What you need to know about termites if you’re building or buying a home


Termites have a dreadful reputation. However, we need them. They devour dead wood and play an essential part in the ecosystem to help decompose brush and trees. Of all the species of termites, only 10 percent are harmful to homes and properties. The others consume dead vegetation or the waste of herbivorous animals. Termites break down cellulose in vegetation to consume it, thereby helping the material decompose. If they weren’t around the world would be piled high with waste.

Unfortunately, many of our homes are made from or contain wood. Termites are on a constant hunt for dead wood to consume. They don’t discriminate between the material they find in the bush or your home. Humans around the world have adapted to this threat in a different way. In some societies, houses are built on stilts that are lined with metal or other materials to deter termites.

There are, fortunately, plenty of other simple strategies to prevent termite infestations.

If you’re contemplating building a house, you should call upon pest control companies to safeguard your investment from future infestations before you’ve even laid down a brick. They will treat the building site with a chemical that decimates or repels termites. It will protect the property for up to 8 years.

Your builder should also put a plan together to construct the house in a way that deters termites. The most basic approach is to avoid wood coming into direct contact with soil. They can also place a moisture barrier under the basement. This helps to keep the area dry. If you’re buying a new home, a pre-sale pest inspection will be able to report on any building issues that leave the property vulnerable to termite infestations and give recommendations on how these can be resolved.

Spotting a termite infestation

If you’ve moved into a new property and haven’t done a pre-sale pest inspection, or been given a report by the seller, you need to be on the lookout for termites. The most obvious sign that the pests are somewhere on your property is when you spot a swarm. There is likely an existing, mature colony, and they are ready to breed and establish a new one.

The flying termites are called alates, and they are termites that have reached a reproductive stage. If you spot them inside your house, you can be sure there is a nest somewhere inside too. If you see them outside, the infestation may exist in a stump or tree.

But how do you tell the difference between alates and ants?

Flying ants have a narrow waist, while termite alates do not. The ants’ wings at the front are also longer than their back wings, while the wings of termites are the same length. Ants’ antennae are bent, while termites’ are not. They have been described as looking like a thin string of pearls.

You may not spot alates swarming. They shed their wings once they have swarmed so you might come across this debris. Look out for them on windowsills or close to lights.

Other signs to look out for

While a termite inspection will check for the presence of termites in hard-to-reach places and use technology to locate live activity, there are some common signs you can look out for on your own. If you spot rotten wood on your property, check it to see if the damage follows the grain of the wood, or if it is lined with soil. If it is, it’s highly likely termites have devoured the wood. If not, the decay is likely caused by water or fungus.

Termites also create what is referred to as shelter tubes. They build them on concrete, brick, or other hard surfaces to protect them as they work their way towards a source of wood.

Another approach is to check the walls. Use an object like a hammer to tap your walls. You want to listen out for areas that sound dull. Termites eat wood from the inside. It means you may not be able to see them, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t in your walls.

The next step

If you discover flies or cockroaches in your home, some effective store-bought solutions can help. It’s not the same with termites. You need a professional pest controller to inspect the property first to confirm termites are the cause of the damage, and then exterminate them and proof your home from further infestations. This may include:

  • These are designed to be eaten by termites that then carry the chemicals back to their nests where they contaminate other termites, thereby eliminating the entire colony for good.
  • These are used to discourage termites from entering your home.
  • These are used to kill the termites. These can be pumped into a nest or spread around the entire perimeter of the home. It prevents termites from getting inside the house, and those inside cannot leave and die of dehydration.

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