Despite of their insignificantly small size, termites cause an incredible amount of damage to human property around the globe every year. Commonly known as 'white ants', they devour large amounts of wood and all other materials that contain cellulose. Though puny as individuals, they often form highly organised colonies of millions or more. Most of the time, a termite infestation in a household goes undetected until it's too late.
Termites seek shelter in places that are humid, still and dark. The interior surface of timber is one of their most favourite dwelling places. They usually leave the outer surface intact, making it hard to notice the damage and also their presence, until the structure has begun to crumble slowly. Most of the times, internal damage inflicted by termites goes undetected until the infestation becomes severe. Wood attacked by termites can easily be mistaken for water damage. The visible signs of termite attacks include bloated wood, puffed up floors and ceilings.
Termites can also live between walls, and the evidence of their presence in the tiny wall-cracks is provided by grains of mud and termite faeces escaping through the cracks. They build mud tubes or tunnels to gain access to a household, for protection against changes in humidity, sunlight and to maintain a constant level of moisture content for survival. The tunnels are generally constructed in corners, cracks in the concrete or brickwork and on the surface of timber structures. Termite infestations can also give out an unpleasant odour which is similar to that of mildew or mould.
Termites can silently chew on expensive investments and they cause more damage that any other pest because they remain hidden from the sight. Fortunately, there are some effective termite treatment and prevention methods which can save the household as well as the valuable wooden appliances in the house from termite attacks:
- Old wood should be kept away from home, and stored off the ground on a metal frame.
- Masonry piers or stumps with termite shields should be used to provide extra support to the floor. Steel posts with capped tops can also act as a good substitute.
- The underside and perimeter of the house should be kept as dry as possible.
- Termite treatment liquids and baits can be used if the infestation is extensive. Liquid termiticides provide a long-lasting barrier prohibiting the entry of termites in the building. Termite baits consist of paper, cardboard, etc combined with a substance lethal to termites.