I have a wooden house in the NYC area. I know that there are termites in
My next door neighbor discoverd some in his house, 2 years ago and had
his house treated professsionally along the house but a month ago while
doing basement renovations, his guy found a large number of them in the
basement ceiling and as far up as the 2nd floor .
I have so far found no visible evidence of termites in and around my
house (mud trails, wings, waste material). I only have 1 small opening
in my basement ceiling exposing my beams.
I had 2 exterminators do a free examination but neither saw any visible
evidence and din't push their services.
other neighbor across the street who had termites if I don't see any
evidence then don't worry.
The guy who is repairing the damage in my next door neighbor's house
said, unless I open small sections of the ceiling along the edge to look
for any evidencel, I really won't know. By the way, he is a friend of my
neighbor and also declined to do the work as he was much too busy.
I know there are termites near my house because in preparation for the
exterminator's visit, I cleaned under the back porch and I found 1 piece
of old 4/4 lumber with some termites. There were a number of other
pieces but they did not appear to have any.
Should I begin to do some exploratory work on my basement ceiling or as
my other neighbor said, don't worry about it.
Would love some common sense advice.
Thanks in advance
Sometimes when inspecting a home for termites, especially a basement or slab
home, it can be challenging because you cannot see what is going on under it
where the termites are active. It may require that you remove some areas of
wood, small areas to allow for a good proper inspection. I would call in
more than the couple professionals you have already had and let them get a
look at your home. The fact that your neighbor has termites may be a reason
to raise an eyebrow in concern but it does not mean that absolutely that you
too have them in your home. If you get a few inspections and none find
anymore evidence of termites then I would wait and call them back and have
them check the house on a quarterly basis for you. Most companies will do it
at no charge. Once the termites do show up then they can compose a treatment
plan for your home to protect it from termites. I hope you have success and
please keep us updated if you will.
I have the same situation and years ago there were termites that were
taken care of. This time just for saftey I bought Spectracide Stake
Baits apx 100$ . I found termites in some and comtinued treatment and
have none this year. They can come in any time so prevention and
ckecking is a good idea
The other thing you might consider is signing a contract to have your home
professionally treated for termites. This contract should include a
guarantee to repair all non pre-existing termite damage after treatment.
They'll do a good inspection, treat your house, and you'll have peace of
Agreed. Also - ask around for any companies using the new device
called the Termi-Trac. It's a hand-held radar which can pick-up
movement in walls. A positive hit on movement is reason to open a
wall or ceiling.
I feel for you -- not knowing is the worst part. Unfortunately,
nobody will really know for sure from one day to the next until
positive evidence is found.
Some company will probably offer you a termite monitoring program in
which they stick "tubes" in the ground all around your house which are
loaded with a funny-shaped piece of white pine. They will say when
they find termites in there then you should pay them to add bait...
this is good and bad. It's good because there are some really good
baits out there. It's bad because it's a shot-in-the-dark because
nobody really knows if any termites will find the bait or be scared
away when the pine is removed. Also - they will charge you for it.
I suggest you just follow Tim's advice and allow the professionals to
come to your house periodicly and check for you. Let them stress
Termites are ubiquitous in soils pretty much throughout the US, and
their presence on your property isn't any more meaningful than the
presence of dirt. (Yes, there are fewer termites the farther north
one goes, but they've been found infesting buildings in Canada, so...)
The trick is keeping them out of your house.
The easiest way to do that is to simply have the house treated and
placed under a renewable warranty with a reputable pest-control firm.
Then it's their problem. THe alternative is to have the property
inspected every year and be prepared to spend the money for treatment,
and whatever repairs are necessary, when the termites are found.
Given that most of the susceptible portions of your house are
inaccessible to a visual inspection, you might consider one of the
technologies some of the other posters have suggested. Technology, as
has been noted, is no substitute for competence, and none of the new
technologies are any better than the guy using them. The microwave
device is very sensitive to your hand movements, and will also read
right thorugh the wall to whatever movement is behind it, for example.
And moistrue meters actually measure conductivity, so they can be
fooled by salts in the wood or on the surface of whatever you're
measuring. I've always been suspicious of the termite-sniffing dogs,
but there's some good academic research (finally) going on with them
right now, and it looks like a well-trained dog, properly maintained
and handled, can find temrites by scent even in hidden locations. You
still have to decide whether to open the walls for a look, etc. I
wouldn't go opening walls and ceilings just to have a look without
evidence of a possible infestation.
My "common sense" advice would be to go ahead and have the place
treated. You already know that termites are foraging very close to
your house. You have construction features that are vulnerable and
can't be inspected. Get some bids, talk to a few operators, and
figure out whether the peace of mind is worth the price.
email@example.com (Cam Lay) wrote in message
I'd like to suggest those who have questions about termites and the like look at
It contains some examples of problems often asked about here.
I've listended to Mr. Lay on educational radio for years.
I think he knows what he is talking about.
Since my basement is unfinished, I think I will begin removing small
sections (approx. 18" by 8") to look for hidden evidence.
One of the exterminator said he could do an onsite examination for $75.
I will call him to find out what he actually does. Am I wasting my money
if he does nothing but spend the time looking for visible evidence. Can
he spot something very obscure that I would have missed (mud trails,
wings, waste material).
Thanks for all of your advice.
Man what a fix.
If the basement is unfinished , then , what are you tearing out ?
What is the Sill plate (basement header) relationship to ground level ?
Is the home surrounded by concrete Slabs (Driveways and walkways) ?
Termites will randomly forage .
How far away is the infested neighbors house ?
Here is an easier way to look inside walls
drill small holes and peep inside. Spackle shut.
The sill plate is the top of the concrete block of the basement. The joist
boards are setting on the blocks.
If the sill plate is four inches up from ground level , then , it is very
difficult or unlikely termites would forage up that far. Usually mulch or
garden soil gets pile up high against the home , and above the sill plate.
The house is over 70 years old I am so I am assuming that it is seating
on some type of concreate blocks.The house is seating about 2 to 3 feet
above the ground. My neighbor's house built the same way. I don't know
if these blocks are solid or have hollow areas.
Homes have two sill plates. It's the horizontal piece of wood,
usually a 2x4 or 2x6 on which sit the wall studs. There's a top sill
and a bottom sill. What he's asking is how far is your bottom sill
(basicly the inside floor level) from the ground outside. If it's on
a crawl space, how far are the floor joists (the horizontal wood which
holds your floor from the ground) from the ground?
If it's on blocks then there is a little concern. Termites can enter
through small cracks and separations in and between the blocks. They
can then use the blocks as a highway to enter the home virtually
undetected. Chances are if your house sits on a slab or if it's a
medium-small home the blocks (which are the Stem Wall of the house)
only go 1-2 feet underground. If your home has a crawl space then
they might go three feet underground.
This causes some concern too. Nobody is really sure how fast termites
forage. However, I've treated a home for an infestation which
apparently started in a cut tree trunk about 25 feet from a home.
I was wondering if the follwoing is generally true. Please remember I
live in the NYC area so I am assuming that there is only one type of
The guy who is repairing the damage in my neighbor's house said, even if
an extermanitor treats the house by injecting chemicals around the
paremeter, any termite nest with a queen established above the ground
in the house will not be destroyed. The termites will continue to feed
moving up into the house until they have no more wood. He says that is
why they found a large number termites in the house even though that
house was treated some 2 years earlier..
When I asked several exterminators the same question, they said this
doesn't happen. The nest (this area) is always below the ground and that
the whole nest will be destroyed all the way up into the house.
:) I was wondering if the follwoing is generally true. Please remember I
:) live in the NYC area so I am assuming that there is only one type of
:) termite here.
:) The guy who is repairing the damage in my neighbor's house said, even if
:) an extermanitor treats the house by injecting chemicals around the
:) paremeter, any termite nest with a queen established above the ground
:) in the house will not be destroyed. The termites will continue to feed
:) moving up into the house until they have no more wood. He says that is
:) why they found a large number termites in the house even though that
:) house was treated some 2 years earlier..
:) When I asked several exterminators the same question, they said this
:) doesn't happen. The nest (this area) is always below the ground and that
:) the whole nest will be destroyed all the way up into the house.
If there is an above ground water source they don't have to return to
the ground. It's not that there is always a queen in an established
colony above ground, but rather if a population of termites get cut
off from the main colony and they have a moisture source, some of the
secondary reproductives can now take over as a new queen. The older
chemicals where basically a shield that kept termites from crossing
the treated zone, not effecting the nest, so if there was a moisture
source and a large enough population in the walls a new colony could
possibly form. If the company uses Phantom, this will not happen.
The termites don't detect it, get contaminated and spread it through
the colony. Premise somewhat will probably also control an above
ground nest, but I'm not sure if it is sold in New York. Though it is
possible, it usually is unlikely and the activity is probably just a
return of termites from the soil.
Lar. (to e-mail, get rid of the BUGS!!
It is said that the early bird gets the worm,
but it is the second mouse that gets the cheese.
There are two main types of termites here in Florida - subterranean and
dry-wood. Barrier treatments, as I understand them, are to keep
subterranean termites from burrowing to and invading the house.
There has been a good deal written about barrier treatments in Florida.
Newly built homes allegedly protected turned out not to be, for a
number of reasons. Crooks who diluted chemicals too much were one
problem. In order to be effective, there must be no interruption in the
barrier treatment (don't go digging after you've treated the soil).
Dry wood termies swarm during mating season and come looking for an
opening above ground - uncaulked window joints, gaps between
The main deal is that the two types require different treatment. Best
thing you can do is learn how to PREVENT termite infestation, inspect
regularly and also have annual licensed inspection.
Termite inspection should include inside and outside of foundation,
inside plumbing access panels, wood around window/door openings, etc.
You're dealing with native eastern subterranean termites in the genus
Reticulitermes. There are several species, probably more than the
current sceintific/academic consensus "says" that there are. You're
not dealing with drywood termites.
Unless you have an above-ground source of moisture it's very unlikely
that you are dealing with an "aerial" or "secondary" colony. That's a
self-sustaining population with reproductive members. Termites have
both "primary" reproductives (the king and queen; workers are both
male and female, too, for whatever that's worth) and "secondary"
reproductives. Secondary reproductives are ordinary workers who were
either cut off from the queen's reproduction-suppressing pheromones
(pheromones are external hormones that affect individuals other than
the ones that secrete them) or are so far away from them (i.e. her)
because of the size of the colony that they no longer have any effect.
Secondary reproductives are usually responsible for the bulk of the
reproduction in a mature colony. In a little over 18 years as a
structural entomologist I've carefully and thoroughly inspected close
to a thousand buildings. I've seen two or three genuine,
no-doubt-about-it aerial colonies of eastern subterranean termites.
It really doesn't make too much sense to talk about "colonies" of
termites from a control standpoint, in my opinion. Recent research by
Ed Vargo of NC State indicates that colonies form around unrelated
mated pairs (kings and queens) and around secondary reproductives.
Earlier research indicates that the majority of colonies form by
"budding," where a colony gets so big that the two ends no longer
communicate and eventually separate. Think of them as a big amorphous
population. There are likely to be several lineages, some of them
related, and at least two or three species of subterranean termites
living where your house was built. And they've been there for a long
time - your house was built on top of however-many termites that patch
of ground could support. They'll eventually find your house. I've
seen termites traveling happily up three and four feet of foundation
from the soil to the wooden substructure more than a dozen times.
I've seen mud tubes as thick as my wrist going a foot or two up from
the ground to the substructure more times than I can remember. Most
termiticide labels and many state regulations (many of the Southern
states have specific standards that must be completed during a termite
treatment) require treatment of any soil closer than 18 inches from
the wooden substructure, even if that soil is covered by a slab. If
the wooden part of your house is within a couple of feet of the soil
it's at risk. If it's farther than that it's a a little less risk.
If it was a beach house in South Carolina built 14 feet above the
ground on concrete piers I'd still recommend you get it treated.
The point of a conventional liquid treatment is to establish a barrier
around your house that the termites can't get through because it is
either lethal or repellent to them. Once you've done that the
termites trapped in the structure will die of thirst and the ones in
the ground will go elsewhere for dinner. (Essentially - there are
differences in the way differnet chemicals, including the baits, act
on termites. But that's the idea.)
It's going to be very difficult for you to do a good inspection
because of the way your house is built. That means it's entirely
possible that there will be damage by the time you discover an
infestation. It may be cheaper to wait until that happens, and then
hire people to make repairs, do the termite treatment, and put up with
the disruption. But it may not be the most cost-effective choice.
It sounds to me like you already know that there's a wide range of
expertise available in the pest-control business. Be careful. Ask
around. They're regulated in your state by the Dept. of Environmental
Conservation. They likely keep records of complaints and enforcement
actions - that might be a good place to check before you commit to
spending money. (Shameless plug - in SC we put that information on
our web site. You pay your taxes, you got a right to see what we do
with the money.) DEC is in Albany - you're looking for the
"structural pest control" section of the Bureau of Pesticides
I hope this is helpful. Good luck!
The subterranean termites I deal with in Arizona are Reticulatermes.
They generally nest only below ground and have to return to the ground
for moisture. However - if there is a moisture source above ground
they can remain longer above ground. I've even seen mud tubes hanging
from a cieling.
If the moisture source is interrupted and/or stopped, the termites
will attempt to move back to the ground. If they cannot, they die.
There is an exception to every rule though. Formosan termites break
all the rules. They readily establish above-ground colonies in voids.
If the home is treated just with a perimeter barrier the Formosans
will live happily on and continue to destroy the structure.
I don't believe NY has any Formosans and neither does AZ (we had a
short bout with them when some timbers were shipped-in from Louisiana,
but they're gone now). Texas, Hawaii, Florida and California are the
real hot-spots for them. So he may have been talking about Formosan
Phantom and Premise are both non-repellant termiticides, which means
the termites pass readily through the poison, share it with the colony
and the whole colony is killed. Termidor may be in that group too
(can someone who knows if Termidor is repellant comment on it?)
Repellant termiticides don't work well because the termites will probe
continually in the soil until they find a tiny spot which isn't
treated and enter the home through that.
Hope that helps.
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