Other signs of a termite infestation are pencil-thin mud tubes extending over inside and outside surfaces of foundation walls, piers, sills, floor joists and the like. Termites make these mud tunnels to travel between underground colonies and your home. Another sign of an infestation is damaged wood hollowed out along the grain with dried bits of mud or soil lining the feeding galleries.
Termite feeding, and resulting damage, can remain undetected in exposed wood because the outer surface usually is left intact.
You can reduce the risk of a termite attack by following these suggestions: eliminate wood contact with the ground; don't allow moisture to accumulate near the foundation; reduce humidity in crawl spaces; don't store firewood, lumber or other wood debris against the foundation or inside the crawl space; sparingly use decorative wood chips and mulch; and consider having your home treated by a professional pest control firm.
Many infestations result from direct contact between structural wood and the soil because this gives termites access to food, moisture, shelter and hidden entry into your home. Be sure there's at least six inches between ground level and wood siding, porch steps, latticework, door or window frames, posts and similar wooden elements. Contrary to popular belief, pressure-treated wood isn't immune to infestation because termites will enter through cut ends or cracks, and build tunnels over the surface to susceptible wood.
Since termites are attracted to moisture, they are more likely to enter a structure when soil next to the foundation is consistently moist. So, divert water away from the foundation with properly functioning gutters, downspouts and splashblocks. Repair leaking faucets, water pipes and air conditioning units. Adjust the soil grade next to the foundation so surface water drains away from the building, and adjust lawn sprinklers and irrigation systems to minimize water puddling near the foundation.
Reduce humidity in crawl spaces by providing adequate ventilation. Don't allow shrubbery and other vegetation to grow over vents because it will inhibit cross-ventilation. You can reduce crawl space moisture by installing four to six milliliter polyethylene sheeting over about 75 percent of the soil surface.
Firewood, lumber and other wood debris, stored against the foundation or in crawl spaces, attract termites and provide a food source. This practice also gives termites a hidden entry into the home and allows them to bypass any existing termiticide soil barrier.
Cellulose-containing materials including mulch and wood chips attract termites. Use these materials sparingly, especially when you have other conditions conducive to termite problems. Never allow mulch to come into contact with wood siding and door or window framing. Consider using crushed stone or pea gravel instead. These materials are less attractive to termites and also will reduce other pest problems such as millipeds, pillbugs, earwings and crickets.
The best way to prevent termite infestations is to have your home treated by a professional pest control firm.
There are two general categories of termite treatment, liquids and baits. Liquid treatments are intended to provide an effective, long-lasting chemical barrier, which termites cannot breach, around and beneath your home. Termite baits are installed in plastic stations below ground in the yard and occasionally indoors. Foraging termites consume the bait and share it with their nest-mates, resulting in a gradual decline in termite numbers.
What should you look for when choosing a pest control firm? The firm should be licensed by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. Membership in the Kentucky Pest Control Association and/or National Pest Control Association suggests that the company is an established firm with access to the technical and training information necessary to correctly do the job. Consider calling at least two to three companies and ask for references.
Avoid pest control firms that pressure you into immediately signing a contract with specials or scare tactics.
Termiticides are extensively tested for adverse effects. Based on current research, registered termiticides present no significant hazard to humans, pets or the environment when applied according to label directions.
For more information, call (859) 236-4484.
Jerry Little is Boyle County extension agent for agriculture/natural resources.