Known to conjure up feelings of dread in homeowners worldwide, the name termite comes from the Latinw=ord for woodworm. No big surprise there. In nature, termites are good, because they turn decayed wood into nutrients for other organisms. In nature; good. In our homes; not good.
How do we know if we've got 'em?
According to the Ohio State University Extension: Typical signs of termite infestations include swarming of winged adults in the spring (March, April, May, and June) and occasionally autumn (September =nd October)... Other signs of termite presence include "pencil-size" bud tubes (which termites use like tunnels), constructed over the surface of foundation walls, mud protruding from cracks between boards and beams, and hollow sounds from infested wood when it is tapped, or extreme softness when probed with a knife.
First, experts advise, "Don't panic." Termites work slowly. Take the time to do research. In most cases, once a termite infestation has been found, control measures are usually best accomplished by a professional pest control firm rather than a do-it-yourself treatment. (Homeowners seldom have the experience, availability of pesticides and equipment needed to perform the job effectively.)
Deal only with a licensed, certified pest control firm having an established place of business and a good professional reputation. Ideally the firm will belong to a city, state or national pest control association. Get at least three competitive estimates before signing a contract for control measures.
Can we do anything to prevent them?
Termites (and ants) are attracted to moisture. Therefore, keep moisture away from the foundation of your buildings. That means keeping downspouts and gutters working properly. Also, keep vines and shrubs away from the ventilation openings in your crawl spaces. Don't stack firewood or any other wood against the foundation or in the crawl space. Prevent plants from touching the house.
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