Termite Control Insects Can Wreak Havoc on a Home If Not Controlled. Here's What Homeowners Can Do to Battle the Bugs

By Donovan, Deborah | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), July 23, 2004 | Go to article overview

Termite Control Insects Can Wreak Havoc on a Home If Not Controlled. Here's What Homeowners Can Do to Battle the Bugs


Donovan, Deborah, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Deborah Donovan Daily Herald Homes Writer

Termites are not much fun to talk about - and even less fun to have in your home - but homeowners should know some basic facts about them.

Most importantly, they do exist in the suburbs, and homeowners need to be on the lookout for them.

Secondly, don't panic if you see crawly things around the house. They may not be termites, and even if they are your home won't disappear tomorrow. Termites don't act as fast as seen in cartoons, and there are ways to fight back.

"I happen to live in an area of heavy termite infestation (in North Carolina)" said Greg Baumann, technical director for the National Pest Management Association, based in Dunn Loring, Va.

"We get termites, get control and life goes on."

Early detection means repairs will be less expensive, said Raymond Cloyd, entomologist with the University of Illinois Extension in Urbana.

It takes three to eight years for termites to cause appreciable damage, according to NebGuide, published by the University of Nebraska Extension.

The termites found in this area are subterranean termites.

Thanks to our Midwest winters we may never have to worry about the voracious Formosan termites, Cloyd said.

These extra-fierce bugs are terrorizing New Orleans and many warm areas of the country. They devour wood nine times faster than native subterranean termites, according to experts.

The big attraction

The subterranean termites that are comfortable in the suburbs usually live in the ground. They need moisture and nest inside walls or attics only if there's a constant source of water.

Termites build mud tunnels that are one-quarter to 1 inch wide across the foundation and other surfaces so they can reach wood, such as the framing in a house. Termites eat other products like carpeting, artwork and clothing. They also eat trees that have died.

Inspectors trained to find termites will look for the telltale mud tubes. Wood damaged by termites always has such tubes, according to NebGuide.

An inspector will probe wood with a tool like a screwdriver or ice pick since termites honeycomb the inside of wood, and the evidence might not be visible from the outside.

If you see actual bugs, a termite might look like an ant except ants have waistlines or segmented bodies, and termites do not.

Termites starting new colonies swarm, mostly in the spring, then lose their wings. The wings are two sets that are about the same size, unlike ants whose second pair is smaller, according to NebGuide.

Wings discarded on inside window sills are a sign of infestation, according to a report by Susan C. Jones, assistant professor of Entomology for the Ohio State University Extension.

Each colony has a queen and king, soldier termites and many workers that are about one-eighth inch long, white, soft-bodied and blind. Soldiers look similar, but they have long brown heads and two jaws.

Colonies can be 18 feet below ground and have 60,000 to 200,000 workers, according to NebGuide.

Carpenter ants are more common here than termites, said Don Resetar, who owns Pest Control Services Inc. of Northbrook with his wife, Terry. The ants are easier to control by spraying inside and outside of the building, he said.

Ants generally do not do as much damage as termites.

You also will not find termites and ants together because they are enemies, Cloyd said.

Checking a home

Most people have termite inspections as part of the home-buying process, but then forget all about the pests.

Some pest control companies insist inspections are needed every year. But Resetar says every few years is often enough unless a homeowner has reason to believe the insects are active in the immediate area.

Two factors that might make a neighborhood particularly prone to termites are if the area was once wooded and if it is moist, Cloyd said. …

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