Perhaps you are aware of a termite infestation at your house and are wondering how to kill termites… is do it yourself termite treatment a viable option?
Here is a breakdown of what you need to know:
Although their are a few varieties of termites, the most common in the U.S. is subterranean. These termites generally travel in packs and live below ground, typically referred to as colonies.
Top DIY Termite Killing Solutions
The size of these colonies can vary greatly, from a few thousand up into the millions. The termites tunnel through the ground in search of wood. Sometimes this can be a good thing, like when they run into old stumps or other sources of wood that they can help decompose.
Other times this can obviously be a bad thing if the colony finds its way into a building structure. Once termites start having a free lunch, they let out a signal that their termite friends can smell which invites them to join the feast. Clearly it is in your best interest to get your termite problem handled as soon as possible!
How To Kill Termites
Start With The Obvious
The old saying goes “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure” and this holds true with termites. Termites feast almost exclusively on wood. So you should make sure that you are clearing debris and not storing firewood near your home. This will naturally attract termites and likely lead them to the wood parts of your home structure.
While you might not associate termites with your gutters and drainage, you should also avoid a consistently moist foundation. This environment will attract termites and then they will likely stay if they can find wood on our near your house. So make sure your downspouts are emptying far away from your foundation.
You should also be sensible with how much mulch you use near your house. This stuff is like trail mix to termites. Mike Potter suggests that the mulch type doesn’t really matter, so if you have termite problem you may want to skip it altogether.
There are many products you can buy to get rid of your termite problem, but here is a summary of two of the most common methods:
1. Liquid Termite Barrier
This approach has been used for sometime, and many products you’ll find online and in stores fall into this category. Basically a pesticide is used to completely surround the structure in a “barrier” of liquid termite killer. Often this involves a huge amount of pesticides being sprayed around your home, which can come with health concerns. The idea is that this chemical protection would keep termites from penetrating that space and thereby protecting the area. Perhaps akin to an invisible fence for termites. The problem with barriers is that hundreds of gallons would need to be used and it is very difficult to stop all entry points of the colony. Many times the termites may be entering behind some obstruction that prevents you from applying a liquid barrier. If you can visibly see termites in the wood, then you can kill them with a more direct spray such as Spectracide. However, while this may take care of the symptom, a product like this does little for a long term solution.
2. Termite Bait
Just like fishing you can also use bait to catch termites. As you may have guessed, the best bait for termites is wood. However, just dropping a bunch of wood in your back yard isn’t going to get the job done. There needs to be a very systematic approach to using termite bait and follow-up is critical. There are some termite baits that you can pick up at your local hardware store, like Spectacide’s Terminate Stakes. You’ll likely find mixed reviews about this product, and the biggest problem with it is that you are basically throwing darts while blindfolded. By that I mean that most of the time, it is very difficult to know where the termites are congregating.
If you’ve compared prices of doing DIY termite extermination with professional services, it makes sense why DIY baits can be appealing. However, the old adage says that if you buy on price, you pay twice. Furthermore, a termite infestation is pretty serious business. You can’t afford to be wrong about this. Here is a quick rundown of how to kill termites by baiting, the professional way.
- There are products that are only distributed to professionals, like Sentricon and Firstline. Generally the baiting process starts with monitoring where the termites reside. This would consist of putting out plastic cylinders with wood inside, to see if termites take the bait. At this point, the goal isn’t to poison the termites but simply to find out where they are. Therefore, the bait stations will be put around the perimeter of the house at a reasonable distance apart. Here is a quick video on how Sentricon works:
- The company should have a plan in place to come back and check the monitoring stations to look for termites on the inside.
- Once termites are found in a bait tube, the wood will be replaced with a substance to kill them. Often, the existing termites found are put back in the tube so they will take the bait and send out the signal for their termite buddies to come have a taste.
- If the bait does its job, then continual monitoring will eventually show no presence of termites in the tubes. It would be wise to leave the traps in place and have them monitored on a scheduled basis, maybe quarterly, to make sure they don’t return. It isn’t uncommon for other colonies to come back after the first has been eliminated.
As you can see, the tools at your disposal don’t make DIY termite removal a viable option in most cases. The average home owner simply doesn’t have the tools and know how to test to make sure their method is working.
Bait vs. Barrier Termite Treatment
There are a few items to consider from Michael Potter at the University of Kentucky. Here is a quick summary if you are debating between a bait system or going the barrier route as your chosen method of how to kill termites:
- Bait is less intrusive. For the liquid to get everywhere it needs to go, sometimes this could involve rolling back carpet, drilling into floors, etc. so you can get liquid to the affected area.
- Barrier liquids tend to work faster, if you have an immediate threat. If you’ve found termites in the house, you may have to spray at least those spaces and work in combination with baits for a longer term fix.
- Cost is a factor. Neither are cheap, but baits tend to be more expensive because of the need for frequent follow-up visits. According to Michael Potter: “Termite services vary in price from about $700 to $2500 for initial treatment, and $70 to $350 for the annual renewal warranty in case termites return. Baiting often is more costly than liquid treatment because the process requires several visits to the structure to monitor for termites, and add or replenish baits. Homeowners should consider both the initial treatment price and the annual renewal fee in making their purchasing decision. Whereas liquid treatments usually entail an annual followup inspection, bait renewals typically require three or four visits per year, for as long as the contract is in effect. Thus, the annual renewal fee for baiting may be two to three times higher than for liquid treatments. Failure to maintain the annual renewal agreement can be a prescription for disaster with baits, since there is no residual pesticide left in the soil after the termites have been eliminated. Ongoing structural protection depends on monitoring for the possible return of termites in the future.”
In conclusion, though it may be tempting you should probably not try to do this yourself. The recipe on how to kill termites should involve a professional the vast majority of the time. While we could all think of things we’d rather spend $1,000 on, think about the cost of not doing it right.
Certainly you have much more than that invested in your house, which would be at a serious risk if the termite issue isn’t addressed properly.