When Spring Arrives NJ Homeowners May Discover Termites. Don’t Panic. They’ve Been There for Years
“It’s an annual ritual of spring,” says Leonard Douglen, the Executive Director of the New Jersey Pest Management Association. “Along with the warm weather, thousands of homeowners will discover that they have been playing host to colonies of termites.”
“In the springtime the most visible evidence of a termite infestation are the winged “elates”, those termites whose job it is to start new colonies. This mating flight of hundreds and, in some cases, thousands, usually lasts from three to five days.”
The presence inside a home of winged swarmers, usually gathering around windows as sunlight streams in, is a guaranteed sign that the structure has a termite colony.
Estimates of the nationwide cost of the damage termites do every year range between five and six billion dollars.
Several species of termites are native to New Jersey and the tri-state area. “By far the Subterranean termite species pose the greatest problem,” says Douglen, “because they are the most difficult to control and their nest may be below ground.”
The most visible sign of an infestation are the mud tunnels termites build to access a structure, often against a foundation or pier post, and frequently visible in basement void areas under porches and other parts of the home.
The Eastern Subterranean Termite is among the most common in the tri-state area. Homeowners are advised to eliminate any water leaks in the roof and other areas, and inspect the system of gutters that keep water away from wooden surfaces. Crawl spaces in attics or basements should be kept dry through ventilation or vapor barriers. “It is essential to eliminate all wood-to-soil contact,” says Douglen, “and to avoid having mulch against the structure.”
Based on normal feeding activity, it can take from three to eight years for a termite colony to do serious damage to any structure. Experts believe that, under ideal conditions, a termite colony of 60,000 workers will consume one foot of a 2-inch by 4-inch pine word in 118 to 157 days. Termites eat wood, flooring, sheetrock, wallpaper, plastics, paper products, and fabric made of plant fibers.
“One of the best investments homeowners can make,” says Douglen, “is an annual termite inspection by a certified, trained pest management technician to identify such potential points of infestation.” The bad news is that a colony of hundreds of thousands of termites may operate in different locations throughout a structure.
Choose Termite Inspectors Carefully
“Homeowners need to be aware that New Jersey allows anyone, even someone without any previous knowledge or training of any kind, to perform a wood destroying insect inspection,” said Douglen. “It is essential to know that the person hired to inspect has the proper credentials and training to insure that, if a termite colony exists and that he can find it.”
The New Jersey Pest Management Association has, for many years, a training course for its members and others who wish to become inspectors. On successful completion of the course, the Association issues a certificate granting the status of Credentialed Wood Destroying Insect Inspector.
An untrained inspector or one lacking sufficient training can easily miss the signs of an infestation. Termite infestations go unnoticed because, though eating wood throughout a structure, termites rarely break through the surface areas of the wood, leaving it intact.
Douglen notes that people sometimes think the swarming termite alates, the winged reproductive class, are winged ants because “ants and termite swarmers not only look similar, but they come out at the same time, either to expand their colonies or to start a new satellite one.”
The termite swarmer is drawn to any light source such as a window or where the sun is shining on a wall. The usually drop their wings. “A termite has a straight body compared to an ant which has a pinched waist. The termite’s antennae are straight while ants have an elbowed antennae.”
Douglen recommends gathering a few samples of the winged insects and seal them in a plastic envelope such as a sandwich bag. Then call a pest control firm. “They will send a technician who has been trained to identify various insect species.”
Pest control professionals recommend that you vacuum the uninvited winged invaders, but expect to have to repeat the process for several days. Mother Nature always deals in massive numbers.
“Pest management professionals have the licensing and certification, and the training to provide the best protection and to eliminate an existing termite infestation,” says Douglen. “This is definitely not a do-it-yourself project.”
Founded in 1941, the New Jersey Pest Management Association is affiliated with the National Pest Control Association. The NJPMA maintains a website at www.njpestcontrol.com/nj. The website provides a library of information for visitors seeking information on pest species and a directory of member firms.