Every single day, roughly 120 new people move to the Charlotte area, and that doesn’t account for the tens of thousands of Charlotte residents each year who become first-time home buyers! That’s a lot of home closings, and for many homeowners, leads to their first potential exposure to termites and termite treatments. Even if you’re from the south, when it comes to pest control, you still might be wondering, “What next? What should I be thinking about? What pest control risks come with new home ownership in Charlotte?”
Most realtors are happy to hand you a sheet of paper with the responsibilities you need to take on to protect your home. There’s your HVAC system, lawn care, gutters, air ducts, tree wrapping, chimneys…the list goes on and on. Perhaps more important than any of these is making sure your home is protected from Eastern Subterranean Termites. Read on to find out why.
Here in the Carolinas, termites are considered “the silent destroyers”, as they usually can’t be detected by the untrained eye until it’s too late. While you’re enjoying the benefits of home ownership, these little guys could be feasting on the structure of your home from the inside out. Every year, termites cause $2.5 billion worth of damage!
why are termites such a big problem in the carolinas?
Subterranean termites are commonly seen in the Carolinas simply due to the climate. Why do droves of people relocate to North Carolina every day from the North? The warmer weather, of course (and maybe lower taxes, too).
The climate in the Charlotte area is relatively warm and humid, creating an ideal combination of heat and moisture that allow termites to thrive. And unlike most other insects, termites are active year-round here in the Carolinas, and continue to forage and feed during the cold winter months.
So, what exactly is a termite?
Termites are small, wood destroying insects, primarily found in the southern United States. In North Carolina, and into the surrounding areas of Charlotte in South Carolina, Eastern Subterranean termites are the most commonly found species. In fact, “Eastern Subs” are the most common termite variety in the United States.
These subterranean termites are also known to cause the most damage of any termite species. This species lives under ground and enters your home by climbing upwards through the soil into the structure in search of food. As they tunnel through, they eat away at the structure and by doing so, lay waste to walls, floors, foundations…essentially the “bones” of any home.
What’s worse is that termites are very social creatures. They live in colonies, and their nests are typically entirely underground. Within a single colony, you’ll find a king, queen, soldiers, and between 60,000 and 5,000,000 (yep, 5 Million!) workers. These worker termites (as the name suggests) take care of the queen and larvae, forage for food, and expand the nest and feeding areas. When an active infestation is discovered, the workers are usually identified in those areas.
how do termites enter my home?
Most of the time, people assume termites feed only on the structural wood of our houses. However, that is not always the case! Termites can eat almost anything that contains cellulose. Cellulose is found in tree roots, books, cotton, paper products, cardboard boxes, carpets, and so much more.
Termites can enter your house through the smallest of entry points and seek places where these entry points make contact with untreated wood. While they can’t enter through voids (they need something to crawl through or on), they commonly enter homes through areas where the slab has cracked, where foundation cement blocks meet, and just by eating through the cellulose that has direct contact with the ground!
(Not so) FUN FACT: An average subterranean termite colony can consume over 2 feet of structural wood every day.
are there ways that I can identify a termite infestation?
If you’re fortunate (and observant enough), yes! Although sometimes difficult to spot, there are two main signs of termites to keep an eye out for:
- Swarming: If you see swarmers, which are winged adult termites, you should definitely beware. Swarmers emerge from mature colonies after 3 to 5 years, and can be seen from late winter up until September or October each year. Most of the time, this swarming will be observed outdoors. However, signs of swarming, or the presence of discharged wings inside your home, is an indication of a nearby infestation.
- Mud Tubes: Termites have two modes of transportation, tunneling their way through soil or wood, or traveling through mud tubes (which they construct). Mud tubes are built using their surrounding materials, such as soil and wood particles. Usually, these tubes are present on the foundation walls or floor joists, but can be seen on any vertical or horizontal (less likely) surface. If you see these tubes, you should definitely have a professional inspect your home.
what are the chances my home will be infested?
The odds are pretty good that termites are near, if not on, your property. Here in the Carolinas, as the saying goes, “it’s not a matter of if, but when”. Termites are very prevalent in the Charlotte area, and if you don’t already have protection on your home, you’re asking for trouble.
what kind of termite protection is available?
When it comes to preventative measures, it’s always great to know your options. For new construction homes, NC Building Code requires that your builder has a licensed termite professional apply a pre-construction treatment or “pre-treat” to your home. Typically, these treatments are either a soil treatment (drenching the soil before the slab is poured or shortly after the foundation is laid) or a direct wood treatment via a product like Bora-Care (applied to all wooden beams and foundation areas). In either case, a pre-treat typically comes with a one-year warranty against termite damage.
For existing construction (or for those outside of the above-referenced first year window), there are two main options you can choose from. The first option is known as a liquid treatment. This treatment requires trenching around the perimeter and foundation piers of your home, drilling concrete slabs (like garages and porches), and then filling each of these areas with liquid termiticide. Depending on the termiticide used, there is a limit on how many years of protection the treatment can provide, due to the degradation of its potency over time. Because of this, most houses will require a “booster” treatment every few years to extend the protection of the home.
The other existing construction option is to install termite bait stations. Bait stations are small cylinders containing termite bait that are placed in the ground around the perimeter of your home. The stations are placed every 12 – 18 feet apart, and create a barrier to protect the house. Bait stations just require an annual inspection after installation and the replacement of any bait consumed by termites. If you’re looking for a more “green” or environmentally friendly option, this is definitely an option to consider. It doesn’t require pouring large amounts of termiticide into the ground, and you’ll typically only pay a large expense during installation because no booster treatments will be necessary down the road.
In addition to treating your home with liquid or bait, you can also focus on reducing or eliminating “conducive conditions”, such as the reduction of moisture levels around (or under) your property. The higher the moisture content in your structural wood, the better your chances are of a termite infestation. In addition to termite protection, consider installing a vapor barrier or fully encapsulating your crawl space to reduce these risks!
Either way you go, taking preventative measures and having an annual inspection will reduce your chances of structural damage from Eastern Subterranean Termites. Trust us, it’s worth the investment. If you’re curious to learn more, or if you’d like Remedy to conduct a comprehensive termite inspection, contact us any time for assistance. Consider us the termite treatment Charlotte experts.