarmers" because they swarm out of the colony in bunches, usually in the springtime.  These emerging swarmers are what usually alerts you to the fact that you have a termite problem.  It happens all of a sudden.  One moment they go from zero to hundreds - you'll swear they're millions!

TERMITES USUALLY SWARM IN THE SPRING
But sometimes in the fall, too. Especially if it is a successful termite colony and needs to expand. Depending on where you are, here in the states, subterranean termites can swarm anytime after the winter solstice on December 21st. Usually, it's later in the spring. Here in the northeast, the main swarming season is just about the time you see the Forsythia bushes start to bloom. Being a cyclical insect, sometimes there are more swarming termites in some years, than there are in other years.



swarming termites
Actually, the swarming can be considered part of the good news. This swarming, at the very least, is what lets you know that there is a termite problem.  Most of the time, you don't see termite problems develop, so if you didn't have the swarming episodes, you might not know you have a termite problem before damage occurs.



OK, IT HAPPENED, SO WHAT DO I DO NOW?
Well, for the swarmers?  Nothing.  They'll soon go away.   They're harmless anyway. They don't eat anything, they are not dirty, or vectors or carriers of any disease, they won't lay eggs, reproduce in your house, get in your food or furniture, (on purpose) and will die all by themselves in an hour or two, if they can't get outside.  They are attracted to light, and if they swarm on a sunny day, which they usually do, they will head towards a sunny window, or another source of light.  They will die in a short time and the easiest solution is to vacuum them up.  DO NOT SPRAY!  While spraying will kill them, it will also get everything you spray greasy with insecticides.  Do you want that? I don't think so.  Much better is to wait until they die, and then zip them up with your dustbuster.  Call the exterminator.

WHAT TO DO NEXT
It is important to find out where the termites are coming from.  Look carefully, ignore the ones that are already out and concentrate on where they are coming from.  This may be extremely important to the exterminator.  Swarming termites will be attracted to light, so you could have termite swarmers on a sunny windowsill, but they're REALLY coming from 20 feet across the room.  So track down the place(s) that they're coming from.  It will help the exterminator focus his treatments.



TERMITE CONTROL  -  A REAL SHORT COURSE
Understand, of course, how your house was built. The builder, years ago, scooped a hole in the ground, constructed the basement, (if you have one) and backfilled the foundation. Construction debris, left in the backfill, is the attractant for termites. "Construction debris" is any sort of wood or cellulose material - bits and pieces of 2x4's, roofing paper, sawdust, and even paper 7-11 cups.



termite shelter tube
Over the years, termites find their way through the soil to the areas around your foundations.  They can then easily find and enter the structure through the normal foundation cracks and crevices that develop underground over a period of time. Once inside, termites do their damage insidiously, without you knowing about it, and although they work slowly, they work all the time.



TERMITE INSPECTORS - WHAT TO EXPECT

Don't expect your inspector to be anything more than human.  Which means he doesn't have X-ray glasses to see inside the walls, behind paneling or other obstructed areas.  It is entirely possible for you to have active termites, for years, and never experience or see any outward signs of their presence.  This is true even for the "pro," and even if you have them make regular inspections. Remember, there are no experts.  Every exterminator learns something new, every single day, and every house is different, from every other, even if they look exactly alike.  Each has a completely different set of variables that affect how and when a structure gets termites.



Sometimes, in certain instances, you can easily see the termite shelter tubes, especially where there are no walls or other obstructions.  In this picture, in an unheated garage, you can see the (inactive) termite tubes snaking right up the exposed 2x4 and the wooden sheathing.  The tubes are inactive at the present, but this
termite shelter tubes
picture was taken in the winter, when termites retreat underground from unheated structures.  Active tubes are often darker, because the termites will keep the shelter tubes carefully groomed and slightly damp.

Sometimes, when you give termites the chance, in serious infestations, termites will begin to tube downwards, from the structure to the ground, as you can see in this picture.
Freestanding Termite Tubes



Every structure eventually gets termites. Even those with no wood! Why, you say, would a structure without wood get termites? Well, the termites don't know that there's no wood in there! They live in the ground and it's their job to look in every structure. So even though you live in a concrete house, made completely of steel, glass and concrete, eventually termites will come to visit. That's why, when you build, you always pre-treat your structure to prevent that from happening. You did, didn't you?




WHAT THE EXTERMINATOR DOES
Unfortunately, termite control is never an exact science. It is an expertise, so every exterminator can have different and individual control methods. For the record, the National Pest Control Association, and all of our other official institutions, recognize the efficacy of soil poisoning for subterranean termite control. That means, basically, that a chemical is placed in the ground, next to the foundations, to kill the termites and prevent their return.  

Below are some walk-thru examples of termite jobs done by us or other exterminators.





STRUCTURAL TERMITE DAMAGE

In the picture to the right, is a 19 year-old house that has sustained serious termite damage to the main beam by termites.  The pictured termite shelter tubes were almost six inches wide and more than an inch thick. The homeowner never noticed the mud shelter tubes snaking up and down the foundation wall until it swarmed in the springtime.  It did so on Easter Sunday with a houseful of guests for dinner.
termite shelter tubes



Depending on how your house is built, termite control might involve several procedures to treat all of the foundations.  Most of the time, exterminators like to work from the outside, but sometimes treatment must be applied from the inside.  Slab-on-grade construction, with no basement or crawl space, can require special termite control procedures.


TERMITE TREATMENT AND CONTROL PROBLEMS

Wooden decks, attached to the house, can obstruct the proper treatment of a termite problem, necessitating removal or alteration. The type of construction determines as to whether this is going to be easy or difficult.  With the deck pictured, the deck boards have been removed to permit treatment of the old step that seems to be causing an ongoing termite problem.  The inside is a finished basement wall, so there is no real access from the inside.
Deck Opened for Termite Treatment....


SLABS WITH CAST-IN HEATING VENTS

The most notorious, for exterminators and homeowners alike, are slabs with the heating vents cast right into the concrete slab.  Because of the danger of contaminating the vents themselves, most exterminators will need special conditions before they render any treatment to slabs of this type.  Some will not perform any work on a slab of this type, some will make you sign a three page legal document, absolving them of any responsibility, no matter what.

The vast majority of exterminators will not do anything until the vents are capped and relocated, certainly a very expensive proposition of not less than three or four thousand dollars, at the least.

Most construction, nowadays, uses plastic or metal vents for conducting heat under the slab.  In past years, even cardboard vents were used, termite food for sure.  Even so, there are instances where metal heating vents were staked down with wooden stakes instead of metal.  Termite food, again.  Many times, the wooden forms (from concrete pours) are left in place, attracting the first round of termites quickly.  

Sometimes it is necessary to cap the heating system in the slab and install a new system which doesn't use the buried vent system.  For cost purposes, this is a last resort. Oftentimes it is possible to treat slabs with heat vents, depending on the circumstances.

RADIANT HEATING PIPES
Equally difficult to treat, are structures with radiant heating pipes cast into the slabs. Exterminators need to determine EXACTLY where the pipes are located within the slab. A slight miscalculation means that you may pierce the pipe, causing a leak in the heating system, necessitating repairs to the system.  A danger that sometimes can't be avoided.

A TREATMENT NEAR HEATING VENTS
The house pictured below has had intermittent termite problems for a few years now, this year's problem seems limited to the pictured area.  There is a heating vent situated in this area, but we have opted to treat the area with a standard soil poisoning, using Premise 75. We would not treat this area if we were not confident that the heat vents will not be affected.  The times we have ordered capping of heat vents you could count on one hand.


March, 2000
The Scene of the Crime....



Detail of heating vent
The two most crucial treatment points, of course, are the ones right next to the vent. The left hole was suspicious to the operator and thus left untreated.



These two pictures show the depth that this instrument will reach under the slab. This rod is so versatile, we use it for everything but combing our hair.
Injection rod down....
Injection rod up....



Our rod has bottomed out on the footing. Washing the footings with termiticide is designed to translate into longer protection from termite re-infestations.  
Wash the footings....

And when will we know if this treatment has been successful against the termites? Well, since this treatment was applied during the swarming season of the year 2000, no one will really know until the next swarming season - when it does, or doesn't swarm. Sorry. That's about the best any exterminator can do.

We will, however, post the results, right here, next year, successful or not.  Stay tuned.
Updates to this job are posted on
this popup




Termite Pre-Treatment and Termite Proofing

Pre-treatment and Termite Proofing
Additions or alterations to your home, now or in the past, can have a definite affect on your future termite problems.  If you build an addition, or hide the substructure of your home, such as finishing your basement, termites can do their work hidden from your view.  In the case of an addition, the disturbance of the soil will attract termites to the foundation areas and start a new round of problems.

WHEN, EXACTLY, IS PRE-TREATMENT PERFORMED?
New construction of homes, or additions to existing structures should always be pre-treated.  Pre-treatments are applied during construction, which, depending on the structure, might take several visits.  This treatment, coupled with good building practice is what will keep the termites away longer.  Not forever, but longer.

For more complete information about termite pre-treatment, and how the process goes, please visit our Pre-Construction Treatment Page.

And if you forget to call....

It is very important to PRE-TREAT all new construction. That means if you construct an addition, it should be pre-treated for termites.  Most pre-treatment needs to be done during the construction process, not after.  So if you forget, we have to do something like this....
A belated pre-treatment for termites




PREVENTIVE TREATMENTS - (POST - CONSTRUCTION - MY TAKE)

Should you treat your home to prevent termites?  Well, you definitely should if you're building a house.  However, if your house already exists, the treatment to 'prevent' a termite problem might well be a waste of your hard-earned money.  At least that's the way I look at it.

What the exterminators (salesmen) will tell you, is that there's two kinds of houses: Ones that have HAD termites and ones that WILL have termites.  Very true.  But you don't necessarily have to extrapolate that into an immediate termite job.

What the salesmen DON'T tell you is that the exterminator can do his job just as well when the problem crops up.  Besides, there is always the chance you'll never have the termite problem before you move away from the house!  Not only that, but just because you had the preventive work done doesn't mean that you'll never get termites. You could get them anyway, regardless of what was done.  We see it all the time. And I defy any exterminator to tell me this isn't so.


ALWAYS THINK STRAIGHT

So plain common sense might tell you that you might not want to fall for the old 'preventive treatment' routine. You could just as easily wait until it happens!  Then, when it does, (if it does) take your time to get the RIGHT exterminator to do the job. One that doesn't hustle you into a decision. Ask each of them if they mind you waiting "for awhile" - say, several months or even more.  If anyone tries to scare you into an immediate treatment, you're probably better off if you eliminate those guys that press you with a "hurry up" price.  An ethical exterminator will confirm that termite control is not an emergency procedure.  Keep the names of the good ones.  And the bad ones.

And yes, there are exceptions to this rule, I guess, but I can think of only a few special exceptions - very few.  As far as I'm concerned, the general rule is to wait until termites happen.

A Caveat:
When you sell your house, you will probably be required to furnish a "termite certification" to the new buyer.  You should always accept/furnish a termite inspection, certificate and fix any damage from wood boring insects.  In a case such as this, you might be best to clear up all these items before you even list your house on the market. In this way, you'll eliminate the last-minute frantic efforts to fulfill these options, when you might have to pay more for this 'emergency service.'  So fix it before you have to be in a hurry to do it.

Another one of those exceptions, when it is really perfected, will probably include termite baiting.  In some cases, preventive termite control, using baits, may well become advisable on some existing structures.

To my mind, the most efficacious method, at present, for treating termites, is, and will continue to be termite pre-treatment, using soil treatment techniques, during construction. Eventually, even a properly pre-treated structure will develop termites, and depending on construction, may well be a good candidate for termite baiting in the future.  (See my page on termite baiting.)                          [ I don't like it.... ]



WHEN DOES YOUR HOUSE GET TERMITES?

Actually, most houses not treated during construction, will show evidence of termites anywhere between 15 and 25 years of age. This is not a hard and fast rule, of course, some get them sooner, some go longer.  So if your house falls within this age group, you are at definite risk of developing termite problems.




NIGHTMARE TERMITE JOBS

Some houses get termites MULTIPLE times - over and over, no matter what the exterminator does.  This is the proverbial "nightmare termite job" and every exterminator has a few of these kinds of houses.  The conditions that cause this to happen are many, and are often difficult to solve, taking a great deal of time and resources for the exterminator and patience by the homeowner.

CAUSES
There are many factors that determine this, and most are concerned with building practice.  The termites are in the soil, everywhere, and are only doing their only job, which is to find and eat cellulose materials in or on the ground.  If the builders or subcontractors left too much debris in the backfills of your home, the chance of termites in a shorter period of time becomes more certain.  Dirt filled stoops, patios or planters also allow termites access to the structure above grade.  That's why people often see the termites in those places.

OTHER COMPLICATIONS
Slabs, slabs with heat cast into the slabs, and especially dirt-filled slabs have an excellent prospect of having continuing problems.  Unusual and uncommon construction practices have a direct effect on the emergence of termite problems.  Finished basements often do not allow direct inspection of the sub structure or house systems, so prospective homeowners should avoid unprofessional, unknown or even unusual construction.

You might think it would be nice to have one of those fancy, unusual, one-off custom homes that everyone else will envy.  Unless it's so unusual, unconventional, undocumented, or (perhaps worse) documented incorrectly, so that no exterminator will want to work there without draconian contract conditions and prices.  Take it from us exterminators - stay away from the weird construction.

MULTIPLE, YEARLY TERMITE PROBLEMS

Homeowners with multiple termite treatments for control of yearly termite problems, sometimes for years in a row, are well aware of just how bad termite problems can seem to be.  Sometimes the reason for this is known, but oftentimes it is only a guess. Debris left in backfills, grade stakes or forms left in places unseen, or even localized soil conditions can cause the problem to recur on a yearly basis.  No purpose is served by switching exterminators when, after a few years, you still have termite problems.  All exterminators have these repeating problems, (even us) so unless the exterminator is uncooperative, it is usually best to stick with the exterminator that best knows the problem.

So, if your house has been treated for termites in the past, and you know who that exterminator is, he will be the first one you should turn to in conditions like this.  If your exterminator is no longer in business, or perhaps is unknown, you'll have to make your deal with another exterminator.  Pick carefully, it will be a long, close relationship.




CHEMICALS AND SAFETY

The termiticides used by exterminators today are as safe as manufacturers can now make them.  Remember, all pesticides are toxic to some degree, and there is no such thing as a "non-toxic" pesticide.  There are many different brands of termiticides and several different types.  Most of the time, it doesn't really matter what chemical is used, and it's usually best to let your exterminator make the appropriate decision. Remember; most of the time, it isn't what you use, it's how you use it!

TERMITICIDES
Over the years, many different insecticides, of different types, have been used in termite control.   In years past, insecticides in general and termiticides in particular, have strived to be "long-lasting" - the thought being that "longer is better."  This is not necessarily the case, in many instances, and man's ignorance has provided another millstone for us to carry.  Today, manufacturers strive to make their products as least "toxic" as they can, and still get the job done.

In the case of termiticides, this has taken the industry from the older "repellent-type" products, to the non-repellent ones that are more favored now.  Termite baiting systems have also surfaced, several types, actually.  Supposedly, all of the newer methods and chemicals are less "invasive" to both the customer and the operator but will still be effective against the termite problem.  It is a delicate balance that is best determined by an experienced inspector/termite man that can recognize the variables that might affect the final result.



STATE LICENSED APPLICATORS
Here in New Jersey, exterminators are licensed by the state, have very specific insurance requirements, and must attend regular seminars to keep up their licenses.  The New Jersey regulations, along with California and New York, are among the toughest in the country.  Many other states model their pesticide regulations after New Jersey's.  

AND AFTERWARDS?
Termite control is just that - control.  It is necessary to follow up on your original treatment by having regular inspections.  Termites can recur at any time.  Regular (annual) inspections will help us, and you, to control the termite problems that may well surface in the future.  (For more information, see our Renewal Inspection Page.)




CHOOSING THE EXTERMINATOR

This industry is a "service" business.  That's what the exterminator sells - SERVICE. We all buy our chemicals from the same companies, and we're required to use them in the same manner specified on the labels, so it all boils down to service.  I think most people want their service to be fast, courteous, efficient and knowledgeable.  You can usually get that with a trusted, local independent contractor.  So how can you find a
good exterminator?  I know it ain't easy, but
here are some other ways.





ALTERNATIVE METHODS OF TERMITE CONTROL

TERMITE SNIFFING DOGS
I must admit, years ago, the first time I heard this, I laughed.  But actually, this is no laughing matter.  Dogs do have a very acute sense of smell and can be taught to search for the smell of active termites.  Termites produce vast amounts of methane in today's world, and we would not have a good time, here on this earth without them, believe it or not. The highly-trained dogs can detect this methane and will alert a handler or an inspector to its presence.

Anyway, one day I was doing a termite inspection in someone's crawl space and their dog had entered the crawl after me.  Well, after watching this dog, sniffing around in the crawlspace, easily getting to the areas where I had difficulty, I realized that a dog might be able to move around easily and detect termites that might not be accessible to me.

ALL THIS IS TRUE, BUT.....
Except for a couple of things.  The dogs can't find powder post beetles and they can't find other wood destroying insects, they won't sniff out termite damage and cannot detect any inactive termite infestations that may only be currently inactive.  Very serious failings, and these are situations that must be listed in any termite reports we file.

Later, Consumer Reports did an article advising homeowners to use an inspection service that used dogs to detect the termites.  Then, of course, we got a rash of calls asking for or insisting on using dogs to make inspections.  But Consumer Reports, like anything else, can be wrong.  While the dogs can often detect active termite infestations, their above failings still demand that a human inspector makes his own inspection.  The dogs have, however, been known to uncover infestations that are inaccessible and invisible to a human inspector.




THERMAL IMAGING FOR THE DETECTION OF TERMITES
This is a newer method, (the Termicam Company) in use and development in Australia. It is said to have the added advantage for inspection for other things, such as rodents and heat loss studies.

Specifically, for the detection of termites, it still suffers the same problems that dog inspections do.  That is, they don't detect termite damage, carpenter ants and powder post beetles, and they won't detect termite infestations that may be currently inactive but still viable.




SAND FOR TERMITE CONTROL
Sand barriers?  Sometimes they work - especially if they're installed correctly.  Frankly, standard soil treatment is usually more efficient and probably less expensive too.  For someone who is "green," it is an alternative that doesn't use chemicals.  Proper sand is 16 grit - that which is sifted by a 16 gauge screen.  Actually, better, is crushed volcanic cinder.  Mostly, it is used in California and Hawaii where volcanic cinder is easily available.  Smaller grits can be carried away by workers, larger grits will support their shelter tube construction.  Installation is important, and there are other concerns, such as migration, subsidence and settling.

You can read what a gentleman from California wrote to me, about his experience with sand for termite control.




STAINLESS STEEL MESH
There is a mesh that can be installed as a shield to keep the termites from entering a structure.  The mesh is installed between the foundation and earth or the wooden framing.  This would be a difficult procedure in any situation except new construction. It has been tested by the US Forestry Service, in a testing situation, and they have glowing reports showing zero infestations after four years in a controlled study in the usual four locations in the United States.  (Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, and South Carolina.)  The company, (Termi-Mesh) in Australia, claims they have tested this product, without failure or corrosion, in a seaside setting, for 16 years.  They have posted the results of those tests.

THE GOOD PART
The good point is that there is absolutely no use of any pesticide with this procedure.  It is designed and meant to last the life of the building itself.  Satisfy all you "Greens" out there.  Terrific idea.  But, I guess, in the alternative, we also have to think about what we needed (to burn, pollute, destroy, change, disrupt) to create the stainless steel mesh itself.  (I'm taking the "Greenie," side here....)

THE BAD PART
Which brings us to the one real downside, in my mind.  Folks, you have to be ALL Green to go this route.  Meaning, get out that fat wallet, you're gonna need it.  This material is expensive to manufacture, it is also fabricated, which means even more expense. Lastly, it has to be installed correctly, by "accredited installers," with no rips, tears or other interruptions.  A termite can enter through any crack larger than a 64th of an inch. Not a whole lot larger than the period at the end of this sentance.

This mesh NOT something you pick up at Home Depot and do yourself.  And to be a TRUE shield, must be under the ENTIRE footprint of the structure.  This method is best done during initial construction.

DON'T GET ME WRONG....
It's not that I have anything against any of these systems, it's just that you have to take this into perspective.  None of these methods is the Complete Answer.  They all may have benefits at some point, in some circumstance.  Alternative methods are just that. Alternative.  An alternate is to be used in case you can't do Plan A, so alternates are always Plan B.  Make sure, when you use Plan B, that Plan A can't be employed to a much better benefit, for all concerned.

SO WHAT'S THE SCAM?
What it all boils down to, of course, is dollars.  If you have a good supply of those dollars, go for it, definitely.  But remember, when (not if) the termites breach your big bucks system, just take a real quick guess at what method we'll probably have to use when that happens....?

One last thing.  Termite control is NOT an emergency procedure.  Termites do not destroy houses such as what you might see on Saturday morning TV.  Termites take a long time to accomplish what they do, and a few weeks, a few months, are not going to make any difference.
For regular pest control problems you don't need a salesman ever.  Find a local exterminator without them, you'll be better off not paying for the extra layer.

As a matter of fact, standard termiticides might take a full three months to even begin to take effect on your termite infestation.  And if you are baiting for termites, it could take two years or possibly even more.  For this reason, it is much more important to find the right exterminator.  Take your time to choose, don't let any exterminator hustle you.  If he tries to pressure you, drop him from your list.



TO ELIMINATE FUTURE TERMITE PROBLEMS

Make sure you keep your exterminator informed on what you do to your home.  If you finish your basement or garage, you may affect present or future termite treatments to your home, and may even require additional and further treatment.  Call him if you install or reinstall rugs on top of a concrete slab, and ask him what the cost would be, if any, of any additional treatments such as these.

Also, you might ask him if there would be any additional charges if you added a room and ordered termite pre-treatment to be applied during construction.  Personally, I think this should be included in the contract.  Pre-treatment is easy to do at the right stage, and I figure that anything I can do to keep the termites away, is worth it. Besides, all exterminators like to be heros, and this is an easy way to keep my Termite Renewals attractive to my customers.  See if your prospective exterminator has the same idea.


.
DOING IT YOURSELF
Unless you're used to doing self-appendectomies, don't.  You can't get there from here.  Some things you just can't do by yourself, and this is one of them.  You don't have the tools, you can't easily get or mix the chemicals, and if you ever sell your home, you're still going to have to get a professional to certify it.  He will want to do the job all over again and will probably be ornery and charge you even more.  

You can (maybe) help to sort out the bandits from the Good Guys by doing this.


GOT SOME QUESTIONS?
If you have questions, comments or messages, you can post them directly to UnExCo's Termite Message Board and get an answer to a question you might have about termites or their treatment.




Termite Links

Aventis has produced a video that compares baiting procedures with soil treatment with Termidor.  While it is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, it is a factual representation.  (This is VERY large, 109 megabytes, not recommended for those with standard modems.)

And why do we like Termidor?  I tell you right here.  We also have a page where you can get an instant, online Termite Job estimate - no charge, of course.

To learn what you DON'T want to do, or to use, please see our "Spoofs and Superstitions Page" and you might also like to visit some of our Illustrious Competitors, although I don't really know why....

If you would like us to be your exterminator, you can check to see if you're in our normal local service territory.  We do service most of the rest of New Jersey, for special termite control procedures and other specialty work.  Our rate schedule is also posted.

And then there is our "Good Guys" page, where you might even be able find a "Good Guy" exterminator near you!  No sharks allowed.

And, of course, there's our Picture Gallery, where we can show you some of the things that termites can do to your home without you knowing about it.

A quick visit to our Termite Pre-Treatment Page might give you some reasons to consider pre-treating that new house.  Or, if you're a builder, to treat ALL of your houses, while they are still under construction.

To find an experienced, professional and expert exterminator in your area, please visit the International Pest Control Operator Page.  
International Pest Control Operator Network



Other places to visit for information on termite control.  You will note that most of the sites I ever recommend are educational or government sites.  That's because they supply the most reliable information, and are usually devoid of commercial hype.  A search for "termite control" will yield thousands of hits, most will be commercial ".com" sites, such as this one.  Trust the ".edu's" - and watch out for the pitchmen.



TERMITE CONTROL: Answers for Homeowners - by Mike Potter, Extension Entomologist at the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture - answers for you that you can understand, with no commercial crapola.

The US Forestry Service has an extensive collection of Web sites.  From the plain-Jane, no nonsense, just-the-facts-Ma'am and virtually unknown Web site of "The Termite Unit," to the stunning, information-overload Southern Research Station. main Web site.

The Environmental Protection Agency also has quite an extensive Web site, and a special section set up, just for pesticide issues.

National Pest Control Association - Unfortunately, NPCA must depend on commercial institutions for support, so their site looks "commercial."

Texas A&M, Department of Entomology - An extremely comprehensive and interesting site for those that like (or dislike) insects.  Recommended.

University of Kentucky  Questions relating to termite control for the average homeowner

University of Nebraska  Pesticides of all types are discussed

University of Nebraska - The "new" Termite baits - answers for you.



And last, but certainly not least, the granddaddy of all pest control Universities!

Purdue University Entomology Server   Find just about anything here!  They have a great help desk and questions forum, but for some reason, it sometimes isn't working....

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recommendations about my Web site, you can tell me about it
right here.



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