(Excerpt from the Newsletter by Carson Dunlop. For full version, please click on the picture)
Many people know what April showers bring, but what about May flowers? What do they bring? One word: bugs. Warm weather invites many out of hibernation, and that includes insects. June's pleasant temperatures have bees buzzing, butterflies fluttering, ants picnicking, and termites getting ready to feast. Most can appreciate the need for bees pollinating, enjoy a butterfly's beauty, and love to hate ants, but termites illicit a very different reaction. These pests have the potential to inflict serious damage to your home, and are the bane of homeowners.
One of the major things termites need to thrive is warm climates. As the temperature rises, so too does the potential for termite infestations. With spring turning into summer, it's important to be able to recognize the conditions conducive to termite infestations and learn how to protect your home from these unwanted inhabitants.
Subterranean termites typically cause the most structural damage and are most prevalent in the southern coastal areas, the dry climate of the Okanagan areas of British Columbia, southern Ontario, southern Quebec, and the Maritime provinces. Though each species of termite thrives in different climates and eats different types of food, all termites require four things to survive:
4. Optimal temperatures
These conditions can be found in all buildings, regardless of their construction type. However, older homes typically face increased termite threats as wood rot is more common in them.
As with the normal approach taken when dealing with other pests, the best way to prevent a termite infestation is to reduce access to food and water sources. For termites, this means eliminating moisture and removing wood sources, including wood piles and mulch close to the home. Rotted wood is by far the most common way for termites to gain entry into the home. The soft, pulpy material gives termites easy access to both food and moisture. If you have concerns about a termite infestation in your home, consider:
- Removing all wood debris in contact with soil and store any firewood away from your home and off the ground.
- Fixing any leaks in pipes and drains - damp wood creates ideal conditions for a healthy, large, and robust termite colony.
- Making sure the soil around the structure of your home is sloped away from the home, and that drainage from the roof doesn't collect near the property.
- Trimming dense vegetation from around the siding and foundation of your home.
- Insulating or putting down a moisture barrier to help limit the humidity and condensation in your crawl space, as this can be inviting to termites.
- Replacing mulch that is close to the home with gravel. If mulch is used around the home, make certain to keep the mulch layer as shallow as possible; thick mulch beds create soil moisture conditions that encourage termite activity.
Unlike other pests, termites are typically very hard to detect. With the exception of annual swarms, when reproductive termites move to start new colonies, termites live primarily out of sight. So how can you tell if something you can't see is occupying your home? There are a few signs that can indicate an infestation. Watch out for:
- Hollow-sounding wood - if wood sounds hollow when tapped it may be because termites are eating the wood from the inside out
- "Swarmers" (a group of winged insects), or discarded wings - reproductive termites, also known as "swarmers", take flight to create new colonies; a swarm of insects, or groups of discarded wings is a fairly conclusive sign of termites
Tip: Subterranean termites typically swarm in the spring
- Mud tubes on walls - termites construct mud tubes to travel between their home in the soil and the wood that they feed on; these tubes also provide moisture which the termites search for food
- "Frass" - termites produce this wood-coloured dropping as they eat their way through wood rot
If you have termites in your home, it's essential to reach out to a qualified specialist to help you address the issue - quickly. Termites can cause the most structural damage of any insect and, based on the extent of the damage, remediation expenses can run well into the thousands of dollars. Treatment methods vary based on the species of termite, size of infestation, and other factors. The required chemicals for termite treatment are not for sale to the public, and must be used in strictly controlled conditions. Your licensed pest management professional can set up the best corrective steps if you have a termite infestation.