I jokingly like to start talks about termites with the thought that there are two types of homes in Kansas those that have termites and those that are going to get them.
However, termites are no joking matter. As the warm days heat the soil and rain increases soil moisture, termites are spreading their wings and taking flight to find new habitat.
Often, the winged pests are the only evidence of the wood-destroying insects. So if you are finding winged termites, you may have the bugs eating you out of house and home and not even know it.
Control begins with proper identification. Termites are often confused with ants. Both insects are roughly the same size and color and have wings when ready to reproduce.
However, there are three key differences:
Waist. Termites have thick waists, while ant waists are thin.
Antennae: Termites have straight antenna. Ants' antennae are elbowed they start straight, then bend 90 degrees.
Wings. Mature termites have two pairs of wings of equal size; ants have one pair larger than the other.
Once you identify the termites, the next step is contacting a pest-control company.
I do not recommend that homeowners try to treat termites themselves. Trained professionals have the knowledge to find the infestation and provide proper treatment to ensure good control.
Although there are many commercials on television, radio and in newspapers promoting termite control companies, the old "buyer beware" adage holds true.
Start by contacting three reputable dealers. Ask friends and neighbors for recommendations. Have each dealer come to your home and evaluate the situation.
To make the decision easier, ask each company three questions.
How extensive is the damage? Compare each report. Did all three find the same amount of damage in the same location? Be leery of a company that claims to find more "damage" but won't show it to you.
What are the treatment options? Treatment methods have changed in the past several years. Currently the most effective chemicals include fipronil, imidacloprid and permethrin. Also available are three baiting systems: Centricon, Exterra and First Line. Each has different strategies and costs. Ask how and where they will apply the treatments and how effective they will be.
How much will it cost? This is where you will see the most variation. I have seen bids from $550 to $1,400 for the same job.
So line up the bids, compare the processes and make some decisions.
Bruce Chladny is horticulture agent at K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County. For more gardening information call the Master Gardener Hotline, 843-7058, from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday or Friday.