Termite Extermination
Terminating termites most often requires a professional.


Posted By SafeGuard Pest Control Administrator 

When termites strike, it can cost homeowners thousands to repair the damage. Some structures may be so damaged that they require far more extensive repairs. It may even be necessary to vacate the premises while the buildings are made habitable again.

Fortunately, most termite infestations are not this severe. The best way for homeowners to protect themselves and their property is with preventative termite treatments. Where infestations already exist, prompt action is required to minimize damage. A professional termite inspection can determine the scope of the problem and what sorts of treatment and repair options are needed.

The more property owners know about termites, the better prepared they are to protect themselves. This knowledge begins with a basic understanding of the species.


Approximately 45 types of termites are found in various regions across the U.S. Broadly, they are broken down into three categories: subterranean, drywood and dampwood. Each species exhibits behaviors and characteristics that are unique when compared with the others. These behaviors and characteristics largely determine in which regions each species lives and the likelihood that they will damage human habitations.

Dampwood termites rarely are responsible for infestations in structures. Their biology requires that they live in wood that has a high moisture content. Most buildings just don't have the required level of humidity. Drywood termites frequently infest homes where they are attracted to hardwood floors and structural timbers. However, they live in smaller colonies than subterranean termites, so they don't cause the same level of damage. Moreover, they are mainly restricted to the southeastern U.S. and the desert states in the South and West.

It is subterranean termites that are the most frequent cause of damage to human homes. They are found virtually everywhere in the U.S. Noted for building the largest nest of any insect found in the country, subterranean termites require contact with the soil to survive. This means that they must build underground nests.

Eastern subterranean termites are a major concern for homeowners in Pennsylvania. Each colony includes three castes, the members of which may be identified by their appearance. Workers typically are a cream or white color. They spend the majority of their lives in tubes or wood, where they can cause extensive damage. At a quarter-inch in length, soldiers are similar in size to workers. However, they are distinguished by the yellowish heads that are equipped with oversized jaws. The workers are responsible for feeding the soldiers because their large jaws preclude them from performing this task themselves.

The third caste is the reproductives. This group includes kings and queens as well as secondaries, reproductive females who may become active when colonies are mature. Reproductives typically are black or dark brown with lengths of anywhere from 3/8 to 1/2 inch. Their two pairs of translucent wings also make them easy to identify when compared with other colony members.


When a new Eastern subterranean termite colony is established, the nest grows slowly in the first several months. The nest is carefully located below the surface of the ground. Termites tend to build below the frost line but keep the boundaries of the nest above the water table. As a species, this termite prefers to always be underground or within wood where it is less exposed to the elements. This leads them to construct mud tunnels that they use to look for food sources. Termite workers are responsible for building the nest and mud tunnels as well as seeking food for the rest of the colony.

If the colony is successful, then the nest will endure for several years. A mature nest is indicated when thousands of "swarmers," winged reproductive termites, emerge in the spring. These colonies may contain millions of members that are capable of foraging for food in an area encompassing as much as 12,000 square feet.

Subsidiary nests also may be established when the population is large. These nests are most likely to be found in places where moisture collects. Structures that have leaky plumbing or missing roof tiles may be particularly susceptible to having a subsidiary nest.


Carpenter ants are another cause for concern among Pennsylvania homeowners. In fact, many people often confuse the two species. An experienced exterminator can easily determine which species is behind a specific infestation.

Both carpenter ants and termites have wings when they emerge in the spring, which is the root of most misidentifications. Looking at the insects' antennae is one way to tell them apart. While termites have straight antennae, carpenter ants have jointed antennae. Their waists are different as well. Termites have a thick waist, and flying ants have a noticeably thin waist.

The two species have different wings as well. Both insects have two pairs of wings. However, the termite's wings are not of equal length while the flying ant's are.


Termites are capable of causing extensive damage, frequently doing so without people being aware of their presence. They are able to do this because they spend the majority of their existence below the ground's surface. When they come into human habitations, they typically remain out of sight, working in areas like basements, crawlspaces, foundations and attics.

Eastern subterranean termites are attracted to most of the types of timber that are commonly used in home and building construction. They eat through structural timbers, usually the internal sections where they cannot be seen, with incredible speed. The spring wood is most appetizing to them. Harder woods that were grown in the summer are less commonly eaten.

Because termites tend to be selective about which portions of the wood they consume, the damage is not always evident. They leave behind a thin shell of covering that may be filled in with soil. Necessary repair work may be quite expensive.


People who suspect that their property has a termite infestation should not try to deal with it themselves. Disturbing the colony may cause them to migrate to another section of the building where they will be more difficult to discover. Instead, it makes sense to contact a professional termite exterminator.

After evaluating the extent of the infestation, the exterminator may recommend numerous treatment methods. Most cases will warrant a full-perimeter treatment with a termiticide such as Termidor. This is not a product that can be purchased by the public. Instead, it is necessary for a certified professional to apply it.

Typically, the treatment involves applying Termidor all around the foundation walls of the building. This creates a "continuous treatment zone." Known as "trenching" or alternatively as "trenching and rodding," this process may involve drilling holes in certain slabs and hard surfaces that are adjacent to the foundation. This provides effective protection to all areas around the structure.

Extensive infestations also may merit treatment from inside the building. Preventative treatments may involve applying Termidor to the exterior perimeter of the structure. Application flowmeters are utilized to ensure that the proper amount of Termidor is applied.

This powerful and efficient treatment method generally eliminates the infestation within three months of initial application. It generally is performed in just a single day so there is minimal disruption to the property and its inhabitants. Professional termiticides like Termidor are virtually odorless, and entirely safe for use around children and pets when properly applied.


Many new-construction homes are built with termite prevention measures. These may include a Basaltic Termite Barrier, or BTB, termite mesh and pressure-treated wood. Neverthelss, the following precautions should also be put in place:

• Do not allow wood products to touch the soil
• Remove cardboard, wood and yard debris from around foundations
• Keep mulch at least four inches away from foundations
• Ensure that wood siding is at least six inches above the soil line
• Trim plants, trees and shrubs so that they do not contact buildings or roofs
• Make certain that storm drains and downspouts empty well away from foundations
• Promptly fix leaky plumbing and irrigation
• Maintain roofs in good repair so that they do not leak
• Turn off exterior lights at night during the swarming season to keep reproductives at bay
• Make certain that wooden window and door frames are in good repair
• Ensure that basements are crawlspaces are well ventilated and have an appropriate vapor barrier

By taking these steps, it is possible to protect almost any building from a termite infestation.


Homeowners who are concerned that they may have a termite infestation are encouraged to schedule a termite inspection. The inspection is a vital first step toward identifying the pest, determining how much damage has been caused and developing a treatment plan.

Licensed termite technicians know precisely where and how to look for the signs of termite damage. The technicians will probe each suspected infestation area for soundness. A visual inspection is conducted to look for mud tunnels.

Several tools are typically utilized by experienced termite inspectors for probing wood and other surfaces. Additionally, the inspector will look for wings that have been discarded by swarmers, exit holes and termite droppings. Finally, inspectors will check for moisture issues throughout the structure and for places where wood actually contacts the ground surface. These situations may indicate a problem with termites.

Inspectors concentrate their efforts on the inside and outside perimeter of the structure. This may include the foundation, basement or crawlspace. Some of these areas may be inaccessible. In this case, the inspector may make note of the conditions in the area, and drilling small holes in walls or other surfaces may be recommended.

The average termite inspection requires a minimum of 30 to 45 minutes. Inspections may require an hour or longer if the property is extensive or if there is extensive clutter.

With the inspection complete, the technician will be able to provide an identification of the pest and a recommended treatment plan.

If you are concerned about a possible termite infestation in your Bensalem home or office, then it makes sense to act without delay. The termite inspection is typically free of charge, efficient and can provide enormous peace of mind.

SafeGuard Pest Control, LLC is a leading pest control provider and can assist homes and businesses with successful termite extermination while helping to prevent future termite infestations.
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