Every year, termites invade the homes of more than two million Americans at a cost of more than $2.5 billion in structural damage. Annual structural damage caused by termites is accelerating much more rapidly than the rate of inflation! In fact, termites cause more damage each year than tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and fires combined. And while homeowners insurance protects against damage caused by storms, floods and fires, it rarely covers damage caused by termites. However, homeowners can protect their greatest financial investment and reduce the chance of a termite infestation by scheduling an annual termite inspection.
Results from a recent survey of entomologists at the Entomological Society of America found that 95 percent of these insect experts believe that weather patterns have a direct effect on insect populations, with 85 percent agreeing that termites are the most affected. This spring, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) forecasters expect wetter-than-average conditions in southern states and warmer-than-average conditions in northern states. Since insatiable termites thrive in warm, moist conditions, these anticipated weather and climate patterns will provide an ideal environment for wood-boring insects to wreak havoc nationwide.
“Termites do not fare well in dry, cold weather; that’s why they forage inside homes,” says Byron Reid, PhD, a Bayer Environmental Science termite development manager. “While future weather conditions in top termite markets will be ideal for colonies to experience a population boom, it does not mean that homeowners will necessarily see the increase. Termites are silent destroyers and will be at work within the house. That’s why it’s so important to have a trained pest management professional (PMP) inspect your home.”
Termites are silent destroyers. Because you may never see these behind-the-scenes workers until it is too late, it is important to get an annual termite inspection much like an annual doctor’s appointment. Termites are sometimes visible during swarm season, when clouds of flying termites (“alates” or “swarmers”) can occur both indoors and outdoors. You may also find small piles of papery wings that these alates have left behind on windowsills or floors. Other warning signs include sagging floors, crumbling drywood, tiny holes in walls or other wood surfaces, and piles of sawdust-like wood residue. Bubbled paint or visible mud tubes over concrete and soil may also be signs that termites are present. Homeowners must be proactive, rather than waiting for these signs to occur.
In addition, homeowners should be armed with the following simple tips to remain termite-free and avoid the worst kind of damage:
- Limiting the supply of moisture to the foundation.
- Prevent shrubs, bushes and vines from growing over vents or touching the house. Rake, bag or burn leaves immediately.
- Wood mulch can also attract termites. When using wood mulch in a flowerbed or garden, avoid contact with siding or frames of doors and windows.
- Keep gutters free of leaves and other debris. Downspouts must drain freely and away from the house, at a distance of at least three feet.
- Do not keep wooden items close to the house. For example, firewood should be stored away from the home.
- Because termites need only the width of a piece of paper to access the house, make sure that all entry points, like cracks in the foundation or utility openings, are sealed. You should also caulk windows and doors, favorite stomping grounds for termites.
- As a rule of thumb, monitor those areas of the home that are chronically damp or where wood comes in contact with the structure.
- Schedule an annual “check-up” or inspection at least once a year from a pest management professional (PMP), trained in detecting and destroying termites. Many companies conduct an initial inspection free of charge.