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The vast majority of people would agree with the statement that five billion dollars is a lot of money. When you learn that it’s also the dollar amount of damage that termites cause to structures in the United States each and every year, it becomes very clear just how problematic termites can be.
Termites may be small, but they are extremely destructive. A termite infestation in your home can not only cause costly damage, but also threaten the safety of your family by eroding your home’s structural fortitude. Thankfully, effective termite control for your Maryland home is possible when you understand termites and termite behavior and know what to do to prevent these wood-destroying insects from getting into your house.
If you want to protect your home from termites, you need the Maryland homeowners’ complete guide to effective termite control.
Termites are small, ground-dwelling insects that live in a well-established caste system within their colonies. Each colony is made up of a king and queen, alates (or reproductive termites), soldiers, and workers. Each caste performs a vital role within the colony, and termites develop into one of these castes upon reaching maturity based on pheromones released by the queen.
The queen is the largest member of the colony and her sole job is to reproduce with the much smaller king. The alates are the other reproductive members of the colony, but they don’t typically take part in reproduction efforts in an already-established colony. Instead, they grow to maturity, then leave the colony in a large swarm to find mates and become the queen and king of their own new colonies.
After the queen, the alates are the largest termites in the colony, growing up to half an inch in length. They have darker bodies than the other termites and also have a set of wings that they discard after finding a mate. Their appearance is very similar to that of ants and they are commonly mistaken for carpenter ants.
Soldier termites are smaller than alates and have a milky-white body with a slightly darker head. They can be distinguished by their large jaws. A soldier termite’s job is to protect the colony, and especially to protect the queen. They are typically stationed at the entrance and exit of the nesting area to stop any would be intruders.
The worker termites are the most plentiful members of the caste system. Similar in size to the soldiers, but with smaller heads, worker termites are also milky-white in color. Arguably the busiest members of the colony, worker termites hold many jobs. They are responsible for gathering food for all other members of the colony, taking care of the young, building the tunnels and nests, and maintaining the tunnels and nests.
Although a termite colony can grow into the hundreds of thousands of members, and in some cases into the millions, it’s quite rare for Maryland homeowners to ever see termites with their own eyes.
Most termites in the colony can’t come out in the open. The sun and air dry them out, so they spend their time hidden underground or within the walls of your home where it’s dark and moist. While the reproductive termites come out in a large group to mate, this usually only happens in the spring and is typically the only time you’ll see termites without purposely looking for them.
Knowing that you’ll probably never see a termite may make you think that they’re not that big of a problem. If they’ll never invade the inner parts of your home, you won’t have to worry about them biting you, contaminating your food stores, or causing illnesses in your family members like so many other pests are known to do. This is true. Termites are not known to bite, get into your food, or spread diseases. However, that doesn’t make them harmless.
The fact is that termites are one of the most dangerous pests to get in your house. Although they may not be a direct danger to your health, they can cause extreme damage to your house. The reason is simple: Termites eat wood. More specifically, they eat the cellulose in wood, but to do so, they chew tunnels through any wood they find. This serves to not only provide food for the colony, but also to provide a home. Tunneling systems and nesting areas may start small, but they grow over time to accommodate the growing colony.
While this may be helpful to the termites, it’s terrible for your house. The longer a termite colony is allowed to operate within or near your house, the larger it will grow and the more tunnels they will create. Over time, this weakens the wooden structures in your home. If termites were simply living in your favorite rocking chair, you’d probably consider it a loss, but not a major one. However, since they typically live within your walls, they’ll weaken the structural supports of your home, eventually making your house unstable and a dangerous place to live.
Even if you catch the infestation sooner rather than later, termite damage is costly to repair. Plus, since the damage is almost exclusively out of sight, repairing it usually requires tearing down sheet rock and doing other things that make it worse before it gets better.
Understanding what termites are attracted to is helpful because it allows you to reduce those factors around your Maryland home. Although reducing attractants is not a guarantee that you will avoid a termite infestation, it certainly won’t hurt. By making your home less accessible to termites, you can help decrease your chances of ending up with a termite infestation.
You already know that termites eat wood, but it’s also helpful to understand that they prefer wood that is rotting or water-damaged. Although they can and do eat through structurally-sound dry wood, termites are much more likely to first infest wood that is damp or water-damaged.
Because of this, you can reduce a termite attractant by eliminating any moisture issues you have on your property. Although not all moisture problems result in water-damaged wood, many do. Eliminating moisture issues is also a wise idea because it prevents other pest problems as well.
To eliminate moisture problems in your house and on your property, you must first perform regular inspections. Inside, look for drippy faucets. Check under sinks for leaking pipes. Inspect the basement for leaking pipes. Pay attention to rooms that tend to be humid or retain more moisture than normal, like bathrooms and basements.
Outside, pay attention to where rainwater drains or collects. Look for excessively shaded areas and check the ground under these areas to see how damp they are. Check your gutters to ensure they aren’t clogged and that your drains are diverting water away from your home’s foundations. Look all around your foundation for any areas where water pools or under your crawl space for moisture build-up.
If you find any issues during your inspection, take steps to repair or eliminate those issues right away. Fix drippy faucets and leaking pipes, and reduce humidity through the use of dehumidifiers and good ventilation. Create drainage systems outside that lead away from your house, cut back foliage that is creating too much shade, unclog jammed gutters, and consider sealing your crawl space.
If you use firewood, either for an indoor or outdoor fireplace, it’s important that it is properly stored in order to deter termites. Left out in the open, firewood will get wet and offer easy access to termites. Although it may not seem like a big deal for termites to get into a wood pile that’s not in your house, even having a termite colony on your property is bad news. Eventually they’ll either find their way into your house, or when the reproductives come out, one of the new king and queen pairs will enter your house to start their new colony.
Storing firewood a good distance from your house is a must, as is storing it up off the ground and in a dry location. Ideally, the wood will be placed inside a building or at the least, fully covered so that it won’t get wet.
In addition to not placing firewood directly on the ground, you’ll also want to avoid any other areas of direct wood to soil contact. When wood comes in direct contact with the dirt, it allows termites immediate access to the wood.
Since termites can’t come out in the open, if they have to cross a barrier they can’t get past without leaving the ground, they’ll build a mud tube to crawl through. Mud tubes can most often be seen on the outside and inside walls of a home’s foundation and are an indication of a termite infestation.
However, if areas around your house have direct wood-to-soil contact, termites won’t have to risk building a mud tube. Instead, they’ll gain access to the wood they need to survive without any trouble at all. Not only does this make it easy for termites to get into your house, but it also eliminates another indication of their presence that you might have otherwise noticed. Common areas around Maryland homes where there is often direct wood to soil contact include fence posts, deck and porch posts, wood siding, mulch, lattice work, and door frames.
It stands to reason that if you store firewood properly and eliminate direct wood-to-soil contact, you’ll also want to clear wood debris off your property. Dead trees, fallen limbs, and other debris are a termite infestation waiting to happen.
By regularly removing debris, you can help avoid having termites come onto your property. If you can avoid having termites on your property, you can help avoid a termite infestation in your house.
Despite your best efforts at reducing attractants and making your Maryland home less accessible to termites, there’s still a chance that they’ll get inside. While taking preventative measures can help, it doesn’t provide the protection that a comprehensive termite control program does.
The best way to protect your Maryland home from termites is to get the non-stop protection of a termite control program from American Pest. With several options to meet your needs and budget, our termite control services not only eliminate active infestations, but also prevent new infestations from occurring.
From inspection to monitoring to elimination, when you choose termite control from American Pest, you’ll receive unparalleled service that is backed by our Pest Free Pledge Guarantee. Don’t let the worry of a termite infestation create undue stress. Instead, let American Pest fully protect your home from termites and the damage they cause. Contact us to schedule a termite inspection today.
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