How To Get Rid of Termites (Complete Guide)
Looking to learn how to get rid of termites...
Well then this is the guide for you!
There's one word that will widen the eyes of every property owner, no matter who they are or where they live...
One of the most dreaded words in the English language for homeowners far and wide, these creepy-crawly creatures will take a bite right out of your home and degrade its structural integrity a little more every day.
Just how do you get termites out of your house?
And what are some signs you might have termites?
What animals eat termites, if any?
Keep reading for our in-depth guide on how to take your home back from these expensive pests.
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What Types of Termites Are There?
For the introduction of this guide, I wanted to write a couple words on the
Not all termites are the same. There are three main types, and the first question you need to ask yourself when tackling a termite problem is: What kind of termites are chewing through your home?
Type 1: Subterranean and Formosan Termites
This type of termite is present mostly in forest areas with lots of available soil in which to burrow.
Found mostly in the soil below ground, they enjoy seclusion while they chomp down on wood nearly 24/7.
These termites cause the most damage, and if you take a look at their mouths under a microscope, it's easy to see why. These termites have serrated jaws that can bite significantly hard wood with ease, and subterranean termites have voracious appetites to match.
Some of the main differences between Formosan and Subterranean Termites are...
- Habitat: Formosan Termites prefer the warmer, southern states where Subterranean can be found in almost every state in the United States.
- Body Type: Formosan Termites have a more elongated body, with a short head, and short pinchers, where Subterranean Termites have longer head and body, with long pinchers.
- Nesting: Formosan Termites also build their nests in such a way that it allows for better moisture circulation and less trips to the soil.
Type 2: Drywood Termites
Different from Subterraen Termites, Drywood termites do not need to come into contact with soil moisture in order to live.
Instead, they live off the moisture found in the thing that they are living in. For example, if there is a part of your attic that is exposed to rain, it would become wet and a potential breeding ground for drywood termites.
You'll usually find these guys in attics, wooden fences, decks, or in pieces of furniture. Checkout the video below to learn more about these creatures!
These types of termites like to create tunnels and tubes in blocks of wood with their teeth. This creates a very distinctive pattern of bite marks and detailed tubing.
Oftentimes, they'll expel fecal matter into these tunnels to add insult to injury. Because they love to eat through support beams, this kind of termite can cause serious damage to your home if not dealt with quickly.
The not so good thing about drywood termites is that a traditional homeowner will never see them because they will be burrowed inside of the wood things you own. Unless you are specifically looking for them, it's unlikely you spot them.
Type 3: Dampwood Termites
As their name suggests, these are the termites that will eat through moist, rotting wood. Because of this preference, you'll usually find dampwood termites outside of the home, infesting logs and dead trees.
But if there's a leak in the structure of the home, it's a serious possibility that these termite could be lurking within the damp wood structures.
What makes dampwood termites distinctive (aside from their preference for moisture) is that their tunnel systems are almost unnaturally smooth.
Whereas their drywood cousins create rough and jagged tunnels, the dampwood termites make tubing networks within the wood that seem to be almost sandpapered.
What Causes Termites in the First Place?
Where do these bugs come from, and why are they attracted to wood?
By understanding the social structure of a termite community, you can go forward in eliminating your resident termites with ease.
How Do You Get Termites in Your House?
Depending on the type of termite, they can get into your house in a number of ways.
- Subterranean Termites: These termites usually enter your house through underground mud tubes. Unlike drywood termites, they prefer to be near moist soil and will setup temporary nests inside the walls of your house made of fecal matter. These nests are used to maintain a certain level of moisture while the termites are away from their main nest and soil.
- Drywood Termites: These termites can fly inside from outlying areas as swarmers or find a small crack or crevice around your house to gain access. As mentioned earlier, these termites don't need to come into contact with soil to survive, but rather live off the moisture they produce themselves and/or the moisture of the
Termites are highly intelligent pests that work together in a colony (not unlike bees) to further their species.
"Worker termites" are in charge of finding food for the "soldier termites" (who provide defense and security to the colony), and of course, for the "king and queen" (who are in charge of reproducing).
All three types of termite subsist primarily on the same thing in different forms: wood.
The gut of a termite features a protozoa, which converts wood into fuel and breaks down fungi. The worker termites will search far and wide for food for the colony, and when they arrive at your home, it's like they won the lottery.
Because termites have such destructive jaws, they can essentially eat their way inside. The worker termites build tubes made of mud that provide a passageway to wooden structures.
Once they get to the wood of your home, they will gnaw their way right through.
What Do Termites Eat Besides Wood?
While wood is a necessary staple of the termite's nutrition, they have been known to subsist on other items from time to time.
- Paper products
The food source for a termite is cellulose, which is found in wood.
But worker termites may go out in search of other sources of cellulose that have been sourced from wood.
Checkout this guide where we break down all the various things termites like to eat.
Early Signs of Termites
So, how should you know when to take action against termites? Well, despite the fact that these are very secretive, burrowing creatures, they do leave some clues behind to alert homeowners of their presence.
Most often, one can spot the mud tubes created by worker termites on the outsides of homes and even in basements or attics.
Also, the fecal matter left behind by drywood termites is very distinctive in pellet form, and easily recognizable. If you can physically see drywood termite pellets, it's a surefire sign of an infestation.
The king and queen of each termite colony have wings and are sometimes called "swarmer termites," so it's possible to actually see these termites with wings if you have a termite problem.
Want to see what a termite queen looks like? Watch this video:
How to Get Rid of Termites (Once and for All)
When you know what type of termite you're dealing with, and the reason that it's wreaking havoc through your home, you can begin to seek out the methods to actually kill off the pest population.
What Causes Termites to Die?
When eradicating termite colonies, there are two methods by which one can knock out the problem: liquid insecticides and baits.
By placing a liquid insecticide in the soil, you're creating an invisible zone of toxicity through which the termites can't permeate. These act as more of a repellent, because although they do kill termites in the soil, they don't really do much to kill the termites that have already entered your home.
Sometimes termites in the home will die off as well, since the soil is a vehicle to return to their colonies.
When using a termite bait, you're placing an insecticidal solution directly to your wood to take out termites that have entered your home. It may take a few months, but eventually, the termites will fall victim to the active ingredients in the insecticides.
How to Kill Termites Yourself
Of course, most people are going to want to save a few bucks and try to fix their termite problem themselves. Unless you have significant construction experience and know the exact blueprint of your home, treating for termites yourself is NOT recommended.
Because homes are such complex structures and termite extermination requires a specialized skill set, you're much better off investing the money to hire a professional than trying to do it yourself or, even worse, ignoring the termite problem.
When To Call the Pros
As soon as you see the signs of a termite in your home or outside, we recommend call a local exterminator as fast as possible (click here for our local exterminator search tool).
Ignoring a termite infestation can have some of the following disastrous results such as:
- Forced evacuation for fumigation services
- Structural disintigration
- A sharp drop in value of your home
While calling a professional may be costly, it's worth it in the long run.
Effective Home Remedies for Termites
Let's say you've called an exterminator and you've been given a wait time of a few weeks. Or maybe hiring a professional just isn't in your budget right now.
While we highly recommend seeking professional help, but here are some DIY hacks that you can use right now in the event that a professional exterminator isn't available for some reason.
You know that tub of petroleum jelly that you bought five years ago? The one that's probably sitting in the back of your medicine cabinet, mostly unused? That can help you significantly with your termite problem!
Because petroleum jelly contains phenol, a chemical compound which repels termites, this is a perfect short-term solution for a termite problem. Simply spread a layer of the jelly to surfaces you want to protect like doors, beams, baseboards, etc.
Nematodes for Termites
Despite their weird-sounding name, nematodes are incredible organisms. We've given the lowdown on how these helpful parasites can knock out the nasty cycle of fleas on pets and in the home, but the benefits of nematodes don't stop there.
Simply put: nematodes are microscopic roundworms which live and thrive in soil. They are parasites which permeate the outer shells of insect bodies and feed on them from the inside out. Because of this implosive style of eating, there are no gross insect corpses to clean up after the nematodes have worked their magic. The nematodes, in turn, die and biodegrade once no more hosts (AKA: your pests) are present.
You can purchase these guys online or in local gardening stores, but here's a tip: use them as soon as possible. Because they are live organisms, they can die off in the packaging if not stored properly and used immediately.
This is one of the most ubiquitous insecticides out there. Boric acid works by poisoning insects that ingest it; causing difficulty with digestion and short-circuiting the nervous system.
This chemical is available in several different forms, including (but not limited to):
- liquid solutions
Warning! There are health risks associated with possible exposure to boric acid, so it's best to use extreme caution when placing this type of chemical in and around your house. This is especially true for homes with children and animals.
The Bottom Line
If your home becomes one of the hundreds of thousands that fall victim to termite damage each year, don't fret.
The collective termite damage cost may hover in the billions each year, but it's important to understand that fast action can make all the difference in the degree of damage your home may face with a termite infestation.
With our detailed guide on how to get rid of termites, you should have all the information you need on how to identify, eradicate, and prevent these costly pests.