Managing Termites in California
California living is pretty awesome: the sun, the surf, the mountains, the valleys. It’s truly the state that has it all. Unfortunately, having it all means having termites, and they are one tough type of pest. Let’s discuss some termite control and management that can help dissuade termites from making your happy home into their happy home, and some things you can do if they have already become a problem.
What Are Termites
Termites are very small, wood-boring insects that live in colonies. Their bodies are about the same size, or even slightly smaller than ants, but their wings are twice as long as their bodies. They are often an invisible pest and can be very difficult to detect if you don’t know their telltale signs. Termite control can be elusive because of this.
What are those signs, you may ask? You’ll want to contact your Sacramento pest control company right away if you find any of the following:
- Peeling paint that looks like water damage
- Drooping or discolored drywall
- Buckling laminate or wooden floor boards
- Damaged, crumbling wood
- Windows or doors that are stuck
- Hollow-sounding wood
- Small, pinpoint holes in drywall areas
- Floor boards that are exceedingly squeaky
- Loosening tiles (from the moisture termites can introduce)
- Maze-like patterns in walls, furniture, or floor boards
- Piles of termite wings left behind after a swarm (they resemble tiny fish scales)
- Mounds that look like small piles of salt or pepper (they’re actually drywood termite pellets)
- Mud tubes climbing on the foundation of your home
- Termite swarms flying anywhere on your property
The state of California is host to three different types of termites: the drywood termite, the dampwood termite, and the subterranean termite. They each behave a little differently than one another, but they all infest homes or other structures and create incredibly hazardous environments for humans. Due to this, termite control is essential for most Californians.
If you spot any signs of termite infestation, you definitely want to contact your Sacramento pest management company right away. At Earthwise Pest Management, we have the tools, the experience and the expertise in managing a termite infestation. We can also help you prepare your home to be inhospitable for these tiny, boring bugs.
Interestingly, while termites resemble ants, the two species have an ages-long war. Sometimes you can even find them squaring off on a battlefield they’re both trying to control. Termites hate ants and vice versa.
Frequently Asked Questions About Termites
What kind of questions do you have about termites? We might answer it here!
- What does a termite look like?
Termites are very pale, soft-bodied creatures one-quarter inch or less in length. They sometimes have wings (but not for very long) and their antennae are straight. They are sometimes mistaken for white ants, or tiny bees but ants have three distinct body segments, while in termites, the thorax and abdomen are mostly fused, so they appear to only have two body segments.
- What kind of damage does a termite infestation cause?
Primarily, because they feed on wood, termites cause damage to the support beams and framing of a structure. Termites burrow into the wood to get at the juicy “spring wood” on the inside of planks or beams and eat away at them. Eventually, you end up with support beams and framing that are like skeletons — they simply cannot hold up the structure anymore, causing it to collapse.
Part of the problem with the kind of damage termites do is that, most of the time, you won’t notice it until it’s too late. Many termites are subterranean and difficult to detect, unless they are swarming (which happens in California in mid to late Spring). Drywood termites, the non-subterranean species variant, also often go without detection for long periods of time.
Even if your home isn’t made of wood, you’re still not safe from termites. Termites use drywall, concrete, plaster, metal siding and more to traverse around your home so they can start munching on your wooden cabinets and furniture, floors and ceilings.
- How can I tell if droppings are from termites or from another pest?
Termite droppings are bun-shaped and accumulate frequently in areas below infestations. Evidence of activity can include tiny “pin holes” in the surface of the infested area, with the droppings accumulating below.
Realistically, it can be incredibly difficult to evaluate the droppings from a pest if you’re not a pest management expert. Your local Sacramento pest management company has extraordinary experience and has spent years building our expertise. Please contact Earthwise Pest Management.
- How much damage can termites really do to my property?
Termites cause damage to the tune of about $5 billion in the United States in property damage and related costs. They damage more homes than floods, fires, and tornadoes combined. Over 4 million homes in the United States are at risk of an infestation each year.
- What do I do if I see a mud tunnel outside of my home?
Run for the hills!! No, just kidding. Don’t run. If you see a mud tunnel, mazes etched into wood, pin holes, termite droppings, evidence of swarming or any other signs of termite activity around your property, contact your local Sacramento pest control company immediately.
- How long do termites live?
Worker termites live up to two years. A termite queen, on the other hand, can live for decades.
- Do termites actually eat wood?
They do and as long as they are not causing property damage, their activity is quite beneficial for recycling old wood. In nature, their digestion of wood creates a type of nutrient-rich soil called humus, which helps retain more water than simple topsoil and provides nutrition for plants.
Termites love wood for its cellulose, and they don’t just stick to wood; they’ll eat anything that contains cellulose including wallpaper, books, carpet backing, drywall, furniture, and boxes.
- Will the builder of a new home treat it somehow to protect against termites?
Only a few states require this, and it’s usually mandated by the mortgage broker, not the builder. It’s definitely a good idea to investigate this if you’re buying new real estate in California. Termite inspections on any property are not mandated in California, but anyone purchasing a new home should require that, either with the general inspection or before closing. You may want to use a checklist that will help you ensure your home is free from pests.
- What if my home is stucco?
Termites are unfortunately still present a problem in stucco homes. Most stucco construction involves the use of a base layer of foam board that is prone to moisture intrusion, which supports termites once they get in. They also have a construction that leaves a gap between the foundation of the home and the stucco itself, which is just an invitation for an infestation of termites.
- Can they get through concrete?
Termites cannot get through concrete. That being said, they only need a gap that is about 1/32nd of an inch open to start burrowing their way inside. Areas that have multiple concrete pours adjacent to each other, like those around plumbing fixtures, are especially likely to contain cracks and crevices that termites can easily slip through.
- I’m seeing some signs of termites around my home. Will my house have to be tented and fumigated?
Only if they are drywood termites. Different termites require different approaches to managing the infestation. Termite fumigation is the only known effective treatment for drywood termites. While termite fumigation is particularly helpful for drywood termites, it is not necessary for other species.
- How can I tell what kind of termites I have?
As we previously stated, there are three types of termites that cause infestations in California. The easiest way to tell what kind of termites you have is to examine the materials they are infesting and how they got there.
- Drywood termites: As the name suggests, these termites typically infest dry wood structures such as furniture and aboveground home framing. They seek out sound, non-decayed wood. It can take a lot longer for drywood termites to turn a wooden house frame into a skeleton because the wood they chew and digest is so hard.
- Dampwood termites: Dampwood termites typically infest wood that has a lot of moisture (again, hence the name) and often infest decaying wood, as well. They are entirely wood-dwelling but prefer much wetter wood and don’t really mind if it’s already rotting.
- Subterranean termites: Again, the name of this subspecies is telling: these termites need to have contact with soil, because that’s where they actually live. Subterranean termites are the ones responsible for mud tunnels. They are considered easier to treat because termite fumigation isn’t necessary to eliminate them. Subterranean termites are responsible for the vast majority of termite infestations, and it’s a lot easier for them to spread, infest, and destroy the materials they’re eating, due to the moisture in wood that comes into contact with the soil. Subterranean termites are also the kind of termites that infest trees and other forested areas, because of the contact these areas all make with soil.
- I don’t have an infestation. Do I still need termite treatment for my home?
If you live in an area prone to infestation by termites — and this means everywhere in California — you should have your home treated as a preventative measure, even if there are none actively present. It’s incredibly difficult to know when termites infest an area, so by the time you find out, they may have done extensive damage.
- My neighbor recently had an infestation. Should I be worried?
In a word, yes. Termites swarm and move from place to place easily and readily, and neighborhoods are particularly prone to termites infesting many or all homes. Since it can be difficult to tell if you’re living with an infestation, you should probably assume that if your neighbor’s got ‘em, you have ‘em too. Time to call in your Sacramento pest management experts at Earthwise.
Why Termites Are Tough Pests
Termites are particularly difficult to manage even though they can be exterminated fairly easily. The problem is their numbers (some colonies number in the millions) and their resilience.
When controlling a pest involves just a few pests, or even a few scores of them, it’s fairly easy to get their numbers down and the population is pretty easy to control. When a colony of pests, like termites in general and drywood termites in particular, numbers in the hundreds of thousands or even millions, it’s incredibly difficult to get every last one of them.
Also, if you miss a few of them, you’re unfortunately just setting yourself up for another colony to start building. Eradicating every last pest is extremely difficult to do with termites, and because of that, they can start to rebuild rather easily. Then you get another colony, another infestation, and the cycle just continues.
Termites are also quite difficult to control because of their resilience. Yes, they are tiny, soft-bodied, usually wingless creatures, but this makes it extremely easy for them to slip into microscopic nooks and crannies that may be completely invisible to the human eye. Because they bore into wood instead of living outside of it, it is difficult to get to them to kill them.
When they do have wings, they are obviously more difficult to manage. Fortunately, termites only have wings for a short period of their lives, when swarming. Once they have flown to their new location, they tear off their wings and never fly again. This is also why you can sometimes tell a termite infestation by finding a pile of their wings scattered (they look like little fish scales) in approximately the same area.
And finally: they come back. If an area is not treated properly with termite deterrent, wiping out one infestation just makes room for another one.
How to Get Rid of Them
Termites, as tough pests, can be tough to get rid of. Fortunately, there are a number of solutions.
Effective Natural DIY Solutions
Some natural solutions exist that can be helpful for killing an infestation and/or stopping it from spreading. And you can implement them yourself.
Nematodes are worms that are also parasites and love to munch on termites. You can purchase them online or in specialty stores. Once you release them into the area where you know or suspect an infestation is occurring, they will get right to work. They are extremely efficient at getting rid of termites if you introduce enough of them to the colony. They will even reproduce there and continue to make more termite-eradicating nematodes.
You can mix half a cup of vinegar with the juice of two lemons to make an effective termite killer. Put it in a spray bottle, spray the area where you have seen or suspect termite activity, and the highly acidic substance will kill them on contact. You’ll have to spray pretty regularly to get the ones you didn’t get on the previous application. And, if you’re spraying any fabric or material, you may want to do a test patch somewhere that is hidden to make sure it won’t stain or damage furniture, wallpaper and the like. It is a highly acidic substance.
Just like their nemesis, the ant, termites can be killed with sodium borate, commonly known as borax powder. You can sprinkle it around the affected area or mix it with water and spray the area. Similarly to the vinegar, test it on a hidden area to make sure it won’t stain or damage, and you’ll have to keep reapplying to kill all of the termites.
Orange oil’s component d-limonene causes the exoskeletons of termites to dissolve. (This sounds horrible, we know, but just think of what they’re doing to your property!) You can spray orange oil directly onto termites, onto areas where you think they may be, or you may use it as a preventative measure in case of potential infestation. Again, test it on a hidden area, and you will need to reapply it.
Termites live for cellulose. No, really, they do, and mostly they love moisture. So, if you wet a piece of cardboard and leave it out to attract them, you can then pick up that cardboard after a bunch of them have made it their home and burn it to get rid of them. Then, you can put some more cardboard out.
Alternately, you may want to consider calling your local Sacramento termite extermination specialists. At Earthwise Pest Management it’s our job to know termite colonies inside and out. We know what makes them tick and what gets rid of them, and you don’t have to run around your house spraying orange oil or borax solution or vinegar and lemon juice every week or so.
At Earthwise Pest Management we practice Integrated Pest Management (IPM). This is a method of controlling and excluding pests from your property. The idea behind IPM is that you probably don’t want to be calling your exterminator every few weeks because the pest problem keeps popping back up. We don’t want you to, either. Our goal is to eliminate the termites that are there, and treat the area so that it will be an incredibly hostile place for termites to try to infest again.
Our methodology includes, with every job we approach, a few key steps:
We’re going to inspect your property fully. Our years of experience and breadth of knowledge about pest control means we know exactly what to look for and most of the time, exactly where to look. We leave no stone unturned in completing a thorough inspection of your property to identify the problem and its sources.
Is the damage from termites, or could it be ants, or even water or weather? We take great pains to ensure we identify any pest(s) involved in creating your property damage so that we know what we need to do to deal with them.
With termites, the treatment is dependent on a number of factors: what types of termites are involved, how large the colony is, and how big the spread of the colony may be. Rest assured, your Sacramento termite inspectors know how to find the bugs and what to do with them once we’ve found them.
We typically use a wide variety of treatment techniques to address the problem of termite infestation. We do everything we can to minimize the use of pesticides and toxic chemicals in our work, while maximizing treatment options that are going to eliminate the problem.
Furthermore, we take steps to prevent you from having to call us again as part of the treatment. This may involve anything from removing woodpiles and standing water from your property to installing treatments that make the place less appealing to the pests should they decide to come around again.
Follow Up Maintenance & Management
We do always suggest routine follow-up. We don’t want you to have to call us because you have infestations cropping up again, and part of how we guarantee it won’t happen is by scheduling visits to come inspect the property and ensure our treatment is working. We go through the same steps each time we visit to ensure the infestation is controlled, subsiding and/or eradicated.
Why Earthwise Pest Management?
With our IPM methodology of treating termite infestations and eliminating them from your property, we offer the safest, most effective, most natural means of controlling termites. Our termite control is steeped in years of experience and expertise at handling these creatures. Rest assured, once you contact your Sacramento pest management company, you won’t look back. We provide a solution that will work for you the first time and continue working.
We’ve been serving the Sacramento area for years, always with the intention of giving our customers the best, most well-supported long-term solutions to pest control available. Our owner, Joe Hawkins, is a second-generation pest control professional who hires only the best and the brightest and is a solution-driven, results-oriented businessman. We focus on a process of elimination and prevention, and we utilize this mindset whether we are working with termites, roaches, ants, silverfish, rodents and more. Our customers have been thrilled with our efforts and we’re grateful for their support. We simply want to offer the best pest control solutions in the Sacramento area. We hope to hear from you soon!