A termite infestation is probably the worst thing that can happen to your home. Well, that is excluding a fire or a flood, of course. However, there are still numerous homeowners who ignore the signs that a termite colony is "moving into the neighborhood" or worst, attempt to deal with the problem on their own. I mean, you've successfully managed to get rid of pests before; termites cannot possibly be any different, right?
Wrong! A termite colony is one of the most difficult things to eliminate completely, right next to cockroaches and bedbugs. Even if you do manage to wreck their home in one part of the house, they will come back stronger and in greater numbers elsewhere. It's a game of cat and mouse that you cannot possibly win without specialized help.
Why do termites constitute such a major problem?
First of all, I want to point out that only in the US, these pests cause homeowners billions and billions of dollars per year in damages. They will eat through virtually any type of wood, everyone knows that. But what you may not know is that wood is not their exclusive diet. Termites also love paper and cardboard, vinyl (think of your pool's liner and your prized disk collection), plastic and insulation materials.
As these pests make their way into your drywall, they weaken the structure of the house considerably. Now, considering that the termite inspections is one of the key points in the real estate evaluation of your house, you'll get a substantially lower price for it, if you are able to sell it at all without major renovations. Finally, the galleries dug by the termites represent an inviting pathway for additional pests like carpenter ants. Starting to get the picture?
Is my house infested?
First off, in order to answer that question you need to perform a basic investigation of the signs that suggest you might be dealing with a termite infestation. Their natural attraction to light makes them easy to spot at night by shining a flashlight on the corners of the foundation, the patio deck and other adjoining sections of the home.
A second indicator of termite colonies consists of tubular mud formations across the surface of the walls or floor joists, which these insects utilize for traveling and protection. Lastly, search for evident damage to the wooden components of the house (holes, dents, etc.). Naturally, that's just a superficial inspections, so you should consider hiring an experienced inspector if you have reason to suspect that a colony of termites is living in your home.
How can you get rid of them?
Most contractors prefer either the termite repellant or the poison bait variants. I'd have to point out that the decision is based on the extent of the infestation, the type of termites, the specs of the affected area and, of course, the expertise of the pest control contractor. While the former method implies coating the wood with a repellant substance that forces the insects away and in time kills the ones that are already inside the structure, the latter involves bait (cardboard, wood, etc.) coated in poisonous substances and placed in the zone of the infestation.