Beat the Bugs!

prime cuts

Good home maintenance starts with keeping out uninvited houseguests.  No, not your in-laws or your teenager’s horde of friends (though they may really bug you!) we’re talking about wood-munching insects.  Carpenter ants and termites can cause costly damage to your home’s structural backbone and architectural details, so it’s best to keep them away. Follow these simple tips to learn how to spot them and send them packing.

Signs that you have insects

ant_termite_comparison

–          Six-legged crawlers.  Both ants and termites are highly social insects.  That means if you see one, there are bound to be more.  Steve jokes, “If you listen carefully, you’ll hear them partying.” Termites are a bit harder to spot than ants because they don’t like daylight, so it’s always a good idea to have a professional come take a look as part of an annual pest control plan.

bug line up flat
Carpenter Ant, Reproductive Carpenter Ant, and Termites (larva)
drywood-termite-damage_300x276
Termites inside a beam

–          Rotten wood. Mushy, damp, crumbly framing (especially the framing between the foundation and first floor), trim, and windowsills are sure signs of pests, especially if they have Swiss cheese-like tunnels bored through them.  If the wood didn’t grow that way, chances are insects did it.

carpenter ant & saw dust
All in a days work!

–          Sawdust. Carpenter ants tunnel through wood, but they do not consume it.  They leave trails of sawdust in their wake.  So if you see dust but you haven’t been doing any woodworking, ants may be nearby.

tube1r-056
Termite tube on inside corner
termite_tube2
Termite tubes on foundation

–          Termite Tubes. Termites build and travel through shelter tubes (they’re weak and don’t like sun).  Look out for these brown termite highways going up your foundation or exterior walls.

Get them to bug out

–          A basic rule of thumb is that insects like moist wood.  Keeping your home dry is an important first step in making it uninviting for creepy crawlers:

  • Repair any leaks around windows, doors, and trim to make sure your walls stay dry
  • Extend your downspouts away from the house a few feet at the bottom
  • Make sure the ground around your home slopes away from the foundation

–          Dan Fleischer, owner of our go-to Pestex Inc., gave us two environmentally friendly ways to keep the bugs from getting to your house in the first place:

  • “You should be able to walk easily—without turning your shoulders or ducking down—between your house and any plants surrounding it.  Keeping the shrubs in check makes it harder for insects to reach your home in the first place.”
  • “Also, there should be a two- to four-inch deep by twelve-inch wide layer of exposed gravel (no mulch!) around your home’s perimeter.”

–          Whenever possible keep any wood on the exterior of your home two feet off the ground

–          Don’t stack firewood against the house.  Keep it far away in the backyard.

–          Eliminate branches overhanging your house (this will help keep your gutters clean, too)

–          Most importantly, establish an annual pest control plan with a reputable professional.  We highly recommend Dan at Pestex.  This reasonable yearly cost will more than pay for itself by avoiding costly repairs down the road.