Every year, the average American home faces an onslaught of attacks from a variety of pests. Ants creep in under doors or through tiny cracks to forage for food in your kitchen or pantry. While carpenter bees don’t necessarily sting, they do drill holes in your home’s overhangs, decks, and other wooden structures. Carpenter ants are commonly confused for termites due to the damage they can do to your home. In the fall, mice are driven inside by falling temperatures and on the lookout for food and a warm place to spend the winter.
These pests are both frustrating and destructive, of course, but it’s termites homeowners should worry about the most. Termite colonies, once inside your home, can literally destroy it in a matter of a few years. The National Pest Management Association estimates that termites do $5 billion worth of damage in the United States every year. Worse, this damage is not always covered by homeowner’s insurance.
Though Spectrum Pest Control does not provide termite extermination services, we do provide other pest control services in Pittsburgh and surrounding areas, and we know that termites are something that need a consistent effort to keep them away from your home. That is why every homeowner should take steps to reduce the risk of attracting termites and other wood-destroying insects. If you want to protect your home against termites, you’ll find a few landscaping tips below that you can use to protect your home.
How to Keep Termites Away From Your Home
In many cases, you’ll need the help of professionals in order to rid your home of any termite infestation. There are things that you can do, however, to reduce your chances of ever having a termite infestation. The key to protecting your home from termites is to avoid giving them a reason to visit you in the first place.
1. Remove Dead Wood and Other Debris
First, you’ll want to remove the source of food for termites, including wood.
You should remove rotting tree stumps, along with dead trees. Don’t leave yard waste lying around. Get rid of any wood debris that doesn’t need to remain in your yard.
Firewood should be stored off the ground and away from your property. If possible, keep it 20 feet or more away from your foundation.
2. Keep Plants and Vegetation Away From Your Home
Plants can help beautify the exterior of your property, while also providing more food for termites. You should limit the use of plants along the foundation of your home. Keep plants several feet away.
If you want to place flowers and plants along your foundation, you should consider using planters or window boxes made from composite materials.
3. Avoid the Use of Mulch Near Your Property
Mulch is often used as ground cover near flower beds and to help disperse rainwater. Its ability to retain moisture also makes it another prime food source for termites.
If you keep plants away from your property, you shouldn’t need to use mulch near your home – other than to protect your basement from rain damage. If this is the case, you should think about replacing the mulch with river rock or gravel.
The rock or gravel won’t attract termites, offers the same rain-dispersing benefits, and lasts forever.
4. Keep Your Trees and Shrubs Trimmed
If you have trees, shrubs, or bushes growing near your home, you should keep them trimmed back. With shrubs and bushes that grow near the foundation, trim the back 2 to 3 feet from your property.
The same is true with your trees. If there are branches extending toward your home, trim the away from the property.
5. Eliminate Moisture Around Your Property
Along with eliminating the food sources of termites, you should limit excess moisture around your property. This requires proper drainage.
Keeping your plants and vegetable gardens away from the home should eliminate the need for irrigation near your property.
You should also make sure that your downspouts and gutters are clear of debris. Use downspout extenders to direct rainwater away from the property.
6. Keep Your Water Features Clean
Water features, such as ponds and fountains, are often used in landscaping. While these features look great, they can also help attract termites and other pests – including mosquitoes.
If you have a birdbath, change the water frequently. Ponds and fountains should use pumps to ensure regular circulation. Also, you might want to keep these water features further away from your home.
7. Place Wooden Structures Several Inches From Your Home
The final landscaping tip for helping you keep termites out is to avoid placing wooden structures directly against your home.
Decks and porches should be placed at least 2 inches from the house. This is close enough to the home that the gap doesn’t create a tripping hazard and far enough to keep pests away.
Plants That Keep Termites Away
Yet another way you can reduce your chances of termite infestation in your home is by using plants that repel termites while attracting their natural predators. Here are some plants that deter termites:
Garlic not only deters termites (and vampires!), but if you plant it in a garden or around fruit trees, it also repels aphids, moles and fruit tree borers.
A shrub that originates from India, Vetivergrass can often be found in gardens due to its pleasant scent. Similar to sugarcane or lemongrass, it has a very deep root system and so is often used in places where erosion is a problem. This deep root system, however, is also what repels termites. It contains a chemical known as nootkatone. It’s this chemical that deters termites.
Another plant that scientists have studied to determine what kind of vegetation will deter termites is catnip. Scientists at the USDA Forest Service have mixed essential catnip oil with sandy soil to see what effect it had on termites. Their study showed that when used in the right concentrations, catnip oil mixed with sand not only prevents termite tunneling, but in high enough concentrations, killed termites as well.
Catnip oil breaks down in soil more quickly than other kinds of pesticides, so if you decide to use this method you’ll probably need to do it two or three times over the summer.
These beautiful annual plans are a common feature in any flower garden. Yet you will also notice them planted in and around vegetable gardens. That’s because the bright yellow and orange blossoms are a reliable insect deterrent. They not only protect crops from vegetation-destroying insects like stink bugs, but also deter termites, cockroaches, spiders and ants.
This is a great natural deterrent if you live in an apartment. Placed in pots on an outside balcony or in a more traditional garden with other vegetables, they are a great deterrent for termites, ants and other crawling insects. Just a word of warning — if you have young children, make sure you tell them not to touch the chili peppers and then rub their eyes. On that note, it’s a good tip to follow for more experienced gardeners as well.
If you are reluctant to use pesticides that you believe may be harmful to the environment, the Environmental Protection Agency has recommended mint as a natural pesticide. An herb that repels termites and many other insects, you should plant mint around your yard in a place where it will get full sunlight. It will help prevent termites from infesting your home and lawn. Also, plant mint near doors to keep termites from entering in through any cracks.
What Plants That Attract Termite Predators?
A good way to deter termites is to grow plants that attract their predators. Termites’ natural predators include ladybugs, praying mantises, centipedes and spiders. Catnip plants work well for this, as do geraniums, daisies, flowering herbs, or sunflowers. These plants don’t deter termites so much as attract the bugs that eat termites.
Other Methods of Keeping Termites Away From Your Home
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to termites, so here are a few more steps that you can use to make your home less attractive to this troublesome pest.
1. Beneficial Nematodes
These are small and segmented worms that act as natural parasites to many garden pests — including termites. Once placed in the soil, these worms look for hosts, such as termite larvae, and burrow into them to use their carcasses as a place to lay eggs. You can buy nematodes in most garden stores or purchase them online. You should use them immediately or store them in a refrigerator. It’s recommended that you place nematodes in the soil early in the morning or later in the evening, since UV rays will kill them.
If termites have infested a lawn chair or a piece of furniture from inside your home, place it outside in the sunlight. Termites hate sunlight because light and heat kills them. If possible, leave furniture outside for 2 to 3 days and it should take care of any termite problem.
3. Create a Cardboard Trap
This is a very simple but quite effective idea. Take two or three flat, long, pieces of cardboard. Wet them and then place them on top of each other, placing them in an area where you suspect termites can be found. Termites love the cellulose used in cardboard, so this simple contraption makes an excellent trap. Check the cardboard regularly. When it is covered with termites, take it outside and burn the cardboard. You might need to repeat this several times, and it won’t totally rid your home of a termite infestation, but you can greatly reduce it. Combine this method with some of those mentioned above and you can come very close to ridding your home of termites.
4. Keep Your Home or Apartment Dry
Termites love warm, dark places. They are drawn to moisture because they need water in order to survive. So if you have a damp basement or attic or a room in your home, like a laundry room or a bathroom where people frequently take showers, think about getting a dehumidifier to help take that moisture out of the air and not give termites a reason to settle down.
You should also repair leaky faucets or water pipes. If you’re using a window air conditioning unit, make sure that it’s not creating excess moisture.
5. Seal Cracks in or Around Your Home
Insects can enter your home through screen windows with small tears in the mesh, small cracks in doorways and holes around pipes or wiring, among other tiny entrances. For the best protection, you may want to check your home for these vulnerabilities and use caulking to seal them. This is an important step toward preventing termites and many other insects from invading your home.
6. Apply Pest Repellent in Appropriate Places
Permethrin is a safe pesticide that has been approved for human use. Fortunately for you, termites hate it. If you add about 1 tablespoon of permethrin to a gallon of paint, wallpaper glue or wood polish while you are either building or repainting your house, this will keep termites away for good. Permethrin can even be added to the cement you use to put in a floor in the basement or mix it with the wood glue that is used when putting in a wooden floor. There is no risk of toxicity for you or your family when you use permethrin to prevent termite infestation.
Signs You Already Have Termites
You can take steps to reduce your risk of termites. The main tip to remember is to keep the use of wood, mulch, and plants around your property to a minimum. The bottom line is that you should limit the landscaping features that you use close to your foundation. But, if you’ve already noticed the signs of termites in or around your property, you should contact a local pest control company.
You may notice structural damage, such as weakened floors or ceilings. Early signs include exterior damage, such as a gritty film on wood surfaces. You may also notice muddy tubes running along walls.
Dry wood termites often appear inside wooden structures that they’ve burrowed into. You may see signs of these colonies along cracks or openings in wood walls or furniture.
Other signs include swollen floors or ceilings, buckling wood, and what appears to be water damage. Some people notice a moldy scent.The signs of termite infestations need to be dealt with quickly. The sooner you act the less risk of a serious damage.
Varieties of Termites
There are three kinds of termites that infest homes in the United States – subterranean termites, dry wood termites and dampwood termites. Subterranean termites normally do the most damage, accounting for 80% of Americans’ annual spending on termite control.
You can find the subterranean variety in the soil around your home or in the wood of your home. These are the termites who build the earthen, tunnel structures around homes in search of wood, their food source. Subterranean termites have been known to tunnel towards a home from a distance of as long as a football field. You can also find them in compost and wood piles.
Subterranean termites are common to all states, unlike the other two varieties. Dry wood termites typically live in wood and trees and can be found mostly in warm, coastal areas — particularly in the southern United States. Dampwood termites, on the other hand, build colonies in damp wood and are mainly a nuisance for homeowners along the Pacific coast.