How worried should you be about Termite Infestations?
Termites have been around since the age of the dinosaurs and by total biomass they outweigh all humans in the world put together. Termites are found mostly in tropical and sub-tropical climates, where humidity is high and food is abundant.
Termites are ecologically important insects as they breakdown dead wood and dead plant matter. However you wouldn’t think so highly of them should you discover termite infestations in your home. Like roaches and ants, a sizable number of termite species are considered pests when they find their way into buildings.
The termite feeds on cellulose.
While it is not possible to get a perfect figure of the damage caused by termite infestations each year, a rough estimate puts it at US$5 billion dollars. Pest control agencies claim that they receive most calls concerning termite infestations. While they mostly attack wood and paper, what termites are really after is cellulose.
Certain species of termite may even chew away at other materials containing cellulose; from plastic insulation to walls and books, cotton and even through thin layers of lead. After penetrating into a building, termites dig mud tunnels (usually along wooden walls) that link the nest to other sites, allowing the termites to get everywhere.
In the most serious cases termites can render homes unlivable by causing extensive structural damage – especially to wooden buildings. If the sight of your home in ruin doesn’t get you then its aftermath market appraisal will.
And when it’s time to find a new spot to build new nests, termites become winged nightmares called ‘swarmers’, with thousands of them literally covering flying about, landing onto and covering entire surfaces with their themselves, dying in your meal and choking up empty poles, swimming pools, ears, etc… a nasty business.
Natural repellents, anti-termite barriers and biological pest control agents can keep termite infestations away.
A good way to prevent termite infestations is to stop them getting in in the first place. A well-constructed building won’t allow termites to get in, as well as constructing anti-termite barriers – by sealing gaps between concrete slabs and walls with metallic parts. Proper waterproofing is then done to ensure that wood doesn’t dampen (which is what termites feed on).
This also disallows water to come into contact with imbedded metals within concrete which will cause it to corrode, expand and rupture the surrounding concrete, opening up new access points for termites. Holes in concrete walls need to be fixed for the same reason.
Tannin occurs naturally in plants like hardwood trees to keep pests such as ants and termites away. Treating sites with tannin, a biomolecule that binds to organic compounds like wood, works to keep the buggers at bay. Leaching of tannin from the soil into ground water isn’t a problem either as it happens in nature and although tannin-water smells bad and tastes bitter it is safe for drinking.
Nematodes can be used as biological pest control agents, too. These unsegmented worms, commonly available in garden stores, are natural predators of termites.
After planting them in the ground the worms will seek out termite larvae, burrow into them, and kill them off in approximately 48 hours. The larvae carcass is then consumed for spawning and the cycle repeats itself.
Picture attribution: Nematodes, Wikipedia.