Termites are the ultimate workaholics, causing over $5 billion in property damage every year in the US. Termites usually stay out of sight, so if you’re not looking carefully, their relentless chewing could create an expensive problem for your business. That’s why it’s important to keep a lookout for evidence of their handiwork. Here’s how to tell if your business has a termite problem and how to protect against these invaders.
Types of Termites that Invade Businesses
Nearly 50 species of termites live in the United States, all of which fall into one of three ecological groups: subterranean, drywood, or dampwood.
As the name suggests, this group of wood-boring insects lives underground. They build large nests in moist soil and feed on wood that comes in direct contact with the ground, such as fence posts, dead trees, and building structures. Subterranean termites are found in every US state except Alaska, and they eat 24/7, making them the most destructive species in the country.
Unlike their subterranean cousins, drywood termites live above ground and feed on wood that doesn’t touch the soil. They often construct nests in wood products such as ceiling beams, wood window frames, paneling, baseboards, built-in cabinets, floor joists, and hardwood flooring. In addition to wood, they also like chewing on drywall, cardboard, paper, vegetation, and other cellulose-based products. With greater flexibility in what they eat and where they live, drywood termites can cause significant damage to homes and businesses, though they usually do so at a slower rate than subterranean termites.
These insects prefer wood with high moisture content. As a result, they are rarely found in inhabited buildings because structural timber and furniture products typically don’t have enough moisture.
Signs of Termites in Your Business
No matter which species of termites have clocked in at your business, you don’t want them to stick around for long. Remain watchful for indications of termites in your building so you can take steps to eradicate them.
- Termite droppings: Also known as frass, termite fecal pellets resemble dirt, sand, or wood shavings. You may notice these in little piles on the floor, on windowsills, or around the edge of the room.
- Mud tubes: Subterranean termites often build tunnels of soil and wood to protect themselves when traveling between their nest and a food source. You may find these on the ground or attached to the side of your building.
- Swarmers: Some termites develop wings and become swarmers. These flying insects typically appear in the spring, especially after a rainstorm. You may see the swarmers themselves or spot their discarded wings near the windows and doors of your business.
- Hollow-sounding wood: Termites dig tunnels as they eat. If you suspect a termite problem, try tapping on wood structures throughout the building and listen for a hollow sound.
- Soft spots: Press lightly on the walls and floors in your facility. Soft spots could be a sign that termites are digging tunnels through the wood or drywall.
- Burrowed-out holes in paper-based materials: Since paper and cardboard are made of wood, they can be a source of food for these insects. No book or box is safe if you have a termite infestation.
How to Prevent Termites in Your Facility
While many commercial buildings have concrete foundations, termites can still invade. These tenacious insects will force their way through plaster, siding, and foundation cracks in search of food. Once inside, they may devour any wooden or cellulose structure they find. Fortunately, there are several ways to prevent a termite infestation in your business.
- Ensure adequate water drainage: Termites need moisture to survive, so take steps to help the soil around your building remain adequately dry. This includes aiming sprinkler heads away from the building, checking storm drainage sites for effective performance, and installing downspout extenders.
- Prevent leaks: Pipes and utilities are prone to leaks. Keep on top of building maintenance to prevent gutters, spigots, AC units, septic tanks, and other fixtures from leaking water and creating a termite-friendly environment.
- Eliminate rotting wood and debris from around the building: Discard pallets and cardboard boxes properly, and have dead trees removed without delay. Instead of using wood mulch in your landscaping, consider pine needles, straw, grass clippings, or inorganic mulch, such as pea gravel or river rocks.
- Fill foundation cracks: Termites can make their way inside through tiny cracks in a concrete foundation. Hire a company to fill these structural defects and help keep insect invaders out.
- Trim back vegetation near the building: Tree branches and shrubbery should stay at least 12 inches away from the exterior walls of your business. This promotes airflow so damp soil dries out faster, and it helps you spot mud tubes and exterior wood damage sooner.
Treatments to Control & Eliminate Termites in Your Business
Even when following best practices to prevent termites, it’s still worthwhile to schedule a termite inspection every one to two years. A qualified termite service technician may find signs of termites. If so, this gives you a chance to address the issue right away, limiting property damage in the process.
Once the infestation is under control, repairs can begin. Be sure to have any interior wood and drywall professionally treated before installation. You’ll also need ongoing termite maintenance to prevent these wood destroying organisms from returning.
Even if no infestation is found during an inspection, the technician can identify potential risks to your business and recommend improvements. You may also choose to preemptively treat your building for termites. Effective indoor and outdoor treatments create a barrier around your business and stop insect damage before it starts.
Here are some of the most popular termite control and elimination products:
- Orange oil: This alternative form of termite control is sustainably produced and far less toxic than other extermination products. It’s effective against drywood termites and kills on contact.
- Tim-Bor: This low-toxicity borate product is used as a preventative measure for many types of wood-boring insects. When applied to exposed wood and soil, Tim-Bor can protect against termites for 10 to 20 years.
- Altriset: Your exterminator may recommend this low-impact, reduced-risk product to wipe out subterranean termites.
- Termidor: In less than a day, a professional can apply Termidor throughout your property, with benefits that take effect immediately. Termidor kills termites whether they ingest it or simply come in contact with this insecticide.
- Vikane: Fumigation is a method used to eradicate extreme infestations of drywood termites. Vikane is the number one brand recommended for this purpose.
Have you seen signs of termites in your business? It’s always in your best interest to have an inspection. If it turns out you don’t have termites, there’s no harm done. However, if you do have an infestation, your quick response will prevent further damage and help you avoid expensive repairs.
For more information about preventing and treating termites in your Bay Area business, please contact MightyMite Termite at 408.335.7053. While you’re scheduling an inspection for your building, don’t forget to ask about our residential services as well.