In this blog, the experts at Rentokil take a look at termites, answering some termite FAQ's and offering some expert tips on how to protect your property this rainy season.
Now that the weather has warmed and the rain has started in places like Gauteng, you're more likely to notice flying ants and termites around your house. But when it comes to home pest control and termites, it's important not only to spot the problem (such as looking out for termite damage) but to stop it from getting worse.
Why are termites such a problem?
Termites are a species of wood-boring insects: this means that they attack the wood in your property, which weakens the structure of your home. Even properties built primarily of brick or stone can still suffer from termite damage.
This is because structural supports - as well as other building components - are constructed of wood and other cellulose-based materials; the substances on which termites like to feed. Termites have symbiotic flagellates (or bacteria) in their hindguts that enable them to break down plant cellulose to a digestible form.
They are hard to spot
A termite infestation can be really hard to spot. Termites live underground and eat away at wood from the inside. Termite damage can therefore run into millions of Rands as they can steadily eat away at the structure of your home for years without any obvious signs to alert you to the damage they are causing.
When you consider that untreated termite damage can cause your house to become structurally unstable, it’s no wonder that termite damage is so costly, and that termite control is so important.
1. Why do termites come out after rain?
Rain helps make the environment more wet, which in turn makes termite survival more likely since there is plenty of water available.
After a soaking spring rain, thousands of winged reproductives may swarm from the colony seeking to mate and start new colonies. However, the rain is not the trigger for swarming so much as warm temperatures, humidity and the age of the colony itself.
2. Are termites only active in the spring and summer?
No, even though termites are most visible in the spring when they swarm, they can damage your property all year-round.
3. What is a termite swarm, and if I see one, does that mean I have a termite problem?
Swarmers, also known as the "reproductives" of the colony, are termites that come out each year to start new colonies. They usually leave the nest in the spring, after a good rainfall.
Colonies do not typically start producing swarming termites until the colony is fairly mature and has more than likely been established for a while. If people see a swarm of termites inside their home, that could be a sign that termites have been there for at least five to seven years.
4. How can you tell the difference between a termite and a flying ant?
A crucial step in protecting your property from these relentless, munching pests is to know what to look for. Many people confuse termites with ants, with termites sometimes being called ‘white ants’ or ‘flying ants’. Ants, like wasps, have a constriction half way down their body, whereas in termites the body is uniformly broad.
Although termite Swarmers and flying ants can be easily confused, homeowners should not assume swarms are groups of flying ants. This is a good example of why it is important to partner with a professional pest management company. They can help you determine what type of pest you have and develop a customised treatment plan.
5. I do not see any signs of termites, so do I need to worry about a preventive plan?
At Rentokil, our experts often hear the following from homeowners “I don’t see any signs of termites, so do I need to worry about a preventive plan?” Our response to this is that the warning signs can be subtle and often go unnoticed until structural damage has already occurred.
Signs of an infestation can include termite swarms, mud tubes and piles of discarded wings. After the termites swarm, which is typically during warm spring days, they can shed their wings and leave piles of them behind. Anywhere around your home where it is in contact with the soil can be a potential termite entrance.
What else can homeowners do to prevent termites?
Termites need two things to survive: wood and moisture (why is why they come out after the rain) so minimising access to both of these is a good start in protecting your home.
Whilst it is always best to get a professional pest control company in to do a termite inspection, our experts advise that there are a few practical tips that you can employ to implement termite protection for your homes:
Wood that directly touches soil gives termites easy access to your property, so regular inspection of the following may help to spot early signs of termites:
• Fence posts, trellises or landscaping ties
• Firewood stacked up against the house
• Mulch that touches the house
• Structural supports
• Wood debris (often from building) buried in the soil
A seemingly small leak can create perfect moisture conditions for termites. Whenever possible, try to fix the following, which may discourage termite activity around your property:
• Leaky taps
• Leaky gutters and downspouts that leave water near the foundation
• Ground sloping toward the foundation
• Insufficient ventilation in basements and crawl spaces
Want more insights into how termites can affect your business? Download our Pest Control 101 guide: Understanding Termites in your Business.
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