Termites eat wood, and they live in warm, moist soil near food sources such as fallen trees, woodpiles, and houses. They can enter buildings through gaps in masonry as small as 1/32 of an inch. Termite colonies live in underground nests connected to a network of mud tunnels through which the insects travel to look for food, which they carry back to the nest. Even in homes with little wood in the framing or walls, termites may target wooden doors, window frames, cabinets, or shelves. To prevent them from causing irreversible damage, try these tips from "Martha Stewart's Homekeeping Handbook."
Credit: Annie Schlechter

Unfortunately, termite damage is usually not obvious until it is significant. To catch it early, examine the masonry foundation inside and outside for mud tunnels (weblike brown streaks). Probe all masonry cracks, holes, and crumbly areas for insects or dirt formations that might be nests. In addition, check all wooden features of the house that are close to the ground, as well as crawl spaces. Use a small knife or pick to poke into any area that appears rotten or decayed. If you can easily penetrate the wood to a depth of a half inch or more, termites may have damaged the wood. Use the same technique to check all other wooden features of the house and yard, including windowsills, door frames, stairs, fences, trellises, and posts.

The following three treatments may be used individually or in combination, but the best treatment will depend on the severity of the infestation. Before you try to remedy the situation on your own, consult an exterminator for the most effective solution.

1. Bait systems perform well but take time to work; they lure termites to the bait, which they then carry back to the colony.

2. Soil treatments applied around a house's perimeter prevent the termites from getting into the house.

3. Wood treatments that are applied directly to wood that is infested or is in danger of becoming infested act as a deterrent and kill those that feed on it.


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