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Chomp Champs
Julie Maxey-Allison | 10th Street

Tiny tiny termites. Mostly you don’t see our architects of deconstruction and elimination. They are effective behind the scenes, munching away an estimated $5 billion in property damage each and every year that is not typically covered by home insurance policies according to the National Pest Management Association (NPMA). And that number may be much higher.

Their abilities include chewing through wood, though they don’t usually consume redwoods, yellow cedar, cypress or Laotian teak. They are willing to substitute paper, some plastics, and drywall. And, often, they can fly. Worldwide there are about 2000 identified termite species, but ours tend to be drywood, Formosan, or subterranian—the ones who build tunnels of mud to travel through. We don’t host those mound-building types whose structures can grow to 17’ tall. Our colonists may arrive in a multi-party swarm seeking food and shelter. They also sneak in by stealth mode, a few at a time. When? Seemingly any time. Some like to travel after a rain, some like the fall, winter or spring season, some like early or mid-summer.

These active under-bugs have a social structure: there are the swarmers, soldiers and of course the king and queen whose duty it is to produce 2000 eggs daily during her 25-year-long reign. They like a warm hydrated home and do leave telltale signs of their presence, their poop, a bit of piled up sawdust-like debris. But, by the time of a sighting, they may have happily feasted on and unmade of parts of your home. It is said that there are two kinds of houses, one with termites and one that will have termites. That may be either a business-oriented view of a termite inspector or a reality check.

Many theories exist on how to eliminate them. Exterminators use low and high-drama targeted assaults. Spot treatments offer an array of various mixtures and toxin levels, from very vicious to orange oil. Or, there is electrocution, microwave treatments, heating, freezing with liquid nitrogen and termite baits of poison to be consumed on the spot by the termites and/or taken back to their nooks for all to enjoy. A further solution is full-on fumigation, again with a choice of toxin levels, and that colorful tenting. While any or all might do the trick for a time, like rats abandoning a sinking ship, as mentioned earlier, termites can and do fly off… Also, just because a house was treated for termites doesn’t mean another colony won’t in time move in. Once your home has been treated, there is hope of discouraging their return or a new invasion by eliminating the conditions the critters like best. Fix any plumbing leaks in and outside, direct gutter water flow away from the house, and keep wood-to-soil contact away from your foundation and that includes mulch and fire wood. Keep checking.


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