They say once ounce of prevention is better than one pound of cure. I’d say, doing some termite prevention will end up saving you a lot of headache and money in the long run. The best policy for termite prevention is a combination approach: prevention and regular inspection.
Termites feed on wood. They love moist areas. Keep that in mind, because that’s what we’ll be using to try and prevent infestation.
Here is a list of things you can do around the house to help prevent termites:
-Repair leaky roofs and plumbing leaks.
-Prune back landscaping away from the foundation.
-Remove trash and debris (especially wood) underneath and around the home.
-Remove dead tree stumps from the yard.
-Keep firewood piles stacked away from the structure.
-Make sure roof rain gutters and downspouts are doing a good job of directing rain water away from the foundation.
-Keep gutters clean.
-Provide adaquet ventilation in bathrooms, laundry room, and other wet areas
-Grade the ground level so there is no standing water near the house
Schedule a termite inspection once a year with a termite inspector- sometimes termite companies offer regular maintenance packages so that should you have an active infestation you can treat it before it gets out of hand.
When preparing for a tent fumigation, there are a few things to prepare, so that you are ready.
-Remove living things (people, pets, plants) from the structure. Take special care if you have outdoor cats, they sometimes can wander back into the house or hide- and they will die if they are inside the house when it is fumed. If you have outdoor cats make sure you have them with you when you leave.
-For Pets, make sure no pet food, water bowls, dog beds, or chew toys are left. If you do leave them in the house, wash them after the fumigation.
-Bag all Exposed Food items. Any package that has been opened must be put in a bag, even if it is in your fridge. Canned goods that have not been opened do not need to be sealed.
-You do not need to worry about clothing
, and special items (water-proof pillows, mattresses and box-springs) should be removed or placed in a fume bag (provided by the termite company).
– Any plants near the house perimeter should be trimmed back away from the house so the tent can cover the house completely and the technicians can manuever around the house easily so they can properly install the tent.
-External devices attached to the house, such as antennas, satellite dishes, flag poles, should be taken down- they may puncture or damage the tent and also may prevent it from covering the property
-Do not enter the property until a notice of Reentry by the technician has been posted
For Drywood Termites, fumigation is the most effective method of controlling and eliminating active termite infestation.
You may have seen the tell tale sign of a fumigation, the colorful circus-like tent, spring up on a house in your neighborhood. Most owners only fumigate their property when they sell. I recommend to fumigate every 10 years to keep up with your routine maintenance. Condominiums and Apartment buildings are more difficult to fumigate than houses and tend to be fumigated less often, maybe once every 20 years.
Fumigation is inconvenient. During a fumigation, every occupant must vacate the premises for two to three days, remove their pets and plants, and bag their food. Apartment Buildings sometimes pay their tenants a per Diem to stay in a hotel or live with a family member or friend while the building is being fumigated. Condominiums are typically the hardest to fumigate because they have the most decision makers.
Most HOA’s in Los Angeles are underfunded because owners want to keep their association dues as low as possible. This usually means skimping on routine maintenance like fumigation. Getting the HOA to approve a fumigation can be a tall order, unless someone on the board has termite problems of course 🙂
Why Fumigate? Fumigation kills termites and Prevents Wood Damage.
Termites pretty much keep to themselves, living in the walls of your house and eating wood. The only evidence you will find on a daily basis will be frass, which are their droppings, that they eject out of the wood. The only time that termites are really annoying is when the temperature changes from Hot to Cold or Cold to Hot in the fall and spring. This change in temperature triggers a mature termite colony to release swarmers which are winged Queen termites that fly to a new location and start a new colony. When termites are swarming there can be 1,000’s of these ugly buggers crawling everywhere. They look really gross, and termite companies get a lot of calls when termites are spraying.
Given enough time, termites will eat your house hollow. The structurally stability of your supporting wall studs and joists can be compromised It may take 50 years or more for termites to eat a house, but left unchecked they eventually will. Your neighbors won’t be happy either, because termites from your house will infest theirs. In the short term, 10-20 years, termites can make the house shift and sag. Replacing termite damaged wood can be very expensive because with wood that is not exposed, like floor joists in a raised foundation house, or open rafters in a garage or attic, you have to tear out the drywall to replace damaged wood. Mudsills, windows, decks, areas around vents, and foundation piers are common areas where termites damage.
Drywood termites are eliminated by fumigation. Fumigation does not kill Subterranean termites because their colonies are underground, to exterminate subterranean termites you need to spray chemicals into the ground. Fumigation uses Vikane gas that is lethal to them. The fumigant has no odor, no color, and leaves no residue behind. Fumigation is very safe when you prepare for it properly. Since fumigation is a gas, it is only effective when the gas is in use. When the gas is gone there is no longer any residual affect. Termites can start to come back as soon as the tent is off, however it may be some time before they return, and once they are there another several years for a new colony to become mature. With Termites, it’s not a question of IF, it is a question of WHEN.
The first step in the fumigation process is sign some disclosures and waivers from the termite company. The next step is to turn off the gas, the termite company will do this for you. Once the gas is turned off, the termite company puts a tent on the house and pumps in the Vikane Gas.
in the nature kingdom poisonous frog use colors to alert predators that they are dangerous
The bright colors of the fumigation tents are to attract attention and keep people/pets away while the house is being fumigated. Being inside the property or tent while the house is fumigated is dangerous. The termite company mixes in a small amount of tear gas so that if somebody mistakenly wanders into the home the it is unbearable to stay in there. The gas is left in the tent for two to three days. Long enough so that the fumigant penetrates the wood, and kills the drywood termites. At the end, the tent is taken down and the house is aired out for about a half day. The technician measures the levels of gas and when it is safe to go inside they post a notice of reentry onto the doorway. You can eat off a plate left out, without washing it first, during a fumigation, as soon as you can go back inside. Some owners feel more comfortable waiting a little longer. Fumigations are usually guaranteed for 2 years.
Fumigation might have an added benefit of also killing other pests like spiders, ants, and roaches, however termite companies make no guarantee that it does that. Fumigation gas doesn’t kill insect eggs, this is true for Drywood termite eggs also, but when the drywood termite workers hatch from their eggs there will be no other termites to take care of them and they quickly die.
Cost of Fumigation
The price of fumigation is based on cubic feet of the property being fumigated. The cost is based on how much gas is needed, the larger the property the higher the price. You can expect to pay somewhere around $1/sqft for fumigation with a miniuim of $2,000 on any size house.
Expert Fumigation tip:
Termite companies will contact the local gas company on your behalf to turn off the gas before a fumigation. However, they will not call to turn it back on- so remember to call the gas company during the fumigation to schedule the gas to be turned back on while the fumigation is still underway and you will avoid any delay in restoring your gas service. Gas service is important because it is usually the source of your hot water for the water heater, and fuel for cooking with your stove. Most owners are pretty unhappy when they have no gas because they have to eat out and take cold showers until its turned back on.
You may here the term “Secondary treatment” for termites thrown around. If a fumigation is a primary treatment, everything else is considered secondary treatments. Remember when I said that fumigation is the most effective way to treat drywood termite infestation? That is because a fumigation will kill all termites inside the structure. You will only have to worry about eventual termite re-infestation from a neighboring building that has them (every building does). It can take a long time for a new termite colony to mature, so a fumigation knocks termites back to square one. A secondary treatment is usually spraying chemicals or drilling holes and injecting the chemicals directly into the walls. Secondary treatments can be useful as in-between measure to bridge the gap between periodic fumigations, especially when fumigation is difficult or when there is not enough infestation to warrant the higher expense of a fumigation. However, since the chemical that is sprayed is only effective when it comes into direct contact with the termites- a secondary treatment will not kill all the termites. If there is a mature termite hive, it will continue to annoy you as the termites find new areas untreated by chemicals to move to. The residual affect of the chemicals is for six months. Secondary treatments are a band aid solution and signs of the termites will probably return within a year of secondary treatment. For that reason termite companies almost always recommend Fumigation first (and probably because it is more expensive also). Secondary treatments have a shorter guarantee than fumigation. You usually only get 1 year guarantee on secondary treatment, and the guarantee only covers the areas that were treated, so if they show up somewhere else you are out of luck and will have to pay again. Secondary treatments cost about $500-$600 for each area that is treated.
Termites are a big pest in the southern United States. Termites thrive in tropical climates that have warm and damp weather and temperatures that rarely if ever drop below freezing. They are particularly bad in Southern Florida, Southern California (including Los Angeles), and Hawaii.
Termites survive on cellulose, primarily wood, but can also eat cardboard, paper, and a wide array of other house hold items. They are social insects that live in family groups called colonies.
There are two main types of termites in Los Angeles:
Colonies consists of King & Queen, workers, soldiers, and swarmers.
Termites are extremely adept invaders. They have the ability to enter a home from an opening as small as 1/8 of an inch. It only takes one King and one Queen termite to start an entire colony that could multiple into the tens of thousands. Common points of entry for termites into the house are through windows, attic vents, crawlspace accesses, foundation cracks, and utility boxes.
It takes a colony three to four years to reach maturity. When the colony is a mature colony it will release winged King and Queen swarmers when it is swarming season. Swarming termites can be really gross!
These swarmers fly around and find a new area to start a colony. The swarming season for Drywood termites is typically when the season changes from the summer to the fall- September, and October. The swarming season for subterrianean termites is the change of seasons from the winter to the spring- March and April. However, California can have kooky weather, and sporadic rainfall, which confuses termites into thinking its a different time of the year, so swarming in California tends to be more or less totally random.
Termite Inspections – Professional Termite companies conduct termite inspections to find out if there are termites or not. They recommend in their inspection report how to get rid of them.
Subterranean termites are one of two types of termites that are common in Los Angeles, the other is Drywood termites. Subterranean termites live underground. They build “mud tubes” that connect the colony in the ground to wood- the mud tubes keep the termites moist, and protect them from predators as they travel from their hive 3 to 10 feet deep in the ground to their wood food source. Mud tubes are made from subterranean termite feces and look like dirt. Mud tubes can extend up to sixty feet in length!
Subterranean termites love wet ground, so if your house has a wet crawl space underneath it, from a plumbing leak or bad drainage, that can be a big problem! You are basically rolling out the red carpet for subterranean termite infestation. The Crawl space underneath the house should always be free of cellulose debris and dry.
Subterranean termites can be very destructive- they live in larger colonies, 20,000 to 50,000 termites than Drywood termites 5,000 to 10,000 termites, and can compromise the structure of a building over time. One easy way to identify subterranean termites is to look at the termite damaged wood. If there are muddy streaks or what looks like dirt all over the damaged wood, that tells you that you have subterraine termites and not drywood. Subterraine termites live in the ground and travel back and forth so they bring up dirt and mud, whereas drywood termites live in the wood and their damage is much cleaner with no dirt or mud.
See the dirt in this termite damaged piece of wood? This shows you that they were subterraine termites that did the damage.
If you see evidence of a subterranean termite infestation, such as mud tubes or muddy wood damage, contact a termite company to treat the infestation. Fumigation does not work on Subterranean termites. The only way to kill subterranean termites is spraying chemicals. “Termador” is the most effective chemical to use because it kills slowly, which allows termites that have come in contact with the chemical to spread it to the hive. In a slab foundation house the termite inspector may need to drill wholes in the concrete foundation so that they can spray the chemicals underneath the foundation. Additionally, they may dig a trench along the side of the house and spray chemicals into the trench. Raised foundation houses are much easier to treat. Today the chemicals only go 3-4 feet deep. In the past the chemicals seeped very deep, because as I said earlier in the article the queen can live up to 10 feet underground. Those old chemical formulas have been banned because they can get into the water table underneath the ground an contaminate it. The chemicals will create a barrier that any termite coming up from the ground that is exposed to the chemical will die. If it is a small colony it will starve the queen and they will die.
A chemical termite treatment will remain affective for 2-3 years. Most termite companies will guarantee their work for 1 year. Natural forces like rain, and evaporation will eventually render the chemicals ineffective. A side note, chemicals sold over the counter at places like home depo have no residual effect. Chemicals with residual effects are not allowed to be sold over the counter and can only be sold to licensed termite companies. The chemical ingredients in these insectidies end in the suffix “rum”, like pyrethrum. They kill termites on direct contact (similar to a product like raid) but after the spray dries there is no residual effect. That means that these chemicals are not an effective treatment for termites. Call a licensed pest control company
Drywood termites live inside of the wood. They are very hard to detect in the earlier stages of a colony’s development because they are very few in number. They get their water from the moisture content in the wood, similar to how a Koala gets its moisture from Eucalyptus leaves. Drywood Termites can survive with a wood moisture content as little as 2.5% to 3% but prefer wood that is as high as 10% moisture; those wet types of wood are commonly found near a leaky pipe, rusted water heater, or window panes. The bottom of Wood Window Sills are very common to have termite problems from a combination of easy access and moisture.
Drywood termites create a “kick out” whole. They kick out the colony’s hexagonal shaped feces, called “frass”, into piles below the kick out whole. Frass looks like saw dust from far away but when you get up close you can see that they are pellets.
Drywood termites live in much smaller colonies than Subterrianean termites, and cause less damage. A typical Drywood termite colony is smaller than 10,000 individual termites. Compare that with a Suberterrianean colony which could have as many as 500,000 termites!
There are two ways to detect the presence of Drywood Termites
-Finding piles of Frass below kick out wholes
-Hollow Sounding wood
Wood that has a dull, hollow sound when tapped should be examined closely. Careful probing with a sharp object like a hunting knife might reveal the presence of tunnels and galleries which the drywood termites have hollowed out as they fed upon the wood. Termites eat “with the grain of the wood”
Drywood termites are extremely organized. They create complex networks of chambers and tunnels as the colony grows. The best method available for treating an active drywood termite infestation is fumigation.