Termites and Termite Control Companies: What You Need to Know

by Matt Solis


Termites may be tiny, but that doesn’t stop them from causing billions of dollars of property damage every year in the United States. As a result, homeowners are in a constant battle to protect their homes from these destructive pests. However, in order to wage a successful war, it’s important to know your enemy and employ the assistance of your allies. In this article, you’ll learn how to identify and prevent a termite infestation, as well as how to find a quality termite control company in your area.

Differentiating Termite Types

It’s important to note that not all termite infestations are bad, provided they’re not in or close to our homes. Termites play a vital role in the breakdown and recycling of wood materials, and when they tunnel in the ground, they contribute to aerating the soil and adding nutrients that allow for better plant growth. The problem comes when termites decide to make their homes in and around human structures.

There are three basic types of termites in North America: drywood, dampwood and subterranean.

Drywood termites can be found in dry, undecayed wood and have been found in human structures, trees (including orchards), utility poles, posts, and lumber used for building. They’re most likely found in drier regions of California, including deserts, but the can occur in the coastal areas as well. Drywood termites typically nest above ground.

Dampwood termites are most common in cool, humid areas, particularly along the central and northern coastal regions in California, and they can be found in wood that’s high in moisture, both above ground and below ground. This makes them the typical pest of beach homes; however, they may also be found in high-humidity woods and forests, so they can cause damage to mountain cabins.

Subterranean termites live underground. They require moist environments and can cause damage to foundations and structural supports, particularly if there’s wood rot in the structure.

Termite Prevention Measures

There are many things you can do to prevent termites from infesting your home, including:

  • Keep all wooden parts of a building structure at least 12 inches above the ground
  • Identify and correct any structural issues that may promote termite infestations, such as the use of stucco siding that reaches to the ground
  • Keep attic and foundation areas well-ventilated
  • Regularly examine the exterior of the building, including any attached utility or service boxes
  • Replace wood that’s favored by termites with wood that’s more resistant to termite infestations
  • Place a sand barrier around the building’s foundation

Identifying a Termite Infestation

The first sign of a termite infestation in or around your home may come in the form of unusual insect swarms, because termites tend to swarm in fall and spring. You may notice what appears to be tunneling in wood and wood darkening or blistering. Wood that has been damaged by termites can be thin, soft and easily punctured by a knife or screwdriver.

Termite identification is fairly simple in that termites are often mistaken for the flying forms of ants, but they tend to be larger (some varieties are up to one inch long) and their wings, body shape, and antennae are different. While this may help you determine if you have a termite infestation, it’s important to have this confirmed by a certified professional, as there are other ways of determining if you have termites. A certified professional can determine the exact type of termite that has invaded your home and prepare the correct treatment solution.

Unlike other pests, a termite infestation presents a different type of challenge. Whereas many pests invading our homes are coming in to seek shelter and food that may be lying around, termites seek out our homes specifically as a food source and a place of shelter, and they can invade portions of the home not readily accessible by homeowners. As a result, the knowledge needed to eliminate the problem is more specialized, as someone involved in termite control needs to have special knowledge of building construction as well as termite identification and biology.

Hiring a Termite Control Company

While prevention is always the best option, if termites have already infested your home, it’s time to go on the offensive and eliminate the problem. To do this, you’ll need to hire a professional termite control company. However, all termite companies are not the same, and it can be hard to differentiate a high-quality company from a low-quality one. So, what can you do?

The simplest way to ensure a quality hire is to choose a Diamond Certified termite control company. Each Diamond Certified company has been rated Highest in Quality and Helpful Expertise® in the most accurate rating process anywhere. Plus, when you hire a Diamond Certified company, you’re always backed by the Diamond Certified Performance Guarantee.

If you decide not to choose a Diamond Certified termite control company (or if there isn’t one in your area), you’ll have to do independent research on the termite control companies in your area.

Considering Credentials

When hiring a termite or pest control company, you should always look for proper licensing and credentials. It’s important to note that termite control is a carefully regulated industry due to the use of pesticides. Indiscriminate pesticide use can cause illness in people and animals. For this reason, it’s important to ensure that any termite control company you’re considering is licensed and certified pursuant to state regulations.

In California, the Structural Pest Control Board (SPCB) licenses termite control companies and provides courses and examinations toward that licensing. There are different types of certifications and licenses, and different areas in which someone can be certified or licensed. The SPCB recognizes three branches of structural pest control: Branch 1 is the practice of using fumigation with poisonous or lethal gases to control household and wood-destroying pests; Branch 2 uses methods other than fumigation with poisonous or lethal gases; and Branch 3 uses insecticides or structural repairs and corrections, excluding fumigation with poisonous or lethal gases.

The different licenses issued by the SPCB include applicator, field representative and operator. An applicator is someone in an entry level position who can’t be licensed in Branch 1. If you require a termite contractor to use fumigation techniques to eliminate a termite infestation, it’s important to ensure that whoever comes into your home is licensed as a field representative or operator.

In addition to the SPCB, other organizations may certify or license a company, including (but not limited to) the County Agricultural Commissioner, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Pesticide Regulation and the California Department of Public Health. Many termite control companies may hold membership in other organizations as well, including the National Pest Management Association and Pest Control Operators of California.

Most of the organizations that certify and license companies for termite control also maintain a database of complaints and the validity of licensing and certification, as does the Better Business Bureau. When considering a termite control company, remember, you have the right to ask questions. Asking for the particulars of a company’s certification and licensing is one step you can take to ensure you’re working with a reputable company.

Next Steps

After you’ve done some basic research, it’s time to talk with a few local companies. When you interview them, make sure you have a written list of questions and note each company’s answers. Don’t settle for the first  company you interview. You have a right to explore your options, but keep in mind that the longer you wait, the more damage termites can do to your home or building.

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