Termites Termites are important wood-destroying pests in
Michigan. The word "Termite" comes from the Latin word Termes, meaning wood-worm. Most Michigan termites are subterranean (under ground forms) and must have contact with moist ground in which to build their nests. The food of subterranean termites is largely cellulose and comes from many sources. In fact, termites will eat all materials made from plants or cellulose-containing plant products.
Subterranean termites are most abundant in moist,
warm soils containing plenty of food. Such conditions are found beneath poorly ventilated buildings, scraps of lumber, stumps covered by fill, grape roots (usually in old abandoned vineyards), or any part of a wood structure close to the ground, such as porches, foundation sills, or steps.
Termites travel from nests in the soil through a
brownish, corklike tube to their food supply. When,
through control measures, the contact between the nest in the ground and the wood upon which they feed is broken, termites die.
Termites feed on the inside of sills, studding,
floors, subfloors, casings, baseboards, and other wood structures. They tunnel these parts of a house leaving in many cases only thin shelves of the harder part of the wood. Inside the galleries, the wood is rough, tooth- notched, and occasionally coated with yellowish-corky, muddy material which is often black-specked.
Termites rarely appear on the surface except when
they are winged and swarming, usually in April or May following a warm rain. However, they can occur in summer and fall. If the wood upon which they are feeding is broken through, they immediately seal the opening with a brownish, cork-like material. Termites do not leave sawdust as do powder-post beetles and carpenter ants. Also, there are no small openings to the outside of the wood as in the case of powder-post beetles.
Home owners should be constantly on the lookout for termites. An easy way to locate termite damage in sills, floor joists, and studding is to plunge an ice pick or screwdriver into the wood. If the wood is solid, the ice pick or screwdriver probably will not go very far into it. On the other hand, it the pick enters easily, you should inspect all wood carefully for termites. Also, look for mud tubes from the soil, across the foundation to the wood. These can be seen in crawl spaces or basements - across foundations or in block voids.
When you find insect-damaged wood, be absolutely sure the insects are still present and, if so, whether or not they are termites. In any case, do not panic! Determine the extent of the damage by probing with an ice pick or screwdriver as mentioned above.
When a termite infestation is present, you have 2
choices: (1) rely on the services of a qualified
experienced termite control operator or (2) attempt to control them yourself. The first choice, in most cases, is preferred. "Do it yourself" termite control is seldom satisfactorily achieved.
While termite control can be fairly expensive, the
cost is usually justified in the special equipment such as concrete drills, pressure applicators, etc., technical knowledge and experience, large volumes of chemical and time required to properly apply the treatments. Special attention should be given to termite-proofing chemicals and structures built into buildings on "floating" concrete slabs. If the slab cracks, even as little as 1/32 of an inch, the termites are afforded a well protected, hidden, direct route to and from their food source.
If this is your first encounter with termites, take
your time in selecting a qualified and experienced
termite control company. Termites work slowly and the chances of the building falling down in an additional 2 to 3 weeks or even months are indeed extremely slim. A logical way to select a company is to: (1) choose several companies (2 or more) and establish their credibility through the Better Business Bureau or Chamber of Commerce. (2) obtain both damage and cost estimates from several companies. (3) obtain references from the companies and check the references as thoroughly as possible. (4) compare your notes on the various companies and make your final decision. Above all, do not be panicked into an immediate "off the cuff" treatment. The time spent in following the above procedure is time well spent and necessary when engaging any type of service.
For a complete listing of suggested control options
for all home, yard and garden insect pests contact your local Extension Service, found under local government in the phone book.
Read and follow instructions on the pesticide label.
Heed all warnings. Check with your physician if you have any concerns regarding your personal health risk.
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