Be proactive and cut off hungry termites' access

If you don't want to be bugged by termites that want to turn your home into a cafeteria then this offering may prove to be just the anti-deli information you're looking for.

No matter how hard we try, it's sometimes impossible to prevent a colony of hungry ants from camping on our kitchen counter. One of the ways we reduce the chance of ant-attack is by removing sources of food and by keeping the inside of the house squeaky-clean. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to know that three-day-old melon rinds in the trash will invite crawling things from everywhere.

Termites also are attracted by the need for food. But the food termites savor is different than the food ants enjoy. A gourmet meal to a termite could consist of an appetizer such as curled pencil-shavings a la yellow, followed by a light helping of crisp crumpled-paper salad, and finally, an entree of succulent floor joist topped with their favorite gravy.

The species of wood-eater most prevalent in the United States is the subterranean termite — subterranean for live below ground. Interestingly, subterranean termites thrive on cellulose (wood, paper, etc), which they are capable of consuming in massive amounts. Knowing what these critters eat to exist, and how they get from below ground to a food source, can help us determine how to reduce the chance of having them infest our home — in many instances, without the use of dangerous pesticides.

The earth-to-food connection occurs when a termite can find cellulose without leaving the ground (direct food source) or when the termite is given the opportunity to tunnel from the ground to the wood (indirect food source).

Example 1: The base of a fence post buried in the ground is a direct food source for termites. They don't have to leave the ground to get to a meal. If the fence that is connected to the post in question is also touching your house, then the termite has a direct — and hidden access — to a much bigger meal. A sheet of metal (called flashing) between the fence and the house will stop their travel. Stucco and brick exteriors almost are as susceptible as wood siding and also should be flashed.

Example 2: A wood floor atop a concrete foundation is an indirect food source. Here the termite must create an earthen tunnel (about the diameter of a large pencil) to get to the smorgasbord above. Termites are more apt to begin tunneling up the inside of a foundation wall when they are attracted by the presence of cellulose debris lying on the ground in the sub area. Inspecting the sub area or basement for mud tunnels traveling from the ground to nearby wood is one way of determining if the buggers exist. Early detection and a visit by a structural pest-control operator (termite person) can literally prevent your home from being eaten alive.

Example 3: Earth built-up to a point higher than the foundation changes an indirect food source to a direct food source by eliminating the concrete barrier provided by the foundation or piers. This condition can be corrected by re-grading the earth to a point 6 to 8 inches below the food source, or by adding a 6-inch-wide concrete barrier between the earth and the wood.

Earth-to-wood contact is a strict no-no when it comes to subterranean termites. Lick this problem, and they won't be able to lick or chew on your home ... at least not without an extra special effort on their part.

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