SOUTHERN UTAH – The pest control truck is parked at a neighbor’s house – they have a termite infestation. Bad luck for them, right? Not so fast. If one neighbor has a termite infestation, it is likely nearby homes have termites, too.
“One termite colony can spread over a quarter of a mile,” Tyler Alldredge, service manager for Morgan Lawn and Pest Control, said.
Not only do termites pose a neighborhood-wide threat, but local residents may be surprised to know that Southern Utah is far from immune to termite problems; in fact, it is ranked as one of the highest activity zones for termites.
“We’re in the second highest zone for termite activity in the United States,” Alldredge said. “Nobody believes it.”
Like humans, termites crave variety in their diets, Alldredge said. So although these insects are most commonly known to feast on wood, their appetites don’t end there; termites will also attack metal, sheetrock, furniture and even food storage.
“Just because it’s not a wood frame house doesn’t mean you can’t have termites,” Dave Kipp, owner of Morgan Lawn and Pest Control, said.
When a termite colony reaches a certain size, it will split up and the termites will commonly grow wings, turn black in color and swarm. Termites primarily start to migrate in the fall and spring, Alldredge said, and swarming especially happens after rainstorms.
Two-winged termites, called “alates,” are often mistaken for flying ants and will show up after a great deal of precipitation. The presence of alates is a good indicator that termites have taken up residence in a home.
“That’s why fall and spring are always big times for (termites),” Alldredge said, “because we get the most rain during those times.”
Signs of termite infestation
In addition to sighting winged alates in and around the home, homeowners should watch for the following signs of termite infestation:
- Termite droppings, called “frass,” will often become visible when there is an infestation. Frass is very fine, varies in color depending on the type of termite, and resembles sawdust. Anyone finding sawdust-like residue or what appear to be piles of sawdust in their home likely has a termite infestation.
- Some types of termites build “mud tubes,” constructed of mud and frass, which they use as shelters to hide from predators. Mud tubes can be found both in and outside the home. If mud tubes are showing up, it is likely termites have taken up residence.
- Hollow spots in exposed wood are also a sign of termites. Using a flathead screwdriver or similar tool, apply light pressure and probe exposed wood in the home. The screwdriver will break right through a hollow area where termites have been tunneling.
If there is any suspicion of a termite infestation, homeowners should have it checked out right away, Alldredge said.
“For most people, your house is your biggest investment,” he said. “Termites cause more damage than earthquakes, fires, tornados – all the other natural disasters combined; but there is no insurance for termites.”
Termites can eat up to 4 pounds of wood in one day, and termite colonies can range in size from 2-4 million members. Letting an infestation, or a suspected infestation, go untreated can be a fatal mistake for a home. If any signs of an infestation appear, or if a neighbor has discovered termites, the adage to follow is “better safe than sorry.”
“It’s a good indication to give us a call,” Alldredge said.
While some pest infestations can be self-treated by homeowners, termites aren’t one of them. A professional should always be brought in when there is a termite infestation, he said.
To help prevent termites, it’s important for homeowners to promptly take care of water leaks within the home. Certain types of termites get their water directly from the wood they live in, so if there is a water leak in the house, it can create an oasis for termites.
“Eighty percent of the termites I go out on – the person had a leak in a wall or a leak in the bathroom,” Alldredge said.
- If a termite infestation is suspected, Morgan Lawn and Pest Control can help; telephone 435-673-9172. They can also be found on their website and on Facebook.
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