Eating You Out of House and Home

Human beings have been battling insects as long as both species have been on this planet. Bugs have been known to cause both mild and severe health problems, destroy crops, and generally make a nuisance of themselves. Termites, while not known to directly cause illness, can literally eat your house out from under you, causing structural damage that weakens your home, sometimes beyond repair.

Termites are attracted to the protein content of various woods; different kinds of termites actually favor different woods, but one common issue is the moisture content of the wood. Termite infestations are especially prevalent in rainy weather or during periods of high humidity. Keeping your house moisture-free by grading the land around the house and using drain spouts to direct rain away from the building can eliminate a major source of attraction to termites. Basements in particular can be a big source of moisture in the home, but can be built or remodeled to be moisture-free.

In the past fifty years, it has become standard practice to create a barrier around the home by chemically treating the soil around it. Chlordane was used for decades, and was extremely effective, but had major problems with its use. Exposure to chlordane has resulted in nervous system, liver damage, and in some cases, death. It’s easy to see the dangers inherent in chlordane use if you consider that children and pets, in particular, spend a lot of time playing, rolling around, and otherwise using the land immediately surrounding homes. Additionally, chemicals used as barriers can seep into home and commercial gardens and into the ground water and end up being absorbed by food plants, fish, and farm animals. Chlordane builds up in the systems of animals and humans, and can cause long-term health problems. Chlordane was banned by the EPA for most uses in 1983 and for eradicating termites in 1988.

Other chemicals are now used instead of chlordane, but are less effective. In addition, bait traps are used insides houses to attract and kill termites already in the home.

One problem with barrier methods is that they can easily be circumvented by termites, who actually build mud tubes which the termites use as tunnels to bypass barriers, including chemical barriers. One of the most noticeable signs of termite infestation is a series of long, thin mud tubes, which can appear in any area of the house. Termites can travel as much as fifty feet into the interior of a home.

If you are considering buying a home, it’s wise to require a¬†termite inspection¬†as part of the sales agreement. If you already own a home and you suspect termites, or if you know other residents in your area have had termite infestations, hire a termite expert to inspect and, if necessary, treat your home. Find out just how they plan to both eliminate termites already in your home and how they are going to create a barrier to further infestation. Amazingly, even the kind of sand you use to create a barrier can have better or worse results.

Be sure to ask questions about any chemicals used, and the toxic effects of those chemicals; some chemicals are safer than others. And finally, inspect your home for areas of high moisture, and eliminate any moisture problems you discover. Controlling the moisture in your home may be the best line of defense against termites.