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Termites and Termite Exclusion

By Chris Williams on February 21, 2014.

Home damage from termitesJohn Maher:  Hi, my name is John Maher. Today I’m here with Tim Chase, an entomologist and pest control technician at Colonial Pest, a pest control company serving Eastern Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire and Maine. Today we’re talking about termites and termite extermination.

Welcome, Tim.

Tim Chase:  Good morning, John.

John:  Tim, what do termites look like?

Tim:  Termites are small white insects that typically live in the soil, about a centimeter long, as the adults grow up. They’re typically found eating wood underneath rocks and things like that in the garden around a home.

John:  OK, so what does termite damage look like?

Tim:  Termite damage results from the termites actually bringing soil into the wood itself. You’ll find soil in places it shouldn’t be. The wood should be a little bit moist to very dry, if it’s older damage. But you’ll find soil within the wood itself.

John:  Do you find like little piles of sawdust on the beams in your house? Is that what to watch out for?

Tim:  Sawdust might be more typical to a carpenter ant frass material. However, termites working within the structure may produce piles of soil that fall out of the members that they’re trying to attack.

John:  OK. Do termites fly?

Tim:  Termites do fly. The adult termites, or alates, as they swarm out of the nest in the springtime, have four identical wings that are sometimes mistaken for flying ants. But usually these events will occur on a yearly basis in the springtime.

John:  OK. You mentioned ants. How do termites differ from ants?

Tim:  That’s a great question. We get a lot of calls regarding termites and ant differences. Termites are typically the ones that you’ll see that fly, have black bodies that have four equal distant wings, and they have moniliform, or little dot antennas.

Ants have three specific characteristics that differ. Their bodies are distinctly segmented in the head, thorax and abdomen. The four wings, the two front wings are actually larger than the rear wings, so you’ll notice right away that there’s something different than a termite. Also, the other critical area is the antenna themselves are actually elbowed, which differs from the termite’s little moniliform antenna.

It’s pretty easy to tell them apart if you sort of know what you’re looking for.

John:  OK. How long do they live?

Tim:  Termites can live 18 to 25 years as a colony. The king and queen that emerge, once they mate, can live for an extended period of time producing millions of offspring.

John:  OK. Where do termites live?

Tim:  Termites live in the soil, typically, in bark mulch, around tree stumps. The nest itself is located above the water table but below the frost line. They’ll find a nice place to set up shop. This nest itself can, again, live 18 to 25 years and produce millions of children.

John:  Wow. How do I know if I have termites that are eating my home?

Tim:  That’s a good question. One of the main things that we’ll see is mud tubes that come up from the soil to adjacent members within the structure. You’ll see the little mud tunnels coming up.

You might notice a swarm of what we call the swarmers or alates coming out in the cellar of the house in the springtime. Or typically you’re looking for soil in a place where it shouldn’t be.

John:  What conditions are considered conducive to termites?

Tim:  That’s another excellent question. The places that we look for termites most frequently involve wood to soil contact. Cellar window frames that are sort of buried in the ground, garage door frames that have been submerged into the concrete. Those are typical locations where we find termites.

John:  Is there anything that a homeowner can do to discourage termites around their house?

Tim:  Definitely. One of the main things you can do is minimize the amount of cellulose food sources, such as bark mulch, stumps, landscaping timbers, scrap wood, wood piles, things of that nature that might aid and abet the termite colony, its formation and its feeding over time.

Another thing that you can do is have a pest control professional take a look around. It usually takes a very short time to sort of look at the house and get a feel for what might be going on.

John:  OK. Is there any one treatment type more environmentally friendly than others?

Tim:  Certainly. The Sentricon System from Dow AgroSciences was developed with two things in mind, environmental safety and effectiveness. We certainly would say that the Sentricon System is one of the best bets for termite control.

John:  OK. How will I know if the termites have been controlled?

Tim:  That’s another great question, because a lot of the treatments involve the application of a liquid chemical and brief periodic inspections of the structure.

When we use the Sentricon System, the technician can actually tell that the bait has been consumed by the termites. In most cases, that feeding is very, very markedly distinguishable from other types of damage to the bait. Your technician will be able to tell you, in fact, that the termite colony has been eliminated.

John:  How long should I keep my termite control contract? Is this something that you guys just come in and you set up the system and it eliminates the termites and then they’re gone? Or is like an ongoing process?

Tim:  Ideally, the Sentricon System and similar treatments are designed as an ongoing control and management system. Certainly, it can be used as a one time event to control a termite population at large. But the chief benefit of something like the Sentricon System would be its long term ability to control and monitor for the presence of termites around any structure.

John:  OK. Well, Tim, thanks very much for speaking with me.

Tim:  You’re welcome, John.

John:  For more information, you can visit the website at colonialpest.com or call 1‑800‑525‑8084 for free quote.

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