Termites are one of the hardest pests to get rid of, and they often come back after treatment. The reason for this is simple; there is no permanent treatment against termites, and they live in almost every part of the United States.
Subterranean termites are one of the most important economic pests in the USA, and are thought to account for around $4.5 billion in property damages in the United States each year. These wood-chewing bugs infest homes and businesses up and down the country and, without swift eradication, can cause devastating structural damage.
Fortunately, you can reduce your risk of termite re-infestation by learning why termites target certain houses, and what you can do to make your home less appealing to them.
Why do termites come back after initial treatment? Most popular causes
If you’ve had one termite infestation, you are already at risk of subsequent re-infestations. This is because, although termites can be treated, there is no permanent fix that will keep them away for good. Your likelihood of termite re-infestation depends on a number of factors such as where you live, the structure of your property, and what preventative measures you are currently taking.
Specific risks for termite infestations include:
1. Your first termite treatment was ineffective or incomplete
If you’ve just finished a termite treatment only for the infestation to return within weeks, it’s likely that your initial treatment was ineffective.
Ineffective termite treatment is often caused by misidentification of the termites, as different species require different eradication techniques. For example, two of the most common termite pest species in the US are subterranean termites and drywood termites. Each species requires a specific pest control treatment for complete eradication, and the wrong treatment may not be 100% effective.
Termites also breed very quickly (sometimes, even without a mate), so if just one or two escape extermination, a new termite colony could be established within weeks.
When looking for a pest control professional that offers termite treatments, it is important to select a company with good credentials and a strong reputation for thorough and effective pest control. Many companies are specialized to eliminate termites and offer annual termite inspections and preventative soil treatment to stop termites from coming back.
2. The wood of your house is touching the Earth
Subterranean termites are the most common home-invading termites in the US. As their name suggests, subterranean termites live in underground colonies and make their way to the surface to feed on cellulose-based materials (such as wood).
If any wooden part of your house is resting against the ground, it may be targeted as a food source and potential gateway for termites to enter and infest your home.
Subterranean termites often get into houses via deck posts, door frames, porch steps, and wooden supports. They can even wriggle through cracks in bricks and the foundations of homes, if these structures come into contact with the soil.
3. You have mulch near the foundation of your home
Subterranean termites feed on wood and other cellulose materials, including landscape mulch.
This is no reason to stop mulching altogether, as landscape mulch won’t actively attract termites onto your property. However, you should not allow it to make direct contact with the foundations of your house, as termites will occasionally surface to feed on mulch. If it is too close to the foundations of your house, termites may subsequently enter and inhabit the wood structures of your property.
4. Your geographical location
Termites are widespread throughout the US, though they are particularly common in the warmer, more humid climates of the country’s Southern states. Those living in the Southeast and Southwest are particularly at risk of repeat infestation, as termites are most common in the Southern states. Therefore, people living in termite-infested areas are at greater risk of re infestation and will need to take strong precautions against termite damage.
5. There is a lot of moisture and humidity around your home
Some termite species (such as subterranean and dampwood termites) thrive in moist conditions and are especially likely to chew through soft, damp wood. If your house has problems with leaky drain pipes or poor water drainage, you could be putting yourself at risk of repeat termite infestation. People living in warm, humid climates are at naturally greater risk of termite infestation due to the favorable conditions.
6. Your house has cracked foundations
Cracks in the foundations of your house can increase your risk of infestation from a variety of pests, including termite colonies. Sealing up any cracks and gaps around the exterior of your house (especially around door frames, windows, and drain pipes) can help to keep unwanted critters out.
Do termites return to a similar spot?
Termites may return to a similar spot on your property, but only if it benefits them to do so. For example; if part of the wooden structure of your house is in contact with the soil outside and you don’t remedy the situation, they can easily re-enter your house through this same route.
However, generally speaking, termites don’t have ‘favorite places.’ They will accumulate in areas where they have plenty of food, moisture, and shelter. If you want to make your home unappealing to termites, the most effective way is to implement an integrated pest control plan that combines eradication with preventative measures and an annual termite inspection.
If you live in an area where termite infestation is common, it is advisable to enlist the help of a professional pest control company. They will be able to expertly assess your situation and provide sound advice on how you can prevent termites in the future.
How to identify termites throughout their life cycle
Like ants and bees, termites are eusocial insects that can only thrive in large colonies. At the heart of each colony is a single breeding queen, who can produce thousands or even millions of termites within a few short years. These offspring – soldier and worker termites – are the key culprits when it comes to incurring structural damage, and large, untreated colonies can destroy wooden structures from the inside out.
Understanding the stages of the termite life cycle can help you to recognize a potential infestation in its early stages. Once you spot the warning signs of termite infestation, you can implement pest control measures immediately (and save yourself a hefty repair bill later on).
All termites start out as eggs, which are produced by one termite queen. The eggs are cared for by the termite king and other colony workers until they hatch.
Identifying termite eggs
Termite eggs are very small but are laid in large clutches that are visible to the naked eye – they may look like a pile of pale, powdery material. However, termites typically lay their eggs deep within their nests, so they are rarely seen by humans.
Termite hatchlings are called nymphs. These small, pale insects are completely dependent on the workers of the colony for food, so they don’t cause direct damage to wooden structures. However, they are an indirect cause of damage, as they feed on cellulose materials foraged by worker termites.
Identifying termite nymphs
Termite nymphs are tiny, pale versions of their adult counterparts. They reach adulthood following several molting stages but, as hatchlings, they can be difficult to spot.
Nymphs eventually mature to become adult worker termites, whose role is to scavenge for cellulose material to bring back to the colony. Workers cause much of the structural damage associated with termite infestations, as they chew away at the wooden structures of buildings to sustain the colony.
Identifying adult termites
Adult termites are larger than nymphs, but they are most often recognized by the telltale signs they leave behind. The damage caused by adult termites is often the first indication of infestation.
Key indications of termite infestation
Mud tubes around foundations of buildings
Mud tubes are caused by the burrowing of subterranean termites. If you see them near your house’s foundations, this may indicate an infestation.
Little piles of sawdust may indicate burrowing termites – especially if they are found near small holes in wooden structures. Termite droppings also resemble small sawdust piles.
Discarded wings and dead termites
If you are noticing a higher-than-average number of bug fragments around your home, this could also be a sign of termite infestation. Wings are usually discarded by flying termites (sometimes called ‘swarmers’). Flying termites are also called alates, and are the number one sign of impending termite infestation
Flying termites (AKA alates) are usually the first indication of a termite infestation. These airborne insects are often mistaken for flying ants but they are, in fact, the reproductive founders of a new termite colony. Alates will arrive in a swarm and begin reproducing immediately so, don’t wait to call pest control if you see flying insects around your house.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long do termite treatments last?
The average termite treatment will last between one and five years, depending on various factors (for example, the type of treatment used, the prevalence of termites in your area, etc.). However, it is also advisable to schedule an annual termite inspection with your pest control company.
Do termites come back after treatment?
Unfortunately, termites can come back after termite treatment. There is no way to permanently prevent termites, which is why frequent inspections from pest control professionals are so important.
How long do termites live after treatment?
The type of termite treatment depends on the type of infestation, but a chemical treatment will usually kill termites within a day or two. In cases of serious infestation, the treatment may take longer as the termite colony will extend more deeply into the structure of the house. In some cases, multiple colonies may be present and the treatment process may take longer as a result.
Where do termites hide?
Termite infestations often go unnoticed for a long time, as they are highly adept at hiding. Within your house, termites may hide in attics, sheds, garages, crawlspaces, beath flooring, staircases and inside other wooden furnishings. Subterranean termites live underground in large colonies, and only come to the surface to find food
How harmful are termites?
Termites don’t bite, sting, or spread diseases to humans, but they are serious structural and economic pests. If left untreated, termites can cause widespread structural damage that is often very expensive to repair.