Nobody asks what causes termites out of curiosity. Nope, if you find yourself pondering this very same question, you just want to know so you can start practicing termite prevention strategies.
After all, you already know that prevention is the greatest tool at your disposal when it comes to combating any form of pest infestation or bug problem. Which sounds good on the surface, but what does it actually mean? What steps do you need to take to keep your home free from wood-eating, many-legged threats?
Well, we’re here to help you with a handy guide to what causes a termite infestation and how you can take steps to avoid ever finding yourself in that situation.
What Causes Termites?
Before we get into the most common causes of termites, the first thing you need to know is that there are different kinds of termites.
You see, if we really want to breakdown what attracts the wood-hungry nuisances then we need to acknowledge that not every termite is the same as its neighbor, #NotAllTermites if you will.
There are three main types of termite that you might find yourself crossing paths with on any given day: dampwood termites, drywood termites and subterranean termites.
Now, the names are pretty self-explanatory…the dampwood and drywood species are likely to find their way into your home by living inside the woods they favor (it’s always a good idea to check things that you’re bringing into your home for bugs and creepy crawlies).
The subterranean termites are a little more tricky – as you might’ve guessed, they live underground, usually in a very large colony. However, with the subterranean species, it’s likely that they’d only venture into your home for food before heading back to their hive, so they generally don’t live in your home…Unless their colony is hunkered down under your house somewhere.
But what attracts them, aside from your winning personality?
What causes termites? Moisture
It forms the very foundation of every living thing’s survival on the planet and termites are no different. This is why you’ll often find moisture ranking highly on preventive lists for all manner of insects and beasties around the home.
Any collections or pockets of water around the home are huge invitations for a thirsty termite colony living nearby. Of course, weeding out any unwanted moisture is much easier said than done, especially when dealing with small creatures which can get by on minuscule amounts of water.
Anything from standing water puddles to leaky pipes and especially any moisture/damp damage that might’ve seeped into the wooden structure of your home are huge neon signs for termites.
What causes termites? Wood!
In all seriousness, though – it generally isn’t just the presence of wood itself that attracts termites to your home, but when the wood is in contact with the ground or moist soil around i.e. like the foundations to your home.
Remember that even the bolder drywood and dampwood types of termite still like to move around through mud tunnels and other hidden networks underneath wood or dirt; so having a wooden structure connected to your house makes for a perfect gateway for any home invaders to burrow through.
Additionally, wood that’s exposed or connected to the outside world is likely to be susceptible to the above mentioned moisture which they love so much; wood chips, mulch, overgrown bushes and trees or firewood stacked at the side of the house all make for brilliant termite invitations.
What causes termites? Cracks in the exterior
What attracts termites above all else is basic opportunity. Your house is a fantastic environment for them to set up (especially if you live in a timber-frame home or one with lots of wooden décor), and they’ll use any advantage they can to gain access.
Cracks in the exterior of your home are the biggest opportunities, whether that’s in the foundations or through vents, leaky pipes, poorly sealed doors and windows or something else: they’ll find a way in through them.
What causes termites? A backyard jungle
As mentioned above – some aspects of garden life can be hugely attractive to termites, such as mulching piles and overgrown bushes. However, a major aspect that many homeowners overlook is the presence of trees (big or small) and, more importantly, their stumps once they’ve been felled.
If you have termites in your area, an untreated and forgotten stump can be like mana from heaven. Stumps are very prone to collecting water, mould, fungal growths and their deep roots are still just as present as they were when the tree was full of life. These roots spread over years and can often encroach upon your home’s foundations.
Neglected stumps can be a lightning rod for the hungry termite colony living next door: so always treat them, get rid of them or have them ‘ground down’ by a professional tree surgeon to eradicate the risk!
What causes termites? Clogged gutters
It’s one you don’t often think about, but clogged gutters can have a knock on effect which can bring termites into the home en masse. Gutters that haven’t been cleaned for some time will collect dirt, grime, plant life and prevent rainwater from naturally filtering down into the earth.
This can often lead to damp damage on the house’s structure behind (usually spotted by mould or damp marks on ceilings) which, over time, will create that moist, fusty wood that termites love to sink their teeth into – not to mention cause concerning damage to the structural integrity of your home if left untreated for a very long time.
Simply keep on top of cleaning your gutter and you should be able to sidestep this whole nightmarish situation.
What causes termites? Unfortunate location
Some environments are, unfortunately, just much more prone to termite infestations due to their optimal conditions and there’s very little that can be done about that, unless you create your own backyard factory and speed global warming along. But that might make it worse. I’m never really sure how global warming works. I’m a doctor, not a scientist damnit! (Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor).
Countries, states and territories which are very warm, but also have frequent moisture in the air are perfect environments for termites – all that heat combined with the damp wood… Yum. If you live in such an area, then you might want to double down on termite preventative measures and precautions. Speaking of which…
How to Prevent Termites
You know what brings them in – but what measures can you take to prevent or repel them in the first place?
Termite prevention tip: Maintain your home
Okay, granted, it’s not the simplest solution to a (physically) small problem, but it is the best one when it comes to keeping unwanted pests on the outside of your home; keep it clean, maintained and in good condition.
- We can start with the obvious, as mentioned above, and highlight that keeping gutters clean and avoiding any unwanted moisture from seeping into your home’s structure. Okay, done. What else?
- Make sure your roof doesn’t fall into disrepair; gaps between roof tiles, or even missing tiles altogether (especially after inclement weather) can wreak havoc with moisture getting into your walls and cramped, dark spaces in the attic.
- Do your best to avoid humidity and moisture in the air from settling in the home – any air conditioning units you have should be positioned so that the expunged air is being let out away from the home’s foundations, or any wooden infrastructure.
Termite prevention tip: Get rid of cardboard
Much like silverfish and some other bugs of a similar disposition, termites are drawn towards papers and boxes; particularly all those old school materials, photo albums, books and letters that you like to keep stored away in the attic (Garden of Eden for termites) or the basement (fun nightclub for termites).
Often the cardboard boxes you use to store things are a highlight in and of themselves, not to mention they aren’t airtight so they allow moisture in. Try sealed plastic storage containers over cardboard in the future! Simple, effective and probably much better for your precious heirlooms.
Termite prevention tip: Ditch wood where possible
It might not seem too practical to switch out all of your furniture to something other than wood simply to curb the potential threat of termites. You’d be right – it isn’t practical.
Nobody’s saying you need to have a woodless house; however, when choosing furniture for your home or when renovating, it might be worth considering how old your wooden furniture is, the condition it’s in and whether you’d be better suited with something less tasty, like metal or plastic furniture.
If you find that you just can’t part with that handed-down antique bookshelf, though then at the very least try to keep it away from the walls and skirting boards – this just provides a ready-made ramp for any hungry termites to use!
Termite prevention tip: Seal up and repair pipes
As stated earlier, termites and other pests love to squeeze into your home for the abundant moisture available and they usually do this through the moisture channels themselves: your bathroom and kitchen pipework.
When did you last actually inspect the condition of your pipes? Yeah, I thought so… Been a while, right? Well, in that time the seals may have perished and the passage through from the outside may have swollen or cracked – leaving an open doorway for hungry termites to waltz straight into your home.
Regularly check your plumbing works for leakages, pools of water or gaps in the walls and cavities of your home – where you find any, seal them up with waterproof sealant and dry any moisture collections you can find. This will work wonders in cutting down on your termite risk, plus, you know… keeps your kitchen in good condition.
Termite prevention tip: Build a barrier
These days, when new homes are being built, the foundations are covered in waterproof membrane to protect your home from any seepage from the surrounding soil and ground. Older homes, however, may not have this protective barrier installed – and many homeowners are none the wiser.
Luckily, new membranes can be attached to the foundations long after the build is complete (although it might be a costly and heavy-duty endeavor); which will both prevent any worsening conditions in your home and act as a physical blockade for any termites looking to worm their way in.
Additionally, certain natural materials are effective barriers against termites, such as coarse sand, which they find it difficult to dig and navigate through. These thicker soils can be packed in around your foundations to keep those wood-eaters at a safe distance.
Termite prevention tip: Treat your wood
No, that’s not a euphemism; it’s actually one of the most practical methods of termite control. There are many different types of wood treatment solutions on the marketplace, but our favorite is Bora Care’s Natural Borate Termite Control.
The chemicals in the solution are designed to easily penetrate and seep down into your wooden structures and last years on end (some claim to last a lifetime); this prevents decay, rotting or otherwise degradation of the wood, but also doubles up as a deterrent against unwanted pests such as termites, beetles and carpenter ants.
The huge benefit of using effective, strong wood treatments is that once is enough – usually – to get the job done, meaning you won’t have to repeatedly treat the wood in the future.
Termite prevention tip: Remain vigilant
Of course, all of the above steps are only as useful as you allow them to be. Cleaning your gutters once or re-sealing cracks in your pipes and exteriors will only last for so long before you need to do it again.
So the most important piece of advice that can be given for pest control is constant vigilance – keep an eye out for any intruders, even if you suspect it’s just a lone straggler, and always check the condition of your home on a regular basis. Complacency is a termite’s best friend. He’s a nice guy, Complacency; always picks up the tab at restaurants.
Go forth and prevent termites from sinking their mandibles into your polished wood furnishings! Good luck.