2009-03-27 / Community

Spring Is Termite Time

Spring is here. And not far behind is termite season.

Spring is when termites to go airborne in a reproductive flight. This is known as swarming. Spring is also when winged termites begin to show up in the living spaces of homes. Termites cause more damage to homes than storms, fires and earthquakes, yet termite damage is rarely covered by homeowner's insurance,

Alone, a subterranean termite, which is only about 10 mm long, isn't terribly destructive. When each tiny termite teams up with other termites in a colony, however, damage to homes can be devastating. In fact, subterranean termites cause an estimated $5 billion in home damage annually across the nation, according to the National Pest Management Association. And some experts say that estimate is too low.

"Year after year, subterranean termites continue to pose a significant threat to many people's biggest investments — their homes," said Arthur M. Katz, president of Uniondale, N.Y.- based Knockout Pest Control. "Staying one step ahead of termites is the best way to safeguard a home. It's important to take the necessary steps to reduce the risk of infestation and pay close attention to any signs of termite activity."

Termites live with thousands to several million family members, all working together in an organized system to find and use cellulose food sources to grow the colony. This cooperation is called "swarm intelligence," and it helps explain why termites are so successful.

Now as spring rains begin to fall it is subterranean termite swarming season, the time when winged swarmer termites leave their colonies to create new ones. Seeing a swarm is often how homeowners find out their home is infested. Unfortunately, termite swarmers usually only appear when the colony is mature and damage is under way. And sometimes they do not swarm at all.

"Resist the urge to panic if you find termites in your home," said Katz. "The first step in termite control is to identify the insects. Make sure they are termites by having a qualified person examine them."

What you can do?

While few homes are safe, there are things that a homeowner can do to prevent termites from easily accessing food sources.

Knockout's Katz suggests: minimizing or eliminating the use of wood mulch around the foundation; keeping wooden fences, planters and other items at least two feet away from the home's foundation; stacking firewood and scrap lumber away from the home; keeping air conditioner condensation and other water away from the foundation; and keeping an eye out for mud tubes, discarded termite wings and other signs of termite activity.

While these are helpful tips, they are no assurance that termites won't attack your home. The best protection is to have a pest management professional conduct a termite inspection and consider a preventive treatment to stop termites before they reach your home.

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