What’s Eating your House?
Detecting and Deterring Destructive Household Pests
By Debra L. Karplus
You’ve been away on vacation and are headed home. You drive onto your street only to find that your house is gone. Wake up; it’s just a bad dream. But allowing household pests to nibble away at your home is a slower route to a disappearing house.
It’s more likely that something like this might happen. You’re painting the wooden siding on your garage and, paintbrush in hand; you discover a soft section in the wood. Upon closer scrutiny, you notice that the wood is very thin. As you peel some of it back you find hollow tunnels. Looks like you may have a termite problem, or possibly carpenter ants, which resemble large ants but can do serious damage outside and inside your home.
Or maybe you’re reading the newspaper and enjoying your morning cup of coffee, sitting out on the backyard deck and out of the corner of your eye; you spot a tidy little pile of sawdust on the porch floor. It takes a moment to register in your mind. “Hmmm”, you ponder, “no one has been drilling or sawing anywhere near my deck, where did all this sawdust come from?” Carpenter bees may be making a home in the underside of your porch railings where you can’t immediately detect any damage.
Pets are fine, pests are not.
While dogs and cats make wonderful, loving pets, destructive household insects are nothing but trouble, so get rid of them, quickly. If you see evidence of an insect problem, never ignore it. Carpenter bees resemble other types of large flying insects, and from afar, it’s difficult to identify which type of bee they are. These bees won’t sting you. They’re far more interested in your house than they are in you! If you see bees regularly flying around the wooden soffits near your gutters or by the railings, especially the underside, of your porch or deck, it’s best to check it out. They’re especially active in the spring.
Carpenter bees drill holes overnight with the precision of a power drill in the hands of an expert handyman. They’re attracted to bare wood and untreated deck boards. So the way to deter carpenter bees is obvious; if you already have some holes created by these pests, fill them in with steel wool and then wood putty , then do some touch-up painting on areas of your house that need it so that there’s no bare wood exposed. Use a deck protection or polyurethane finish to keep your deck and railings looking fresh and insect-free. There are sprays specifically for repelling bees and flying insects that can be purchased for less than ten dollars. Periodically, spray areas outside your house that seem to attract these pests. Your probably don’t need the help of an exterminator for carpenter bees.
Termites are tricky to spot.
Since termites don’t do their damage out in the open, pay serious attention to clues that you might have them; you’re not likely to actually see these small white ant-like crawling pests that build narrow tracks or tunnels in your exterior or interior wood, making the wood hollow. These bugs are attracted to moisture and also love picnicking on rotten or dry wood, so store firewood up on racks far away from the house, garage or wooden tool shed on your property. Termites also enjoy snacking on wood in dead trees. One family cut down a small cherry tree in their yard and found the trunk to be hollow and filled with sawdust, and could see the little white critters scurrying away to safety.
If your neighbor’s house has been treated for termites, you’re likely to eventually have a problem with them, as they’ll be looking for a new place to eat. If your house has already been professionally treated for termites, it’s highly likely that the treatment, which is never inexpensive, came with a warranty, possibly a lifetime warranty, and maybe even provide free yearly inspections. If not and you think your home may be vulnerable to potential termite trouble, schedule a yearly inspection.
Though there are potent products that you can purchase at the hardware store or home improvement center to treat for termites, this is a case where spending the extra money and hiring a professional pest control expert is money well spent. They know which methods and chemicals are best for different types of termite infestations, such as a problem outdoors versus indoors.
Insect infestations never go away without intervention, and if left untreated, can virtually destroy your home. Your job is to know what the damage looks like, be able to identify the insect, and take action immediately. Never procrastinate which you suspect you have termites, carpenter ants, or carpenter bees. If ignored, your house becomes a sumptuous buffet for these critters.