Termites. That word can make any homeowner cringe because termites can cause serious damage to wooden home structures.
With more than 2,500 different types of termites in the world, and at least 17 varieties living in California, homeowners are in a constant battle to protect their homes from the destruction termites can cause with wood structures.
It’s important to note that not all termite infestations are bad, provided they are 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.
How can you tell if you have a termite infestation in and around your home? It’s important to realize that not all termites invade home structures. In fact, there are four basic types of termites: dampwood, drywood, subterranean, and mound builders.
What’s the Difference?
Mound building termites are most common in South America, Australia, and Africa. As their name implies, they build large mounds, either on the ground or in trees, that can reach 25 feet or higher. There are no mound-building termites in North America.
Subterranean termites live underground. They require moist environments and burrow through the ground, and can cause damage to foundations wooden and structural supports, particularly if there is wood rot in the structure.
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 is 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, and can cause damage to mountain cabins.
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 are most likely found in dryer regions of California, including deserts, but can occur in the coastal areas, as well. Drywood termites typically nest above ground.
How Do I Know if I Have a Termite Infestation and What Do I Do About It?
The first sign of a termite infestation in or around your Sonoma County home may come in the form of unusual insect swarms, as termites tend to swarm in fall and spring. Additionally, you may notice what appears to be tunneling in wood, and/or darkening or blistering of wood. 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 tend to be larger, with some varieties being up to an inch long, and their wings, body shape and antennae are different than those of ants. Typically, termites have a wider body, their wings are different, and their antennae are not bent or jointed like an ants. While this may help you know if you have a termite infestation, it is important to have this confirmed by a certified professional as there are other ways of determining if you have termites, as well, and a certified professional can determine the exact type of termite that has invaded your home, and prepare a treatment solution specific to that type.
Unlike other pests, a termite infestation presents a different type of challenge. Whereas many pests invading our Sonoma County homes are coming in to seek shelter and food that may be lying around in our home (whether that be other insects, or food crumbs that have fallen into the cracks between our stove and refrigerator), or have just wandered in through an open door or on the back of a pet, 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. While a homeowner may be able to identify an infestation, it is advisable that a professional be hired to inspect and treat the home.
Before hiring a Sonoma County company to both inspect and treat the home; however, it’s important to realize that having the same company do both could be a conflict of interest as some companies pay on commission; therefore, someone inspecting your home may determine that you require more work than is necessary. It is advisable that you have your home inspected by someone who will not do the work, then provide a copy of the inspection to whichever company you choose to eliminate the problem.
There are many things you can do to try to prevent a termite infestation from occurring. Some of these include keeping all wooden parts of a building structure at least 12 inches above the ground; identifying and correcting any structural issues that may promote termite infestations, such as the use of stucco siding that reaches to the ground; keeping attic and foundation areas well ventilated; regular inspection of the exterior of the building, including any utility or services boxes attached to the exterior of the building; replacing wood favored by termites with wood that is more resistant to termite infestations; and placing a sand barrier around the building’s foundation. If you are building or remodeling a home, you may want to look into your options for preventing termite infestations prior to beginning the building or remodeling project.
While prevention is always the best, once a home or structure has a termite infestation, in order to maintain the safety of the structure, the problem has to be eliminated. How do you do that?
Look for Properly Certified Termite Control Companies in Sonoma County
All Diamond Certified companies located in Sonoma County, including those in Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Windsor, Healdsburg, Sonoma, Cloverdale, Sebastopol, Cotati, and Guerneville, have been thoroughly researched for you, including certification verification, and reliability. If one of these companies does not appear to meet your needs, you will have to do the research yourself. Where to begin?
It’s important to note that termite control is a carefully regulated industry in California and Sonoma County due to the use of pesticides. Indiscriminate pesticide use can cause illness in people and animals. For this reason, it is important to ensure that your termite control technicians, applicators and supervisors are licensed and certified pursuant to state regulations. In California, the Structural Pest Control Board (“SPCB”) licenses termite control companies and provides courses and examinations towards that licensing. There are different kinds 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 types of licenses issued by the SPCB are that of applicator, field representative, and operator. An applicator is someone in an entry level position, and they cannot be licensed in Branch 1. If you require someone to use fumigation techniques to eliminate a termite infestation in your home, it will be important to ensure whoever comes into your home is licensed as a field representative or operator.
In addition to the Structural Pest Control Board, 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. Also, many termite control companies in the North Bay region may hold membership in other organizations, as well. These could include National Pest Management Association and Pest Control Operators of California.
Most of the organizations that certify and license companies for termite control maintain a database of complaints and the validity of licensing and certification, as does the Better Business Bureau. When considering termite control, remember, you have the right to ask questions, and asking for the particulars of a company’s certification and licensing is one step you can use to ensure you are working with a reputable company, and checking out a company’s reputation is the responsible thing to do before you begin working with a company.
Now that you’ve done some basic research on termite control companies in Sonoma County, 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 Sonoma County 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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