A termite, also known as “white ants” or “silent destroyer”, is an insect that feeds on wood and other cellulose-based materials, such as paper, cardboard, and cloth. Termites can cause extensive damage to buildings and structures if left untreated. Furthermore, humid conditions make it ideal for termites to thrive as they love moist environments to build mud tubes. Given that such conditions are prevalent here how can Singaporean home and business owners protect themselves these pests?
In this post we will touch upon three key aspects in termite treatment – identifying, removal solutions, and prevention of a re-infestation. Let’s start!
What Causes Termites?
Here are some of the most common causes –
- Presence of Wood – some species, like subterranean termites, need to move through wood or soil in order to get inside houses. Infestation can happen if there is wood touching the foundation of the building.
- Moist Environment – Leaky pipes, improper drainage, and poor airflow all create moisture issues that attract termites.
- Poor Maintenance – Cracks and gaps in the foundation and walls provide an entryway for termites into your home. Subterranean species build mud tubes in the cracks
Identifying a Termite Infestation
The most common type of termite found in Singapore is the subterranean termite (Rhinotermitidae), which lives underground. Termites are quiet pests. They don’t smell, and they’re only active at night. There’s no way for you to know if termites have invaded your house while you were sleeping. However, there are some warning signs to be aware of. Here are some things to look for if you suspect you may have termites:
- Damaged wood – tap or probe with a screwdriver. Damaged wood will produce a hollow sound and is easily pierced. Look out for sawdust-like substance near wood structures.
- Bubbling floors or walls – bubble-like texture on walls or raised portion of wooden floors that are soft to the touch are indications of termite infestation.
- Mud tubes – brown in color and commonly found on walls or slabs. they run along flat surfaces or hang down vertically. Termites use these tubes to move between their nests and feeding sites.
- Small, white wings – cast-off wings on floors around the door and window sills are signs of termites being present
Termite Treatment Solutions
Since subterranean termite colonies mainly live underground, treatment will be ineffective unless it can target the underground colony or the nest. Hence, it is advisable that homeowners do not carry out any treatment procedure themselves. Some of the more effective methods cleaning and pest control professionals use are as follows –
1. Soil and Barrier Treatments
Soil and barrier treatments are the most common approaches when tackling a termite infestation.
Soil treatments – liquid termiticides is applied to the soil underneath or around the foundation of a building, creating a chemical barrier that protects the exterior of your home and stops termites from tunnelling through. This is a form of chemical barrier treatment.
Barrier treatments – protects the interior of your home through the use of other physical or chemical termite barriers.
The termiticide used in these treatments can last up to 5 years.
2. Termite Baiting Stations
Termite bait stations are placed in strategic locations surrounding an active termite colony.
In-ground baiting stations are planted in the soil releasing low doses of slow-acting, non-repellent termiticides. When the termites discover the bait station, they transfer the poisoned bait back to their colony for the entire colony to feed on.
It usually takes 1 to 2 months to eradicate the entire colony. This may seem like a long treatment period but is the most effective in preventing re-infestation from the same termite colony.
The infested area is enclosed, exposing all termites inside it to sulfuryl fluoride gas (Vikane). The fumigation process typically takes around 3 days.
Fumigation ensures that any existing colonies will be destroyed, but it won’t ensure your house is free from future infestations.
This is not a popular treatment method as it forces you to leave your home for 3 days.
How to Prevent Termite Re-infestation
Once termite treatment has been carried out, you want to keep these pests away from your premises! Follow these preventive measures to avoid a re-infestation.
- Keep It Dry – Fix leaky faucets, pipes or AC units. Divert rainwater away from your home.
- Wood – Scrap wood, dead trees, stumps, and roots that may harbor termites should be removed.
- Seal It – Seal any structural cracks or crevices in the walls or foundation of your building.
- Storage racks – Use metal storage racks especially if they are not always in use.
Once termites are discovered, it’s essential to get help from an expert. It is not possible to deal with them by applying off the shelf spray solutions or powder products. They only treat termite infestations on the surface of wood and don’t go deep into the colonies where the real problem lies. Effective termite pest control measures such as baiting, soil and fumigation needs to be carried out by professional expertise.