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Wood-dwelling pests not always cause for concern
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You may have noticed little insects fluttering around the past couple of days. Are those termites? Yep. As a homeowner, it’s natural to want to put up a protective dome around your home when termites swarm. Do you need to panic or do something immediately? No.
Termite swarms emerging from tree stumps, woodpiles and other locations in your yard may not be cause for concern and do not necessarily mean that your house is infested. On the other hand, if you see winged termites emerging from the base of a foundation wall or adjoining porches and patios, there’s a good chance the house is infested. You have cause for concern, but don’t panic and rush into immediate action. Termites eat wood, but slowly, so your house will not collapse or be eaten away if you don’t treat right away. When you see swarming termites, it means they probably have been there for at least three years since only well-established colonies
Other signs of infestation are earthen (mud) tubes extending over foundation walls, support piers, sill plates, floor joists, etc. The mud tubes typically are about the diameter of a pencil, but sometimes can be thicker. Termites construct these tubes for shelter as they travel between their underground colonies and the structure. To help determine if an infestation is active, the tubes may be broken open and checked for the presence of small, white worker termites.
Homeowners can kill termites but not control termites, so we must rely on pest-control companies. Ridding a home of termites requires special skills. Knowledge of building construction is needed to identify the critical areas where termites are likely to enter. Many of these potential points of entry are hidden and difficult to access. Termite control also utilizes specialized equipment such as masonry drills, pumps, large-capacity tanks and soil treatment rods. A typical treatment may involve hundreds of gallons of a liquid pesticide, known as a termiticide, injected into the ground alongside the foundation, beneath concrete slabs and within foundation walls. In short, termite treatment is a job for professionals. A possible exception would be if a mailbox post, sandbox or other small wooden object not attached to the house is infested. “Do-it-yourself” products sold at retail stores and online seldom will eradicate an existing termite prob-
Drop by your local extension office for a brochure on how to select a termite-control company. This is definitely a case where you want to be a well-informed consumer regarding products, methods and contracts. Here is a helpful link to one of our termite publications:
There are some things we can do to control termites. Termites colonize moist wood, eat it and bring moist soil into their colony. This moist soil can encourage wood rots. Keep wood dry and at least six inches off the ground. Do not keep wood and paper products under your house. Do not stack or lean wood against your home.
Termites have a purpose in our environment — they aerate the soil, break down organic matter, improve soil fertility and provide a source of protein for other living creatures. The problem is that they don’t know the difference between wood for them and wood for us!

Bell is the Liberty County Extension coordinator. For more information, call him at 876-2133 or email

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