Whether you are selling or buying a home, termite infestation is a major concern. In Rockland County, at least 50 percent of homes may be infested with Termites at any given time (Cornell University Cooperative Extension Rockland County). Termites are considered the top threat to wood-based structures, ahead of fire, flood and wind. Termites can cause considerable damage and may affect the structural integrity of a home. However with some basic knowledge and prevention measures you can detect evidence of termites at an early stage.

Pros of termites:
Termites play an important role in the forest by recycling wood back to the soil for use by future generations of plant life. If it weren’t for their work, the forest would consist of fallen trees and stumps. The concern is when they infest a home.

What are termites?
A small, pale soft-bodied insect that lives in large colonies with several different castes. Many kinds feed on wood and can be highly destructive to trees and timber. Termites need food i.e. wood, moisture, shelter and warm temperatures. Types of termites can appear as flying ants while others may appear as small, creamy-white insects.

Why are termites destructive?
There are several types of wood destroying insects including Termites, powder post beetles, old house borers and carpenter ants. Most wood destroying insects attack wood to get their nourishment from the sugar / starch contained in the wood or to excavate holes to protect their children. Termites receive nourishment from the wood itself (cellulose) and are the most damaging to the structure. Most residential homes in Rockland County are composed with wood joist, wood beams and wood mud sills. If these areas are damaged by termites then the integrity of the structure is affected.

How do I know if my home has termites?

  •  Look for Mud tubes on exterior walls: Subterranean termites build mud tubes on surfaces, such as a home’s foundation, to provide moisture while they are searching for food.
  • Look for small, creamy-white (ant type) insects near wood and soil.
  • Look for small groups of winged insects (“swarmers”) or discarded wings: Reproductive termites called swarmers take flight to create new colonies and then shed their wings.
  • Examine, by probing, exposed wood for hollow spots (using a flathead screwdriver or similar tool). If wood sounds hollow when tapped, it may be because termites are eating the wood from the inside out.
  • Wood should be void of sand or mud. Any sand found in wood or in between wood sill (mud sill) may be indicative of termite or termite damage.

How costly is termite mitigation: In Rockland County termite poisoning and mitigation may cost as low as several hundred dollars. Prices may vary depending on the type of structure and treatment needed.

  • What measures can I take to prevent termite infestation?
  • Keep the soil around the foundation dry – through proper grading and drainage (including maintenance of gutters and downspouts).
  • Reduce openings that offer termites’ access to the structure (filling cracks in cement foundations as well as around where utilities pass through the wall with cement, grout, or caulk).
  • Fix leaks immediately.
  •  Keep vents free of blockage, including plants.
  •  Ensure that trees and shrubs are not planted too close to the structure and do not allow them to grow against exposed wood surfaces.
  • Do not pile or store firewood or wood debris next to the house.
  • Inspect periodically to help ensure that termite colonies do not become established.

Sources: http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/controlling/termite.html , http://rocklandcce.org/PDFs/Horticulture_Fact_Sheet_129.pdf, http://www.realtor.com/home-garden/home-maintenance/summer-maintenance/five-signs-your-home-may-be-infested-with-termites.aspx, Pesticide Applicator Training Manual – Cornell University.

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