Termite Test Kits

7 Replies

I have seen a couple of houses with termite test kits, and have thought about getting them for my other rentals (single family homes). Is this a beneficial use of my money? What are the pros and cons?

Test Kit? There is "no such thing" as a termite test kit (you may be thinking of a bait station?). Termites are subterranean in general, eat cellulose such as wood, cardboard and the like. A test kit invented would be a piece of wood or cardboard left on the side of a structure to sit stagnant with moisture around, and frequent a visual inspection for dirt shelter tubes, termites eat dirt and poop out-spit out to create a sheltered tunnel in which they travel to eat "cellulose" protecting them from humans and sunlight. Tulsa is not a prominent community for the eaters however they have been known to be present. Google "Termites Tulsa" to get active information. There is no such thing as a termite test kit, you either have them, or are going to get them (aside from northern states and extreme cold climate). Termites are not natural to the United States, they arrived via wood pallets from previous wars coming back to the states on return. Situations conducive to have activity of termites is a whole other story, plants abutting the structure, wood fence posts against the house, any pathway from earth to wood contact, moisture (they have to have moisture and hate the sun or they die, a leaky hose bib on the side of a house is a target), its like Mars, The Martian Movie, without or within without, they will die... Keep a cleaned up leaky free property and your in good hands as well as a walk thru annual inspections, if you get them, $350 typically covers a full tract home trench and treat with a 1 year warranty... Termite conversation covers hundreds of pages if you wanted to dig into it, but most of all, simply budget for $350 on a purchase, and have a local pest guy in your pocket, take him out to dinner or a drink and abuse him when needed...

Joshua,

I had termites in my house when I first bought it. It is a single story block ranch on a slab built in 1940. The walls were not insulated and would sweat in the heat, making moisture in the walls (perfect for termites). My wife and I completely gutted it down to the roof joists and replaced the roof, rebuilt the walls, and sealed everything up very well with lots of drylok. We figured we should protect against termites coming back in and got a quote to treat the garage and house. It was something like $1600 and then another $300/year to keep the service "active". We didn't have that in our budget, so we did some research and found bait stations. We bought two packs of these: 

http://www.amazon.com/Spectracide-Terminate-Termit...

Seemed to have good reviews, so tried it out. Planted them per the instructions. If there are termites eating the bait, a bright orange indicator will pop into the air. They will eat the poison, and take it back to their colony. It is a slow acting poison, but it will kill the whole colony as they all eat it. Within a week of putting my stakes in, the indicators began popping up. At first, they were clear full of termites. I replaced them over and over and gradually the termites stopped coming around. I haven't seen any termites in them for a few months, so I assume it worked. I will keep more on hand and monitor them occasionally. A problem with this I have found is that other insects (like ants) occasionally get into them and cause the indicator to pop. You can see termites crawling around in the bait station if you lift it out of the hole.

The pro to doing this is obviously the cost and the peace of mind knowing you did it and can monitor it yourself. The con is that you don't get any kind of warranty or anything. I know a lot of the companies will offer something like "if termites damage your house during your pest control contract with us, we'll replace the damage at our cost". You can also get one of the pros to come in and check it out and give you a quote for free. They will let you know if you have termites and what the cost would be for you.

@Joshua Price - while bait stations may have some merit, as @Ben Schern pointed out, there's a good chance that sooner or later, you'l encounter them.  Termites (and other WDI - Wood Destroying Insects) are simply a part of the cycle of life within nature.... when trees die, decay and WDI do their part in returning them to the earth.  We essentially invite WDI into houses simply because they are built from dead wood!  

While we take measures to prevent this (i.e., using kiln dried or treated lumber), if those "conducive conditions" exist that Ben alluded to, rest assured, welcomed or not, expect guests.

Simply placing stakes, bait traps, or the product @Jared Schroeder mentioned is no substitute for a professional inspection and treatment in my opinion.  And the latter of which is highly regulated.  Professional chemical soil treatments create barriers - they're not designed to destroy the colony, but rather keep them at bay.  Equally, simply treating the perimeter around a home only address a small portion of available pathways.  Any point inside the building envelope that provides a pathway is a target area for treatment.  That said, I once entered a crawl space that had "freestanding" termite tunnels throughout the area... it looked like a cavern of stalagmites!  As well, I've seen termites travel several stories (disregarding all the wood in-between) simply to make it to the roof where the conditions were like a steak from Ruth Chris.

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