Termite Damage

Termite Control: How to Get Rid of Termites Effectively

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Termites are the most common and costly wood-destroying pest found in the United States.

Each year thousands of homes require treatment for the control of these pests – with the cost of damage and treatment exceeding $1 billion, and that’s why effective termite control is key!

If you suspect a termite infestation and want to learn how to effectively control an active infestation or prevent it, you’ve come to the right place.

This complete guide shares what different types of termites are commonly found, how to identify their damage, effective termite control methods, and how to prevent them in the first place.

What is a Termite?

Termites are widely regarded as one of the most destructive pests on the planet. Termites are insects that feed primarily on dead plant matter such as woodchips, decayed wood like logs, leaf litter, and soil.

Although they are sometimes referred to as ‘white ants,’ they are only distantly related to ants.

What’s the Difference Between Termites and Ants

If you’re unsure whether you’re dealing with termites or ants, here are a few pointers that can help you differentiate between the two:

  • Termites have relatively straight antennae.
  • Ants have elbowed antennae.
  • The termite abdomen is broadly joined to the thorax — no waist.
  • Ants have a narrow waist and appear segmented.
  • Termites have two pairs of wings (front and back) that are almost equal in length.
  • Ants have two pairs of wings — the front wings are much larger than the back wings. For more information see out our guide to flying ants.

Types of Termites

While there are more than 50 species of termites in the United States, subterranean termites and drywood termites are the two most common types of termites found in the country.

It is essential to determine which type you are dealing with, as each may require a different treatment approach.

In particular, drywood termites frequently require professional fumigation services while subterranean termites (the more common kind) can be treated with poisonous barriers and other DIY methods.

Let’s look further into the two most common types of termites in the U.S.:

Subterranean Termites

Subterranean termites will infest the wood in your home’s framework as well as the soil and compost you may have around your property. They make mud tubes or roads out of wood and soil so they can move around inside your house.

Due to their saw-toothed jaws, this termite type typically causes more damage than drywood termites. Subterranean termites have the ability to completely destroy a structure given enough time.

These termites are responsible for 95 percent of termite damage in the United States and can be found throughout the country.

Subterranean termites are about 1/8 to 3/8 of an inch long and skinny. Their color is determined by their ‘caste.’  Workers are a light cream color, while soldiers are the same but have brown heads.

Reproductive termites are classified into two types and colors. Secondary reproductives are creamy white, while primary reproductives are black or brown. Subterranean termite colonies can grow to be massive, with 100,000 to 1 million termites.

Drywood Termites

Soil is necessary for subterranean termites to live, but drywood termites live solely in wood. They don’t make mud tubes to get around, and you can usually only find them along warm coastal areas.

Drywood termites can be anywhere from 1/8 to 1/2 inch long and have different colors. White termites, like subterranean termites, cause direct damage to wood.

Drywood termites with wings can be any shade from yellow-tan to light brown. Colonies of drywood termites can contain up to 2,500 termites.

Life Cycle of a Termite

Subterranean termites are social insects that live in colonies. A colony has three castes: a) reproductives (king and queen), b) soldiers and c) workers.

Colonies are initiated in spring and fall when swarms of winged male and female reproductives leave a nest. Termites shed their wings, pair off and build a nest near a source of wood and moisture in the soil.

After mating, the female (queen) begins laying eggs. The eggs hatch after a few weeks or months (depending upon species), and the emerging nymphs mature over a period of 2-6 months.

Most become workers or soldiers. When the nest reaches its maximum population, some of the nymphs develop into winged reproductives, and the cycle is repeated.

How to Identify Termite Damage and Infestations

Before we get into how to get rid of termites in your home, let’s go over how to spot a termite infestation.

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as spotting a termite bobbing down your wood grain. Start by inspecting the fuse boxes in your home, the attic, and all of the joints and cracks around your home.

Then watch out for the following signs to know if your home’s foundation is under attack.

Mud Tubes

Subterranean termites construct their own highways out of mud tubes to transport the wood they consume to the soil. Wood and dirt are used to make these mud tubes, which are about as wide as a pencil.

Finding them indicates that you have termites, but their absence does not mean you are free of them. They might not have been made yet by subterranean termites, and drywood termites don’t make mud tubes, so you might be dealing with them instead.

Termite Mud Tubes

Termite Mud Tubes

Hollow Wood

If you tap or knock on your wood and hear a hollow or thudding sound, it’s likely infested with termites. You can also test your wood with a screwdriver. If you press the screwdriver into the wood and it easily yields, this is not a good sign.

The darkening or blistering of wooden structures is another indication of an infestation.

Termite Damage

Termite Damage

Clicking Sounds

You might notice an odd clicking noise coming from inside your walls. In order to warn their fellow termites of impending danger, soldier termites will bang their heads against the wood and tremble violently and therefore create these odd sounds.


Termite droppings or frass may appear as small, granular oval pellets on your door frames, baseboards, and windowsills. If you see any around your house, that’s an indication that you have a termite infestation at hand.

Termite Frass

Termite Frass

Peeling Paint

Termites wreak havoc on drywall by allowing moisture to enter the space between the surface and the paint, causing the paint to bubble or peel. Although there are other reasons why your paint might bubble, if you notice this along with other signs, you might have a termite infestation.

Scattered Wings

When subterranean termites embark on a mission to establish a new colony, they shed their wings, frequently in piles. If you notice a swarm of scattered wings, they could be termites.

Scattered Termite Wings

Scattered Termite Wings

Seeing Live Termites

It’s also possible to occasionally come across some live termites. If you do, make sure to check the section above to learn how to differentiate between termites and ants to make sure you’ve identified the right problem.

Live Termites Under Magnifying Glass

Live Termites

Click here to download a printable version of our infographic on How to Identify Termite Damage and Infestations

How to Identify Termite Damage and Infestations Infographic

How to Prevent Termite Infestation

There are many ways you can prevent a termite infestation by making your home less appealing to them. Here are the top ways for effective prevention:

Prevent Excessive Moisture

Termites are attracted to moisture and are more likely to enter a structure if the soil next to the foundation is consistently moist. Install, fix or relocate downspouts, drains, and gutters. Repair leaky faucets.

Clean Gutters and Pipes

Termites enjoy hiding in warm, dark, and moist environments. So make sure to regularly clean out gutters and pipes to deter termites from colonizing.

Fill in Cracks

Be sure to caulk and seal any unnecessary openings in your foundation, particularly where pipes meet the wall, and also make sure any windows and doors are shut tight. This will prevent termites from entering your house.

Eliminate Wood Contact

Termites are attracted to the cellulose in wood, so avoid stacking firewood against your house and leaving tree stumps in your yard.

Always use termite-resistant wood and leave at least eight inches of space between your porch, deck, or patio and the ground when constructing a new home.

Also, pull soil or mulch back from the foundation and support steps or posts on a concrete base.

Avoid Using Decorate Wood and Mulch

Use decorative wood chips and mulch sparingly, especially if you have other conditions conducive to termite problems.

Get Regular Inspections

Regular termite inspections by a professional pest control company are, of course, the most effective preventative measure.

Effective Termite Control Methods (How to Get Rid of Termites)

Termite control can be divided into non-chemical and chemical methods. Here are all the ways you can control

Non-Chemical Treatments

  1. Apply Bora-Care directly to untreated wood surfaces. Formulated with a concern for the environment, Bora-Care is a borate-based insecticide and fungicide that is used for the interior and exterior control of wood-boring insects. Its patented formula penetrates deep into the wood providing long-lasting protection.
  2. Broadcast Beneficial Nematodes over the termite nest. These microscopic, worm-like parasites actively hunt, penetrate and kill pests found in a moist, dark environment. One pint container — 10 million active units — treats up to 500 sq ft of infested area.
  3. Dust Boric Acid lightly into cracks, crevices, wall voids, and other insect hiding places. This fine powder clings to the legs, antennae, and bodies of insects and acts as a stomach poison when consumed during grooming.
  4. Spray Orange Guard, made from citrus peel extract, to kill on contact.Approved for organic use, Orange Guard is a broad-spectrum insect killer that’s safe to use indoors and out. Repeat applications may be necessary.
  5. Apply food-grade Diatomaceous Earth for long-lasting protection. Made up of tiny fossilized aquatic organisms, that look like broken glass under the microscope, DE kills by scoring an insect’s outer layer as it crawls over the fine powder. Contains NO toxic poisons!
  6. Least-toxic botanical insecticides should be used as a last resort. Derived from plants which have insecticidal properties, these natural pesticides have fewer harmful side effects than synthetic chemicals and break down more quickly in the environment.

Chemical Treatments

  1. Soil-applied barrier treatments such as Termidor are one of the most common techniques. It’s incredibly important to read label directions when using such termiticides since they can cause contamination of the home and surrounding drinking water wells. Other common ones include Premise (imidacloprid), and Altriset (chlorantraniliprole). These are applied around the perimeter of the house, accompanied by drilling through adjacent porches and patios.
  2. Direct chemicals, such as Termidor Foam, can be used directly inside your home. Shoot it directly into any cracks, crevices, or voids that you suspect termites might be infesting. This odorless foam will expand, then evaporate, leaving a poisonous residue that kills termites as soon as they touch it. This method is effective for about a month or slightly longer.
  3. Baiting stations can be placed around the house to attract termites in the area instead of the home. Once termites are discovered in a station with the help of these termite baits, additional measures can be taken to protect the house.

Should I Hire a Pest Control Company for Termite Infestation?

You might be able to save money and deal with termites yourself during the DIY methods listed above, but many of these methods may be ineffective if your infestation has gotten really large.

This is, unfortunately, usually the case since termite damage starts becoming noticeable once the damage has gotten quite extensive. That’s why many experts recommend a pest control company to treat such infestations.

So if you’re unsure how to deal with termites on your own, hire professionals to take care of it for you. Fumigation treatments can cost around $10 to $20 per linear foot, which is approximately $1,200 to $2,500 for an average home.

This method involves tenting the entire home, and toxic fumes are pumped in to kill termites. Due to the method, people, plants, and pets have to move out for several days.

This may seem quite tedious and costly, but termites can cause serious damage to the foundation of your home which will end up costing a lot more in the long term. That’s why we always recommend homeowners take preventative measures when it comes to termites.

Other Pest Control Guides from Planet Natural:

Top 9 Signs of Termites in Your Home (Complete Guide)

Termites With Wings: What Are They + How to Get Rid of Them

Managing Maggots: Expert Tips for Indoor and Outdoor Eradication

Sand Fleas: What Exactly Are They and Do They Bite?

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