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We all get the munchies from time to time. For us humans, the consequences of overly-enthusiastic snacking might necessitate loosening our belt a few notches, and vowing to turn to the fruit drawer “next time.” For a resilient group of little pests, however, the cost of their hearty appetites is much higher. So high, in fact, that termite damage causes an average of $5 billion worth of damage every year in the United States alone. We’re talking about those tiny pillagers, the dreaded termites. While they’ll eat wood (bad!), and attack other insects (good!), at least they don’t bite humans…our structures and wallets tend to be their victims instead.
With approximately 50 different species active in the US today—there are over 2,000 species worldwide—termites are one of the most insidious threats to households across the country. Only Alaska gets a pass, thanks to its frigid climate, which is unsympathetic to the cold-blooded insects. There are several different groupings of termite species, each of which require the right balance of temperature and moisture to survive. Most of the time, termites need to have direct contact with soil to maintain their colonies’ moisture levels. Sometimes, though, in the case of the dry-wood group, for example, they can glean enough moisture from the wood that they eat, due to the way their bodies metabolize the cellulose. On the other hand, Formosan termites, probably the most destructive subterranean species in the US, have a way of building pockets of chewed wood, soil and undigested cellulose within their colonies’ network of tunnels, that essentially conserve moisture within those pockets, or “cartons,” until they can find a new water source. Their underground activity does benefit the environment, in that it aerates and enriches the soil, but termites are not generally considered welcome guests once their more nefarious deeds are discovered.
Unfortunately, due to termites’ cryptobiotic tendencies (meaning, their activities are hidden from view), occupants don’t always realize that their home or building has been infested until it’s too late. So if termites are known to have a habit of concealing themselves while they do their dirty work, how can homeowners learn to detect the pests before severe damage has been inflicted on their property?
Luckily, there are a number of clues that betray the presence of termites, and keeping a watchful eye can help you take them down…before the little critters take down your deck:
If you notice evidence of any of the above, contact a local pest control service immediately and have them come by to assess the damage and decide which kind of treatment would be most effective in getting rid of any infestation. Most of the time, you’ll need to destroy the colony with insecticides, and then ensure that you obstruct their means of access to your property. Pest control professionals can also help you identify all the trouble spots, some of which might be hidden from view, so that you can formulate a plan of action for repairing any damage. They might even be able to suggest preventative measures to thwart future infestations, such as keeping mulch and firewood a certain distance away from the foundation of the house. Since most homeowners’ insurance policies do not cover termite issues, early detection and prompt, professional treatment are imperative for preventing extensive and costly termite-inflicted loss.
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