Termites can be many a homeowner’s worst enemy because they’re one of the most harmful pests to the structure of a home. Termites are light-colored and tiny and have an insatiable appetite for wood. They can cause untold damage to your property. In fact, America loses a whopping $5 billion worth of termite damage every year.
No homeowner wants to deal with an infestation of termites, but without the right treatment plan, an infestation may be difficult to avoid. You shouldn’t allow the prospect of termites to frighten you by handling the problem by yourself.
In this guide on how to rid your home of termites, we’ll take a look at everything to do with termites, including what species exist, what brings them to your home, signs of a termite infestation, how to get rid of termites naturally and with termite control products, as well as how to keep termites away from your home.
What Are Termites?
It’s possible for your home to be infested with termites without you spotting a single termite. This is because termites usually stay hidden in the soil, tunnels, or mud tubes. But eventually, termite colonies get overcrowded and adult termites grow wings and come out to breed and look for new homes. This is called swarming.
Termites are sometimes mistaken for ants since they have the same shape, size, and body structure. But there are some fundamental differences that may help you determine whether your problem pest is or isn’t a termite.
While ants have distinctive pinched waists, termites usually have the same width throughout their bodies. Another major difference is that while ants have an elbow-shaped, bent antenna, termites boast straight antenna.
It’s also easy to differentiate between winged ants and winged termites. The wings of termites are long and equal in length, while the front wings of ants are much longer than their rear legs.
Types of Termites
The two major kinds of termites you’ll notice in your home are dry wood termites and subterranean termites. It’s vital to know which type of termite you’re dealing with since they might require different eradication solutions.
While subterranean termites can be kept at bay by poisonous barriers, you’ll need to fumigate or spot treat dry wood termites. Other common types of termites include damp wood termites and Formosan termites.
Dry wood termites
These termites get all the moisture they need from the wood they eat and humidity. They can access your home via exposed furniture or wood and make nests in dry piles of wood. The resulting damage can be extensive and far-reaching.
Dry wood termites are 0.375 in. long and are tan or light brown. They are mainly found in the Southern and South Western regions of the United States, as well as in coastal states. Their colonies carry up to 2,500 termites.
These are found throughout the United States and prefer warm, humid areas. As their name implies, these termites live in the soil underneath homes. They come into your home through mud tubes they create to connect the wood with soil.
Subterranean termites are 0.125 to 1 in. long and are creamy brown. They are mainly found in Southeast U.S. Colonies may hold between 100,000 to 1,000,000 termites and the pests are known to make honeycomb-like patterns in the wood.
Damp wood termites
This termite species likes to feed on damp wood, as their name suggests. They especially feed on wood that’s either in direct contact with the soil or damaged. Logs, lumber, and stumps tend to be a haven for damp wood termites.
Damp wood termites are 0.5 to 0.625 in. long and are brownish. Commonly found in Pacific states, these species are also seen in southern Florida and the Southwest. Damp wood termites don’t normally build tunnels like subterranean species and don’t live in the soil.
These termites were introduced to America in the 1940s, and are arguably the most destructive subterranean species of termites. The Formosan easily enters homes via wood that’s on the ground, and via unsealed cracks or joints. Wet soil and moist wood literally attracts the Formosan, which produces faster and eats more wood than any other native species.
Formosan termites are about 0.5 in. and yellowish-brown. They are mostly found in warm regions like the south of America. Colonies can measure 300 feet long, holding over 10,000 termites. These pests like to stay underground, but also make mud nests inside the walls of buildings.
What Attracts Termites to Your Home?
Nesting termites come out of the colonies in search of food. They’re drawn to moisture, humidity, and of course sources of foods—including the wooden framework of your home. The wooden parts of a home that reach the ground are one way to attract termites in your property.
Poor drainage, poorly applied mulch, and firewood stored next to your home are other factors that can bring termites to your home.
The most serious threat of a termite infestation is damage to the structure of your house. Ravenous termites cause untold damage to homes annually. Every homeowner should know how to spot termites and kill them effectively. When you notice the first hints of an infestation, you should come up with a termite control plan right away to stop further damage to your home.
Swarming termites is a sure sign of a termite infestation, but you should check for damaged wood regularly as well as the mud tubes used by termites to travel from their nest to look for food sources.
Signs of a Termite Infestation
One of the key reasons why termites can be extremely damaging is that an infestation can develop unnoticed and by the time you discover it, severe damage may have already occurred. An infestation is like cancer; if it’s detected early, you have a good chance of saving your home. If you catch it late, the treatment can be intensive and painful and may be too little too late.
Once termites build a colony, they aren’t going away any time soon. Each colony is headed by a king and a queen, who are the only reproducers and some can live for up to 25 years. That’s the more reason you should make sure to get rid of termites once you detect an infestation, otherwise, they’ll continue to ravage the wooden framework of your home.
Before we go over ways of how to get rid of termites in your home, let’s take a look at the ways to detect an infestation. Unfortunately, it isn’t as simple as noticing a termite scurrying down the grain of your wood. Here are some signs that the foundation of your home is under a termite attack.
Winged Termite Swarms
A flight of winged termites around or near your home is a surefire sign that there’s a termite colony nearby. Just liked winged ants, winged termites tend to swarm around a source of light. They also look quite similar, so you may not be able to differentiate them.
Winged termites lose their wings fast. Once they lose them, they look for places to make new nests. If you spot piles of discarded termite wings on places such as window sills or spider webs, a termite colony could be about to start or there could be one nearby.
Since subterranean termites feed on the wooden parts of your home, they create “galleries”. These are empty spaces created in the wood while they eat through it. Usually, termite galleries are parallel to the wood’s grain.
Subterranean termites make mud tubes (sometimes called foraging tubes or shelter) as connections between their colony and food sources. These are made up of soil, wood, and debris, and they help conserve moisture and protect the colony from predators.
If you have an infestation of subterranean termites, you’ll notice mud tubes in your home’s substructure or at its foundations.
Termites will eat the entire wood structure of your home—that’s why they’re so harmful. A wooden part might look okay on the surface but be utterly infested with termites inside.
If you suspect a certain area has an infestation, puncture or tap the wood to find out if it’s hollow. Once the fissures and cracks start showing up on the outside, the damage might be very extensive.
Dry wood termites leave their droppings behind as they chomp through the wooden structure of your home. Their feces, called frass, are the shape of a pellet and resemble heavy grains of saw dust or sand. If you notice mounds of frass around and in your home, your house is probably infested with dry wood termites.
Swollen Floors or Bubbling/Peeling Paint
Termites love moist, dark places. That why they stay just beneath the surface of wood and carry moisture into their galleries. This moisture often makes the wood swell.
If your wooden floors have termites, they’ll likely begin to swell. Likewise, the moisture may also make the paint on wood to peel or bubble—especially if the pests have eaten their way to the layer of the paint.
Since these signs resemble the signs of common water leaks (as moisture causes both), be sure to first rule out water leaks. If water leaks aren’t the cause, you should inspect further to see if the wood is hollow.
How to Get Rid of Termites Naturally
Termite colonies, especially those of subterranean termites, can burrow so deep underground that the only way to get rid of them is to hire an exterminator.
Some household products can help bring a termite infestation under control. There are also certain approaches that, used regularly, can keep termites off the vulnerable wooden structures of your house without using insecticide.
You can attract termites by wetting a piece of cardboard and leaving it where you think termites might be active. When the termites collect on the cardboard, you can dispose of them of.
This approach will require close attention as you’ll want to throw away the cardboard once termites gather on it, instead of letting them stay and multiply.
If your termite issue is minor or you’re more in search of prevention instead of cure, these natural remedies are a solid option with no risk to your health.
Beneficial nematodes (Steinernema Feltia) are tiny roundworms that prey on harmful insects, including termites. Beneficial nematodes are completely safe and are harmless to humans.
While certain nematode species are parasitic to humans and can cause infection, beneficial nematodes aren’t one of them. Moreover, beneficial nematodes don’t even attack useful insects like earthworms and ladybugs.
When beneficial nematodes run into termites or other pesky insects, they get into their body and start munching on it. As result, the nematodes secrete gut bacteria that poison the termite’s blood and kill it. After killing the termites, the nematodes switch their focus to the next prey, while reproducing and multiplying the entire time.
This is a standby home remedy for termites as well as other pests. For instance, any form of sodium borate or boric acid powder can be really effective at killing termites as boric acid mortally damages the nervous systems of termites.
To create a borax paste at home, add one-part boric acid powder or borax to one-part water. If you have boric acid powder, add it to water and shake. Once it’s finely mixed, apply the paste to wooden areas throughout your home.
Or, you can add one-part boric acid powder to two-parts water for a thinner solution. Pour the solution into a sprayer and then spray the wooden areas as a spot remedy. If you buy a termite control product or spray, check to see if boric acid or borax is the active ingredient.
Products like neem oil or orange oil can also help to do away with termites. These natural oils kill termites slowly by stopping them from shedding their shells or laying eggs. The termites die upon contact with orange and neem oil, so target infested locations and spray the oil on any wood surfaces, nests, and infested materials.
To make an essential oil spray at home, add 10 drops of neem or orange oil to 2 cups of water. Also add two drops of dish soap. The dish soap helps to suspend the natural oils in the water and stop separation. If you have no dish soap, simply make do without it and don’t forget to shake your spray before every use.
This is the fossilized remnants of tiny aquatic creatures called diatoms. Made of silica, their skeletons build up in the residue of oceans, lakebeds, and rivers.
Diatomaceous earth is 100% safe and is one of the best natural pest control solutions.
Diatomaceous earth works this way: its molecular structure works like a razor blade on insects. It chops and slices their waxy exoskeletons, causing dehydration and ultimately death.
It’s also recommended to use household items like cayenne pepper or vinegar to keep termites under control. Simply sprinkle cayenne pepper over infested places or spread vinegar over infested places to kill termites.
These approaches are slower than others, but also deter the insects from coming back in the future. Vinegar and cayenne pepper are bad for termites and their odors will help keep the insects away from your home.
Sunlight will normally get rid of termites. If a colony is exposed to bright sunshine during the day, it’ll surely die. Place infested furniture and wood in the hot sun outside to kill termites. If sunlight isn’t available, you can also try UV lights that recreate sunlight. You might need to get rid of roots, bushes, and landscaping tools to leave the colony exposed to sunlight.
To termites, mulch is like an all-you-can-eat buffet. It’s not only made from cellulose, but it also keeps the moisture quite effectively when it gets damp. Sometimes just taking away mulch from around your home can put an end to a termite threat.
Getting Rid of Termites with Termite Control Products
- Aerosol spray gets rid of termites on contact if you find them chomping on infested wood.
- Insecticide foam is an effective solution for killing termites. You can spray it directly into tiny cracks and crevices, and on nests as a great spot treatment.
- Barrier treatment can help you stop termites from finding their way to your home.
- Bait stations spread insecticide to the whole colony, gradually destroying it. Read our full termite baits guide here.
How to Keep Termites Off Your Property
We’ve all know that prevention is better than cure. And considering how expensive termite treatments can get, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Here are some things you can do to cut the risk of having a termite infestation to begin with, or having a termite re-infestation.
- Maintain DIY treatment approaches: Any of the do-it-yourself methods in this post can also be an effective prevention method. The swarming season takes place in the spring and summer, so be well prepared by then.
- Decrease moisture levels: Apart from food, termites also need to drink water to survive. Leaky gutters, roofers, faucets, and so on should be fixed. Better home ventilation reduces moisture levels, so install dehumidifiers if possible.Huge bushes around your house should also be cleared as they create areas of substantial moisture that’s needed for colony building. Make sure there’s good drainage around your property and make sure to properly divert rainwater away from your home.
- Seal off entryways: Seal all holes and cracks in your house’s foundation.
- Remove their sources of food: While you can’t get rid of all wood in your home, you can clear away any mulch and wood debris around your home. Keep firewood a minimum of 20 feet from your home and above the ground. If possible, take away all wood from the ground, particularly in your basement. Don’t also let leaves pile up in your drains and gutters.
- Professional prevention program: Most professional pest removal services will provide some kind of prevention program, either as a standalone prevention plan or post-treatment option.
Call in an Experienced Pest Control Company
If you think you have termites in your home, bring in a professional exterminator to find out. These tenacious insects can quickly destroy your home’s foundation. The do-it-yourself approaches can help on a temporary basis, but they can’t hold a candle to professional expertise, equipment, and products.
Once you hire a reputable, experienced pest control service, they’ll know how to identify access points, discover colonies, and come up with a treatment program. Most pest control services use a multi-pronged strategy, depending on the specific needs of your home.
Question: What’s the Quickest Way to Do Away with Termites?
Answer: Sodium borate, commonly marketed as borax powder, not only helps to kill termites but also wash your clothes. You can either add the powder to water and spray the solution in places you believe are infested, or sprinkle it around the infested area(s).
Question: How Do I Remove Termites in My House?
Answer: There are various ways to naturally do away with termites in your home. First, you can use a damp cardboard trap. You can also make the perfect termite trap out of corrugated boxes found in your storage closet or garage.
Question: How Does Vinegar Eradicate Termites?
Answer: You can use vinegar alone, but for total effectiveness, prepare a spray by mixing the juice of 2 lemons with half a cup of vinegar (white), or around four spoons of lemon juice with the same amount of vinegar. Put this solution in a sprayer and spray each time you spot termites twice or thrice a day.
Question: Is it Difficult to Do Away with Termites?
Answer: Once an infestation is established, it can be difficult to rid your home of it. Your best option for eliminating termites is to call in your local pest control professional for a free inspection and the best treatment methods available.
Question: What Attracts Termites to a Home?
Answer: Apart from wood inside a home, moisture, wood lying around house foundations, and cracks outside buildings can all attract termites to a home. A variety of factors attract different types of termites. In addition, geographical location impacts how likely people are to treat infestations.
The Bottom Line
Termites can wreak havoc on your home if not dealt with, and are costly and difficult to get rid of. Professional pest control companies are usually the best option for killing termites, but there are many natural remedies for preventing and controlling termites, too.
To really get on top of your termite problem, make sure to follow this guide and come up with your attack strategy. Just a single colony can cause thousands of dollars’ worth of damage to your house. Take action now so that in the future, you can have a home that’s termite-free.