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Taking a Bite Out of Homes: Termite Q&A with a Board-Certified Entomologist from Orkin

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It's termite season! The tiny insects generally swarm from March through June, though some termite species work year-round. Last year, termites were exceptionally busy. Orkin recently released their Third Annual Top Termite Cities List, and 2020 proved to be a record-breaking year for first-time customer termite treatments (from February 1, 2020 – January 31, 2021.)

That's why we reached out to Orkin's Senior Technical Manager and board-certified entomologist Glen Ramsey. Glen served up his expert knowledge to help homeowners learn how to get rid of termites and how to treat a termite infestation with the help of a professional. 

Q: How does a homeowner know their home is unfortunately infested with termites? 

GR: There are several signs of a termite infestation, including:

  • A temporary, visible swarm of termites in your home, in the soil or around the exterior of the house.
  • Cracked or bubbling paint.
  • Discolored or drooping drywall.
  • Wood that sounds hollow when tapped.
  • Mud tubes on the interior or exterior of walls or wooden beams.
  • Discarded wings from swarmers.

Sightings of frass (termite droppings) in or near the house.

Q: What is the first thing homeowners should do the moment they think their home has termites? 

GR: Immediately call your pest management provider, and if you do not have one established already, find one with termite offerings.

Q: Since termite colonies start small, are there any tips to help homeowners find out they have termites sooner rather than later? 

Termites with wings can be an early warning sign of a termite colony.

GR: Termites will break off from their colonies to reproduce and build new colonies. It is after this that they start shedding wings like the warning sign mentioned above. Noticing the swarms of flying termites in trees or bushes before they have shed their wings is a great early warning sign as they have yet to bury underground and cause damage to your home. 

Q: Are there termite treatments that homeowners can do, or should they always call the professionals? 

GR: Homeowners should always call professionals for termites. There are no DIY-methods for getting rid of termites, so calling a professional as soon as possible is critical for reducing the amount of damage termites cause.

Q: How do professionals treat termite damage? 

GR: Pest management professionals more treat the termite problem itself rather than the damage – meaning your pest control provider won't be able to reverse wood damage already done by termites. In treating the problem itself, your professional will choose the best termite treatment method for the specific case – Orkin uses liquid, foam and bait systems to treat termite issues.

Q: What are ways to mitigate any damage termites have made? 

A contractor can help discover the extent of the damage.

GR: Any discovered or suspected damage should be investigated by a licensed contractor. Your pest professional should provide you a graph indicating any areas where damage was identified during the inspection. This will likely not be all areas that may be hidden, but it will be a good starting point for a contractor to work off of.

Q: Can termite damage destroy a home? 

GR: If untreated, yes. Because termites feed off cellulose, an organic fiber found in wood and plant matter, many homes, furniture and décor and landscaping are susceptible to becoming a termite's next meal. The abundance of nutrition for termites can create huge problems that ultimately could destroy a home.

Q: Are there any steps homeowners can take to prevent a termite infestation? 

Keep firewood away from your home.

GR: Property owners can get termites from wooden structures, such as porches and decks, directly touching the ground; firewood leaning against the house; soil that stays damp long-term from leaking faucets or water retention areas near foundation and dead trees or other landscaping near the house.

To proactively avoid termites, Orkin recommends that homeowners regularly monitor water drainage sites to ensure they are properly draining, paying extra attention to areas around the foundation and on the roof. Additionally, seal gaps around utility lines, gas lines and pipes and cover exterior vents with screens to help reduce entry points. Lastly, reduce termite food sources by removing any rotting wood, debris or landscaping near the house.

Q: Can homeowners plant certain flowers or plug up any holes in their foundation to prevent a termite nest on their house? 

Sealing foundation cracks can help keep termites out of your home.

GR: There are no plants that will repel termites from a home. Sealing gaps and cracks in the foundation will help deter termites from finding access into the structure. Remember, termites can squeeze through a gap 1/16 of an inch or larger, so it may be difficult to seal them tight enough to prevent entry.

Q: Are there any types of homes that are less susceptible to termites? 

GR: While some homes with less wood may be less susceptible to termites, no home is immune to a termite attack. Even homes built out of concrete will settle and crack allowing entry. The conditions surrounding the structure are more of an influence on termite activity than the type of construction.

Q: Is there anything else we haven't discussed about termites that you feel homeowners should know? 

GR: Different parts of the country have different amounts of termite pressure, but all the United States has termites except Alaska. It is important to protect your investment with regular inspections and an expert eye for conditions conducive to termite infestation.

Glen joined us on the vipHome Podcast for pest control tips you'll need this summer. Watch now!

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