By the time you start looking for a guide on how to kill termites, you’ve had that annoying feeling that something is amiss. Maybe you’re noticing dimples in your wooden furniture. Holes in your cardboard boxes. Floorboards creaking of their own accord.
No, you don’t have a weird ghost with a hankering for wood – but it’s highly likely that you do have a termite problem.
Treating a termite infestation can be a war fought on several fronts at once and nobody would blame you for looking to the internet for some extra guidance. So let’s jump right in.
Termite Detection 101
As with many things: early detection is the best tool at your disposal when it comes to fighting termites in the home. Often, a termite problem can go unnoticed for months or even years until something suddenly gives way and you’re knee deep in wood shavings and hungry mandibles.
By this point, you likely already know the usual signs of termites: look for discarded or shed wings lying around openings, doorways and windows; look out for frass (termite poop) piled up around skirting boards and such like; keep an eye out for holes in wood, hollow wood or sagging floorboards.
However, when it comes to eradicating them, you want to take matters into your own hands and effectively hunt the pests down. The best way to do this is to equip yourself with a screwdriver, a torch (UV if possible – more on that later) and some free time.
Tap around suspect wooden areas to check for any hollow ringing on the other side, once you think you’ve identified a hollow space, try piercing the wood with the screwdriver.
If it gives easily, you may have a termite problem on your hands (look out for dirt around any holes in wood, in these areas!).
How to Kill Termites
Now that you know how to locate a termite infestation, it’s time to get to work. Here’s how to kill termites once you’ve found out where they live.
Kill termites with…cardboard traps
Let’s start cheap and simple – embrace the DIY ethic of mass-murder! Cardboard traps are a good home remedy for termites for a variety of differ and you can keep this method as simple as you like.
Effectively, all you need is a cardboard strip or even a small box. Moisten the material so that it becomes slightly soggy and therefore a delicious treat for any wood/cardboard hungry termites in the immediate area and leave it for a period of time (usually overnight at the very least, if not for a day or two).
When you return to it, it’ll likely be a thriving hub of termite activity. All you need to do is dispose of it appropriately – usually burning is the best method – so as to kill the pests off and ensure none of them make it back in! Rinse and repeat as required.
Kill termites by…eliminating moisture
Although this is usually a key prevention trick, getting rid of moisture can actually act as quite an effective method of killing off any colonies that have set themselves up nearby. Remember that termites are attracted to the moisture in your home because they need it to survive; it’s an important food source for them.
By drying out key areas of your house, such as crawl spaces and kitchen/bathroom pipes and plumbing works, you’re effectively starving them.
Over time, this will either kill off any of the local termites living in your home, or at the very least prompt them to seek shelter elsewhere, in a location less hostile than your suddenly dry and unforgiving home!
Kill termites with…beneficial nematodes
It sounds like some magnanimous alien species, I know, but nematodes are actually very small, simplistic worms which are basically the natural nemesis of a whole host of insects and backyard creatures.
‘Beneficial’ might make them sound like cuddly little guys, but these worms are actually pretty hardcore when they get down to business. Once you’ve introduced the worms into your soil or around an area you suspect might be prone to termite activity, they’ll actively search out ‘hosts’ to affix themselves to and then burrow into them to eviscerate the insect from the inside out.
Usually, they’ll target larvae or young offspring and promptly use the now deceased carcass as a breeding ground for their spawn. Beneficial Nematodes are also releasing their latest death metal album this Christmas, incidentally.
You can order yourself millions of nematodes straight from Amazon, but if it’s summertime or you live somewhere over 85 degrees F, make sure to get expedited shipping!
Kill termites with…killing stakes
In a similar vein to the nematodes, you might also consider purchasing some termite detection and killing stakes – which, again, sound like the most metal thing ever imagined.
There are numerous different brands and variations of stakes available, but most boast the same features. To use, you simply ram the stakes into the soil in your yard in areas you either know or suspect might be thriving with termites. Once the stakes ‘detect’ termite activity, they’ll pop up (kind of like your mailbox flag) to alert you to the specific area.
In addition, most stakes are laced with chemicals which are harmful to the termite colony, which means not only will you be able to map and detect where the bugs are, but they’ll likely already be dead by the time you get to digging them up.
These stakes are fantastic tools for investigating your surroundings and making sure that it is a termite problem you have, before taking more drastic measures. Additionally, it also helps to ascertain what type of termite you’re dealing with – killing stakes are likely to respond to subterranean termites… Obviously.
Kill termites by…removing stumps and mulch
While we’re in the garden, why not take all kinds of opportunities out of the equation? Some of the biggest red-carpets of the termite world are overgrown shrubbery, neglected tree stumps and mulch piles which are positioned close to the home.
This is, again, something that tends to apply to subterranean species more than damp or drywood – although, that’s not to say that these other species don’t take advantage of stumps as well.
By removing tree stumps, you’ll be taking away a huge termite magnet from your garden – but remember to remove the roots, too! Even though the ‘tree’ is gone, the roots always remain and sometimes continue to grow, which can put your home’s foundations at risk.
The same goes for mulch: it really doesn’t take long for termites to move into your natural mulch pile, it’s basically a buffet for them. Either position it a long way away from your home’s exterior walls or get rid of it altogether.
Kill termites with…sunlight
Termites have a lot in common with vampires… Alright, they have one thing in common with vampires: they detest sunlight. In fact, direct exposure to UV rays will kill most species of termite (subterranean and dry/dampwood alike).
Sunlight can be an easy punishment to use in conjunction with some of the other methods discussed; the cardboard traps, for example, could be left in direct sunlight to fry any termites inside – although fire is still more effective.
For subterranean colonies that might be infesting your yard’s soil; a mere shovel on a summer’s day can be all that’s needed to kill them off. Simply dig down, deep, and begin unearthing the hive as best you can – naturally, disturbed termites will scurry for safety and dig down back into the soil. However, if you dig a large enough and deep enough space, they’ll quickly have nowhere to run.
Of course, if sunlight isn’t quite as common in your area as you’d like then you can always resort to UV lamps and torches, but you might find this isn’t quite as effective, and might be more of a wild goose chase given the limited capacity of a single bulb.
Kill termites with…orange oil
Unfortunately, you can’t just squeeze a few oranges around the house and consider your job done… Were it so easy. Chances are you’re actually already very familiar with orange oil, or rather D-limonene, which is the active ingredient in many household cleaning products.
Indeed, you can easily purchase high-grade, distilled, pure D-limonene online which will not only keep your cooker and shower tiles sparkling clean, but also kill off any drywood termites you might have infesting the home.
Note: this will not work for subterranean or dampwood termites.
The ‘orange’ aspect comes from the fact that the D-limonene is often rendered from the rinds of oranges, and often has that typical citrusy scent to it: fair warning. The limonene is effective in killing drywood termites, but only when directly exposed to the termite itself, which means it’s not ideal for liberally spreading in suspect areas and waiting for something to happen.
Rather its use is for targeting furniture or wood that you know has some termite activity and applying it specifically in choice locations. Drilling into walls and other areas with termites before applying is recommended.
Kill termites with…cedar spray
Cedar is the workhorse of the pest extermination world – all sorts of bugs, creepy-crawleys and insects can’t seem to stand the scent of cedar shavings, cedar oil or cedar essence, which is sort of amusing when you consider a termite’s staple meal.
But, there you have it; Termite God works in mysterious termite ways. Cedar laced sprays are fantastic for killing off drywood and subterranean termites (as well as some other wood-destroying pests that hang around street corners with termites).
The way it works is kind of brutal, but an extra dose of brutality might be what you need to get the edge on your home-invaders: basically, the scent overwhelms the termite’s respiratory system, causing it to shut down and suffocate the poor thing.
This spray is another wood treatment solution; not necessarily one for outdoor use. Most suppliers claim cedar sprays last a life time, and the additional ingredients aren’t harmful or toxic to mammals, making it an ideal method for protecting your furniture and wooden structures in the home (skirting boards etc.)
Kill termites with…outdoor pesticides
Outdoor pesticides are used mainly for subterranean termites (although these powerful pesticides work on most if not all types of termite), due to their environments being in deep soil.
Naturally, pesticides are one of the most effective means of killing off any termite colonies located nearby your home, but it’s always worth noting that a great degree of caution needs to be exercised: there’s a reason they aren’t recommended for indoors or domestic use.
Most of these higher-grade outdoor pesticides are used exclusively for killing rather than repelling; so it’s important that you follow all of the safety guidelines listed on whichever brand you purchase, and that you wear the appropriate safety equipment.
Note: poor weather conditions can also play a part in pesticide safety. Always dispense the chemicals on a calm, clear day and not during windy weather, which could spread the toxins into a harmful area!
Kill termites with…spot treatment pesticides
When it comes to tackling problem areas within the home, however, you’re better off opting for an indoor spot treatment pesticide – something like Termidor Foam, which is probably the best termite spray.
These foam solutions are effective for all kinds of termite infestation and can pretty much be used as soon as it’s purchased – simply point and shoot.
For best results, fire the foam into cracks, crevices and spaces where termites have been seen eating, living or frequenting. The foam will double up as a killing pesticide and a sort of temporary stopgap.
That said, it’s still recommended that you seal the space up permanently with a proper sealant after the foam has been dispensed; otherwise you run the risk of dealing with the same problem again a few weeks down the line.
(Spot treatment foams are recommended and approved for use indoors, but they still use harmful chemicals, so keep it away from children and try to avoid overuse in food-preparation areas).
Kill termites with…heat and cold
This method is really quite involved and is generally only effective with drywood termite species rather than subterranean or dampwood types. It also must be done by a qualified pest exterminator – this is not one you want to try (or can do) by yourself.
For drywood termites, extreme temperatures can be absolutely lethal and this goes for both ends of the spectrum: blisteringly hot or teeth-chatteringly cold. Now, we’re talking about genuinely extreme temperatures, so simply increasing your heating or turning off the radiators isn’t going to cut it – it requires top of the range equipment and expertise.
In essence, though, temperature killing works by forcing air flow through a sealed, specific area of the home (let’s say crawl space, for an example) which can build to temperatures of up to 140 degrees. The rule of thumb is that the chosen area needs to remain at around 120 degrees for at least half an hour to kill off the termites living in the space.
For cold treatments, things are a little less immediate. A temperature of around 15 degrees needs to be maintained for days on end to slowly grind the termites to a halt and this usually uses liquid nitrogen, rather than temperate air.
Both of these methods, though effective, are usually a last resort or at least something that homeowners try after having no success with some of the other methods listed here, so don’t be tempted to go from 0-60 before you’ve tried some easier ways to kill termites first!
How NOT to Kill Termites
Okay, now that we’ve covered the best ways to kill termites, let’s take a minute to go over some options that you should skip altogether…
Don’t use…a termite fogger
A common tip for dealing with termites is the use of aerosol canned foggers – essentially pesticides which are dispersed in the air through a spray can. Now, if you spray these chemicals onto the termite or the colony directly, it’s likely that you’ll see some positive results.
However, contrary to popular belief, foggers and aerosol sprays will not be effective long term treatments for dry/dampwood termites living and feeding in your wood furniture. Because it’s dispersed in such a fine mist, the pesticide element will not soak into the wood and provide a long lasting treatment: instead, it’ll be more like polishing, leaving only a surface level amount of the substance. Overall ineffective for termites.
A controversial tip for dealing with subterranean and outside termite colonies is to give them too much of a good thing: flood the area with water and drown them out. In principle, this is a fine solution to a pervasive, underground problem but you run the risk of creating a bog or swamp in your back garden.
Additionally, if you don’t drain the water appropriately afterwards then you’ll only be moistening the soil more than it already is, which could attract an even greater number of termites down the line!
Just skip this, it’s not worth the trouble.
You have now been officially equipped with the anti-termite weaponry: how you use it is entirely up to you. Remember that many of these methods and tips are most effective when used in conjunction with one another, rather than standalone solutions…Don’t doubt the pervasiveness of the simple termite.