Working on your home you notice a flying ant. But is it an ant? Homeowners often confuse termites with ants because subterranean termites are found in the earth and often move in a file, like ants. They may refer to them as “white ants” when they are on the ground and “flying ants” when they are swarming.
“All termites need is a small crack in a concrete basement, pipe, loose mortar joint or tiny gap around a pipe and they move in,” said Mark Loffredo, president of Post Exterminating Company and Adjunct Professor at the Technical College of
the City of New York. “More often than not you won’t see the evidence of termites until the damage is done.”
Termites rarely break the surface and move slowly and methodically through the surface. Termites can pass through cracks just 1/32 of an inch wide. Often they go undetected for years until you start noticing sagging floors, decayed loose trim, or cracked plaster. They can leave what are called mud-trails or mud- tubes on usually seen in unfinished areas of basements. Termite tubes are ¼ inch wide and ¼ inch high light brown dirt lines that they move through, their very own mass transit. They also create a distinctive type of damage. These are just a few signs that termite damage has been done.
Subterranean termites are native to every state (except Washington and Alaska) and are prevalent on Staten Island. As soon as the first warm spring day arrives they instinctively come out to breed and hence the swarm. A colony may include up to a million individual termites. On Staten Island, since the water table is high living as deep as 5 feet underground. They are dispersed throughout the soil at feeding sites around your home. Termites find human dwellings offer the ideal combination of warmth, moisture and food.
With over 2 billion dollars of damage caused each year by termites annually you may wonder what purpose termites serve. In the right environment, out in wooded areas, they help break down dead plant matter. Termites are a Saprophyte-like, organisms which eat decaying organic material, turning it back into soil. This is all of the ecosystem. Quite often when new homes are being built they are built right on top of the termites’ natural environment. When building materials are left or buried at the building site you are adding to their food supply.
Under normal conditions it takes the termite colony about 15 to 20 years to eat the wooden material, debris left behind before they move up into your home.
You’ll know that they have begun using your home for their meal when you see large amounts of small white-winged insects fluttering about on your front stoop, back sliding door or even in your boiler room. This often is seen March through early May. Their season is usually the last 2 weeks of April.
Now it is time to call the pest control professional to assess what those flying, swarming creature are and what to do. A trained professional can determine if the winged creatures you are seeing are an ant, carpenter ant or termite. If it is termites the pest control professional places a continuous chemical barrier in the soil that will prevent additional termites from entering your home. Only a trained professional understands how termite colonies behave and are licensed to apply termiticide in a safe and effective way. They are trained to know where to look, what to look for and how to terminate the termites. After the problem has been treated most companies offer a yearly or periodic inspection of you home which will ensure that future problems that may arise do not go unchecked.
Termite infestations are often due to the close proximity of the wood to the soil. However attacks can also be prompted by structural flaws, moisture leaks, buried wood/debris, poor ventilation or poor grading. A preventive measure includes keeping wood out of direct contact with the soil. Termites are subterranean they live in the soil not the wood. If you have fire wood keep it up off the ground and away from the house. The pest control professional will point out these deficiencies and recommend corrective procedures. Some of these can be done by the homeowner, the pest control company or a paid contractor.
Concern over pesticide use
“While it is the goal to eliminate the pests the primary concern for pest control professionals should be to the sensitivity of the environment and the human beings and pets that are in contact with any product.” Mr. Loffredo explains that a major portion of the chemical arsenal that was used in day, prior to 1972, of ddt (a commonly used pesticide that brought with it a host of potential health threats, including as a possible carcinogen) and the like, are no longer manufactured. Bait systems are the norm and don’t allow for cross contamination which means that transferring of chemical from one surface to another is eliminated.
The industry has been working toward being as green as possible throughout the past 30 years. Thirty years ago many restrictions and regulations were put in place that made the industry rethink how they control pests without harming the environment and the beings living in it.
For years, the standard method of controlling pests was to spray or place a continuous chemical barrier. The bait system approach employs the use of little devices that are placed in the home in inconspicuous and tamper resistant. The bait is placed inside. A bait system requires ongoing inspection, monitoring and re-baiting as needed.
When working with a licensed pest control professional ask them if the products they are using are registered in New York State. Some products can be purchased out of state but aren’t following New York State regulations which are highly conscious as to what can be applied.
Today chemically engineering baiting systems, which have been around for 30 years, use growth regulators. Basically the pest brings the food back to its home and shares with family and friends. The product prevents them from repopulating. It is a slower process than direct extermination but ultimately very effective and very green.