A few days ago, we saw a swarm of winged insects near the edge of the
door in the wooden part. Then later, they had carved small cracks in
Is there any kind of recommended spray/chemical that would get rid of
any possible termites living inside of it?
Anything non-toxic would be great.
Also, do you recommend putting termite baits outside the property to
repel them? anything else we can do?
And if we do end up calling termite companies, what is a reasonable
price for the initial application? I emailed one and got a quote of
$600 which seemed really high.
Let me know if you have any ideas. We are newbies to this sort of
How much is your house worth? Tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of
Termites could completely destroy your house if you cheap out and try
to get rid of them yourself.
$600 to potentially save tens of thousands in repair bills is pretty
darn cheap if you ask me.
They've swarmed. That's a bad, bad sign. By the time you've seen them,
they're usually already well-established. Begin looking around for mud
tubes. The termites need protection from sunlight and drying out, so they
build tunnels from the outside, where the main nest is, to inside, where the
You need a complete inspection by a professional. Without it, there's no
way of telling whether they've gotten into the structural timber. That's
I've been using Spectracide termite stakes for about 5 years after a bad
infestation and quotes of $1000 and more to pump the soil around the house
full of insecticide by drilling holes in the concrete floor. I demurred.
Once you find the way they are coming in and break up the mud tubes and lay
down a double dose of stakes outside, that may be all you need to do. It's
all I did. The termites inside die quickly once cut off from their nest.
Like you, I was reluctant to have poison pumped into or around the
foundation. The stakes (actually 2" by 8" bait tubes that you put in the
ground with a drill they provide) have been remarkably effective. I know
because my neighbor, who has a Terminix contract, had a massive infestation
last year but I didn't. This year, I doubled the number of stakes I put on
that side of the house. (-:
You must be away from a metro area. That's low, compared to what I got
quoted around Washington, DC. I think, though, that since it costs them
very little to treat an individual home, that many charge what they think
you can pay, with no relation to actual costs. You may be able to get some
free inspections to show you where the problem is. I didn't need that
because I knew what to look for and where after Googling the problem for a
You've got to lock it down quickly and be diligent about putting down new
bait traps every year in early March just before they start becoming active
again. This is the time of year for swarms - and for pest control
When I first moved here, on the first warm day of spring, the whole basement
filled with the little devils and their fallen-off wings. Didn't know what
was happening and nearly fell over when I pulled down the two ceilings the
previous owners had erected to conceal the damage. Very serious
I handled that with Chlordane, an incredibly strong termite killer but now
banned by the EPA. I would walk around the house in March each year with a
mild solution of Chlordane in a watering can. It was only when that gallon
bottle ran out (it lasted nearly 10 years!) that they returned, and that's
when I switched to the Spectracide stakes (bought at Home Depot - 40 stakes
for under $100).
If you look around your door carefully, I am sure you'll see the little mud
tunnels that they build. Lots of times they follow wires stapled to a piece
of wood and you have to look with a strong flashlight to see them. Cable TV
installers created the path for my neighbor's infestation. The mud tubes
ran up the bricks to the hole they had drilled (and NOT puttied!) and inside
they followed the along the cable that was stapled to a joist until they
reached the main house beam.
Good luck! And get out the caulking gun!
Previously, termite treatment, like Chlordane, was "barrier" treatment,
kinda like the fence on the Mexican border.
Newer chemicals don't kill or even discourage the termites right away. The
workers take the poisoned wood (or their dirty feet) back to the nest and
the chemical shortly kills all of the critters, including the queen. So
instead of a "fence," you nuke Juarez.
You can get the latest incarnation of these new chemicals, Termidor, on
Ebay. You dig a 6" trench around your home, pour in the chemical, and call
it good. Other application methods are possible.
Termidor ain't cheap.
We don't need no steenkin' trenches! (-: Never had to dig with Chlordane.
Now I chuck the 2-1/2" dirt auger bit into a cordless drill and I can treat
the whole house with Spectracide in a hour. The stakes aren't quite a
barrier, but if you ring the house with them, the effect is the same. They
work, as you note, like a Trojan horse. The workers wheel the poison into
the nest, and it's hasta la vista.
Termite control companies charge my neighbor nearly a thousand dollars a
year to lay down far fewer stakes and they are *always* finding termites
inside. Today was the first over 90 degree day we've had. I will be
checking the basement shortly to see if the stakes have protected me another
year. I hope so!
Chlordane got banned by builders dumping 100's of gallons of Chlordane into
the foundation hole when building. From there, it entered the aquifier
quite easily. It's a potent nerve toxin for humans. Too bad some cowboys
screwed it up for the rest of us.
Spectracide costs $100 per year, and I suppose I *could* get away with just
20 stakes for $50. But as they said in Aliens, you gotta nuke 'em. Just to
I also bury stakes twice as deep as recommended (had to buy a 3' garden
auger for that) because I've read that if you surface treat for ants, the
poison gets into the ground and the termites dig much deeper than normal to
avoid the surface stuff. If they do, they still run into my low-rider
The new bait tubes even have a spring-loaded bright orange, golf-tee shaped
indicator so that when they eat the bait, a little flag pops up to let you
know there's termite activity. In reality, it more often lets you know that
rainwater has gotten into the bait tube and dissolved the poison-impregnated
Nah, not banned. According to Wikipedia, it's the most widely used wood
preservative in the world. When I was a kid, we had a creosote plant down
the street. They took, mostly, tree trunks and turned them into telephone
The tree trunks came in on railroad flat cars which went into a GIANT
pressure cooker - car and all. After a couple of hours of heat-impregnating
with the creosote, a switch engine pulled the flatcar with the finished
product out and inserted another. I think they also did railroad ties and
First, identify the insects. Termites don't carve cracks, they tunnel
and have small, round tubes. They could ENTER through cracks or any
other opening like uncaulked joints, plumbing/electrical entries, etc.
They look like ants with wings, sort of. If you can take a sample to
your local extension service, they can ID and also give you valuable
info about treatment. Different kinds of termites require different
treatment. This is the time of year that they "swarm" to mate and set
up new colonies.
If the house is already infested, you can likely find the areas of
infestation. Wood around doors and windows might have hollow sound when
tapped, wings shed around windows and doors, mud tubes inside or outside
foundation or into plumbing access cavities.
Find a reputable licensed pest control contractor or two and get an
inspection. Should be done yearly. Fighting fires and termites should
be left to the pro's. Baits are used to control subterranean termites,
which may or may not be what you have.
Good point, which is why I suggested she get a few free inspection. It's my
understanding that if you see mud tubes, you've got the subterranean
As for cracks, I've watched termites swarm and they emerge from the wood
through holes and slits so tiny they appear to be materializing like magic
on the surface. Perhaps that's what the OP was seeing. Termites also dig
grooves in wood - could be that as well.
Hiring exterminators, sadly, is no guarantee you're really getting a
professional and not some spray happy kid whose last job was as a fry cook
at McDonald's. That's why I would recommend talking to more than one
FWIW, in Australia, the survivors of last year's horrific brush fires were
often the ones that stayed behind to save their own houses. They manned
their generator powered pumps that sprayed a constant stream of water on the
houses to keep embers from landing and igniting. Many died who decided to
evacuate instead, not realizing the fire was all around them.
Sometimes, a professional who is a stranger isn't going to care about you or
your possessions the way you would. I've watched enough inspections to know
how to do one as thoroughly as a pro. It's not rocket science nor is it as
foolish as trying to do a root canal on yourself. It requires no special
tools, just a flashlight, a screwdriver and a hammer.
For me, paying $1000 a year to do what I have been doing successfully myself
for the last five years for under $100 would be tantamount to setting fire
to $900 a year.
I did, however, mail the carcasses of the dead termites to the Agriculture
folks because the nationwide head of the extension service is three miles
away from here in Beltsville, MD. Once they confirmed that they were
subterranean termites, I felt comfortable I was doing the right thing. It's
saved me $4,500 so far.
The fact that my neighbor, who is professionally treated, still has termites
swarming, bolsters my faith in the stakes and my home treatment plan. YMMV,
though. They appear to use the same treatment, but far less bait tubes.
Why pay $1000 to get less of something you can do for yourself for $100?
They may tunnel very close to the surface but don't cut cracks...more
likely the OP has damaged wood that was an entry.
Reputable, as in ref. from a neighbor who is long-term customer.
When the house is on fire, you don't run for buckets at the kitchen
faucet, ya' get out and call 911.
I can do an inspection more thorough than the pros who have been hired
by our condo assn, but the OP was obviously uninformed. Start by
knowing the what, how, why so's one can discuss options intelligently.
More than one kind of termite, and more than one way to treat IF she
actually has termites and not an ant colony.
How could it cost $1000 a year?
Stakes treat subterranean termites, which may or may not be what the OP
has. I live in Florida and the blue tents will be going up
soon...neighbors on both sides of us have been tented within the past 5
yrs. or so...much newer than our condo. We've been tented twice, before
we owned our condo, and the majority of owners in our condo are as
complacent as can be...some don't even let the pc inspector in and the
board doesn't press.
Agreed. I was trying to say that the "pre-existing" cracks serve as an
escape hatch for the ones that swarm. I've watched them come up from what I
thought was a sealed hardwood floor like the were drops of watering passing
magically through the tiniest of cracks.
Without pictures from the OP we don't quite know *what* the OP saw except
swarming insects. The first thing to do is to pick the leftovers up with
clear tape and tape them to an index card to mail to the local ag. extension
office to make sure what you have.
Excellent idea. Check the local consumer protection office, if there are
any left. They go with the first round of local gov't budget cuts.
Generally good advice, but not always. These people knew that in a large
brush fire, there just weren't enough fire protection resources (fireys) to
protect their homes. Many decided to learn how to prepare their houses for
fires - cutting brush, slate or tin roofing, generators and industrial
strength pumps and firefighting grade large diameter hoses to keep the house
soaked down. If they had not done that, their houses would have burned.
Aussies are tougher birds than Americans, and are quitely willing to take
personal responsibility for things that we leave, sometimes imperfectly, to
our governments. Those who had taken preparations not only saved their own
houses, but the lives of their neighbors, trapped without a way out as their
own unprotected houses burned.
The CFA in Oz is active in training homeowners that choose to stay what they
must do to save their homes and to create a safe place to wait out the fire.
Calling 911 and running from a burning house in a brushfire proved to be
exactly the wrong advice. No one was coming and outside, people quickly
perished in firestorm where they might have survived in a low sheltered area
in the home like a bathtub or even under a blanket soaked in water. Just
like there are different kinds of termites, there are different types of
fires and each has a different solution.
The applicability of that lesson to this situation is that even if you hire
someone, there's a lot you can do on your own to improve your odds of
forcing the termites into your neighbor's house instead of yours. (-:
Oddly enough I was going to post the same speech in regards to advice about
NiCads v. Lithium. If the OP didn't even know whether he got a corded or
cordless model (I've done the same buying from the web in a different
context - not touching the item you're buying has consequences) then getting
into the weeds on the many ways NiCads have to die was probably not as
helpful as it seemed. Touche!
It's the first law of systems analysis. Obviously overinforming is an easy
trap to fall into. Thanks for reminding me and saving me from turning into
a hypocrite. I screwed up, but I knew in advance that if I did, someone
would be here to help me. (-:
What I really wanted to make sure got across is that it is possible to
successfully treat at least some kinds of termite infestation on your own.
I believe anyone living where subterranean termites are a threat should lay
down stakes every year. They have worked very well for me, and better, it
seems, than Terminix who treats my neighbor in a nearly identical house.
I got quotes of $1000 to $1500 for the first treatment but I don't recall
the price of the yearly maintenance. I have to admit (again!) you're right
that ongoing treatment would probably cost less, but I can't say for sure.
If you're unhappy with the first guy, then you'd probably have to start from
scratch with a new company.
Yep. That's why I suggested they get at least two pros to come out and give
an inspection. They will tell the OP what they have and what their options
are. I just wanted to let the OP know that in at least in cases like mine,
you can save yourself $100's of dollars - if not thousands - by using
stakes. I also told the OP to look for mud tubes. IIRC, only subterranean
termites run mud tubes from the outside into the house.
In this current recession, $600 or $1500 or anything like that could easily
be outside the reach of a current homeowners. It could be a disservice if
it fails to treat the infestation, I realize. But I really believe a person
of average intelligence (and I think anyone that posts to AHR is actually
above average IQ - most people don't even do basic research) that owns a
strong flashlight and a long shank screwdriver can do every bit as well as
most of the people pest control companies send out if they do their homework
and ask questions as they go along.
That's a huge maybe.
In MT they came up with a requirement for structures to be inspected
and "certified" by a PCO as "termite free" before closing which, of
course, sans treatment, is impossible.
I wouldn't do it, but every other PCO did.
They often also failed to remove visible mud tubes after treatment
leading any subsequent PCO with evidence of termites, but no termites.
It was also not unusual to be called for a bid where 2 other PCOs had
told the HO swarming ants were termites, or get requests for post-
treatment inspections the treating PCOs failed to complete after the
The scumbags have made termite treatment largely a criminal enterprise
and one would be wise to caveat emptor their ass off.
Termites eat slow and breed slow, there is no reason to be in a rush
Carpenter ants are another story...
One of many reasons effective insecticides were banned. I've seen
people dump bag after bag of poison on the ground when all that was
needed was cleanup and repair. CA's often go after termite tunnels and
always after damaged wood. Our condo was in crap shap when my husband
purchased and the two of us did all the outside work that got rid of
CA's....damaged wood siding, dead limbs in hedges, rotted wood fence,
leaky roof, etc.
Did the same with fire ants...small amount of bait/poison placed only
where they had nests (always along pavers and patios) and that treatment
lasted, probably, a year. We did a lot of crawling around on the ground
working on broken down sprinkler system, so it was vital to get rid of
Too many people overtreat, trying to get rid of non-pest insects.
Treating for all the ants in a yard is insane. As long as the normal
insects are outdoors, they aren't pests IMO. Some are really beneficial
and people don't realize that fact.
Pumping 500 gallons of Chlordane into new home's foundation hole was
inexcusable. It prevented termite damage for years, but at the cost of
eliminating reasonable use of the chemical by sane people because so much of
it got into the groundwater.
From what I've read about barrier treatments, it sounds like a gamble.
Allegedly, barriers must remain undisturbed, so one depends on a
day-labor employee of a sub-contractor to mix the stuff right and be
SURE to saturate to the right depth around entire perimeter. Then the
new HO moves in, plants some stuff or builds a deck and the barrier is
disrupted. Oh, and there was probably a ter. colony under the home,
inside the perimeter. I kinda' think hell will freeze first :o)
We live in Georgia. The house has a brick front, with hardiplank sides
and there is some wood trim near the door. The house has NO basement,
just an attic. I saw the swarm near the door and a few hours later,
saw a very thin, and long crack. I assume they are termites, although
don't know for sure. We are seeing some thin mud pipe outside near the
door and also a thin mud pipe inside the house near the door area.
Today, I got some Spectracide foam that says it kills on contact and
sprayed it on the thin cracks outside the house. Not sure it will help
as I no longer see these termites, only the cracks and mud pipes.
Any ideas for inside the home near the door area where we see the mud
pipes? What is suggested here?
I have called Orkin for a free estimate tomorrow.
We just don't want to get ripped off as we are fairly new to termites.
We have had other issues like squirrels in the attic and it ended up
being expensive so just wanted to gather info from yall...
any recommendations regarding Orkin, Terminix, etc.
Thank you all!
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