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When Termites Strike, What Options Do You Have? Where to Find Them and How to Prevent Them

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When Termites Strike, What Options Do You Have? Where to Find Them and How to Prevent Them

Is the prospect of termite damage a cause for concern? If so, you're in good company. Over $2 billion is spent annually in the United States alone to combat termites, which cause billions in damage to buildings each year. Termites can cause serious damage to your home, but with the right knowledge and precautions, you can help prevent damage and keep your property safe.

Keeping a watchful eye out for termites is the first line of defense. Termites rarely emerge from their tunnels in the ground, mud, or food sources. Unless a swarm appears or damage is discovered during renovation, most people have no idea they have termites. The following are a few of the ways you can check for termites:

Probing the exposed wood for voids (using a flathead screwdriver or similar tool).

Acknowledge swarms of termites (sometimes ant swarms are mistaken as termites).

The antennae of ants are angled at ninety degrees, and the wings of the insects' foreparts are longer than those of their rear.

In general, a termite's wingspan and the length of its antennae are similar; the antennae may droop.

How Do I Keep Termites Out of My House?

Reduce the Building's Appeal to Termites

A concrete slab should be used for the base, and a gap should be left between the soil and the wood for ventilation. Use a sealant or a metal barrier to protect any bare wood surfaces.

The Termite Protection Measures Must Be Kept Intact.

Maintaining dry soil around the foundation after construction requires careful grading and drainage (including maintenance of gutters and downspouts).

Eliminate potential entry points for termites (filling cracks in cement foundations as well as around where utilities pass through the wall with cement, grout, or caulk).

Urgently address any leaks.

It's important to make sure that nothing, not even plants, is blocking your vents.

Trees and bushes should not be placed too close to the house, and they should not be allowed to grow against any bare wood.

Don't stack firewood or other wood waste next to the house.

Maintaining a regular inspection schedule can aid in preventing the establishment of termite colonies.

How Many Distinct Termite Control Options Are There?

Solutions Other Than Harmful Chemicals

Pesticides aren't always necessary when trying to keep termites at bay. For instance:

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A physical barrier, installed during construction, is one such strategy.

Physical barriers made of steel mesh and sands of specific sizes have been demonstrated to be effective.

Nematodes and fungi used as biological control agents have shown promising results in controlled laboratory settings.

The Environmental Protection Agency does not have jurisdiction over these practices because they do not involve the use of an insecticide.

Methods Relying on Chemicals

Except for certain minimum-risk pesticides, the EPA must review studies on a pesticide to ensure it does not pose unreasonable risks to human health or the environment before a company can sell or distribute the pesticide in the United States. We will then issue a license or register the pesticide for use only as directed on the label. Termiticides are pesticides used for the control of termite infestations; to be registered, they must prove effective at protecting buildings from termites. Professional pest control services are the only ones who should be applying termiticides.

Included in the list of accepted therapies are:

Substrate-applied liquid termiticides.

Baits are designed to trap and kill termites.

termiticide-treated lumber and other building supplies.

Modifications made to wooden structures.

Traditional barrier treatments and termite baits are two options for eliminating these pests.

Traditional Methods of Treating Barriers

Soil-applied barrier treatments are the gold standard for eliminating termite populations. Barrier termiticides must be approved for use in such situations.

These treatments are ineffective against termites and, if administered incorrectly, can contaminate the home and nearby drinking water wells. That's why it's crucial to work with a licensed exterminator who knows all the safety measures to take. Common active ingredients in conventional termiticides include:

  1. Acetamiprid
  2. Bifenthrin
  3. Chlorantraniliprole
  4. Chlorfenapyr
  5. Cyfluthrin
  6. Cypermethrin
  7. esfenvalerate

Fipronil. Please also refer to the fipronil information sheet (PDF) for more background (3 pp, 390.9 K, About PDF)

Imidacloprid. Please also refer to the Imidacloprid Information Sheet (PDF) (3 pp, 405.8 K)

Permethrin. Permethrin information sheet is available as well.

For more background on this category of pesticides and our revaluation process, check out our web page dedicated to pyrethroids and pyrethrin’s.

Pesticide-Free Termite Prevention

Several bait systems have been introduced in recent years to lessen the need for insecticides, which can be harmful to both humans and the environment. These methods use cellulose baits laced with a pesticide that takes its time to kill insects.

Termite baits typically contain the following active ingredients:

Diflubenzuron, a pesticide, stops insects from maturing.

Hexaflumuron was the first active ingredient to be approved for use as a pesticide with a lower risk to humans and other organisms. It is a part of a bigger system for checking for and eliminating termites through monitoring and baiting. Please refer to the informational doc that we have provided as a whole (PDF) (3 pp, 248.46 K)

To kill insects like ants, cockroaches, crickets, and even termites, use hydramethylnon (PDF) (5 pages, 150.66 kilobytes). (For more, see what we know about the legality of hydramethylnon.)

To prevent infestations of termites and fleas, pest control professionals use lufenuron, a growth regulator for insects.

As a termite growth and activity disruptor, novaluron is a useful tool.

Forest Care

Borates are a popular wood preservative used in spray form during the building process of brand-new homes.

Can Termite Pesticides Be Considered Safe?

To protect human health and the environment, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must ensure that all pesticides, including termiticides, sold, applied, or distributed in the United States comply with all applicable regulations. We require over a hundred different types of scientific research and examinations from applicants to make these kinds of decisions. In addition to checking that the pesticide label satisfies federal regulations, most states also look it over to make sure it doesn't have any restrictions on its use that aren't already mandated by federal law.

Because of the potential toxicity of many termiticides, it is essential to take extra precautions when using them by the directions on the label. Insect exterminators are trained to use products safely and effectively, and they have the necessary tools and knowledge to comply with product labels.

I Have a Termite Problem; What Should I Do?

Carefully select a pest management service - To operate legally, a company offering termite services must first obtain a license from the relevant authorities in your state. If you have any doubts about the company's legitimacy, you should ask to see its license and contact the state pesticide regulatory agency. To learn more about selecting a reliable pest control service, please read our Citizen's Guide to Pest Control & Safety.

Before using a pesticide, make sure you fully understand the directions on the label, as well as any associated risks. Termite protection products should not be applied if the label does not include specific instructions for controlling termites and protecting the structure. Please ask the company representative for a copy of the product label if you are interested in viewing one.

It's important to know how long each product requires before a treated home can be occupied again. This period is specified on the product labels. Verify that the applicator has informed you of the re-entry time before leaving the building.

When Things Go Wrong, What Do We Do?

Contact the state agency responsible for regulating pesticides if you want to report improper use of pesticides in your area. To learn more, you can dial 1-800-858-7378 to reach the National Pesticide Information Centre’s (NPIC) toll-free hotline. Pesticide use and safety are just two of the many topics on which NPIC's staff of experts can shed light.

When it comes to termite prevention, how involved should the government be?

The EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs offers resources for preventing and eliminating termites to federal, state, and local governments as well as the general public.

We put registered termiticides through a rigorous review process to make sure they can be safely used to treat termite infestations as per label instructions and precautions.

We provide the public, the media, and government agencies with information about pesticide and non-pesticide control options.

Making an effort to protect your home from termites is something we strongly support.

We require strict compliance with our regulations regarding the registration and application of termite control products.

Before we register termite products, they must have met certain requirements, including having worked effectively for a minimum number of years and having certain label statements (See Pesticide Registration Notice 96-7 and OCSPP Harmonized Test Guidelines 810.3600 and 810.3800 for more information.)

There is no evidence that termite protection can be provided by products that only claim to kill termites. You won't be able to wipe out an entire colony of termites with these products; they're designed to kill only those that come into contact with the pesticide.

Several termite research and prevention initiatives are funded by the United States Department of Agriculture.

Information on various methods of termite control is provided.

WitAboutermite studies, the U.S. Forest Service is a helpful partner.

Public information about termites and termite control is disseminated through their publications.

To learn more about Formosan subterranean termites, visit the National Invasive Species Information Centre.

The USDA supports termite and Formosan Subterranean Termite research at Louisiana State University.

The role of state and local governments in termite control is crucial, as they are responsible for: licensing pest control businesses, administering exams to pest management professionals, and providing informational pamphlets and advice to the general public on how to deal with various structural pests.


This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2022 Amna Jabeen

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