The best way to beat a termite infestation is to prevent one from happening, experts say.
Cindy Mannes, spokeswoman for the National Pest Management Assn., said that with the wood-munching insects wreaking an estimated $5 billion worth of damage each year -- "and that's being conservative" -- it would serve people well to take a few simple steps to make their homes as inhospitable as possible for termites.
"Eliminate the conducive conditions: the food, water and shelter sources that they love," she said. "That's the best any of us can do."
The association offers the following tips for minimizing the chances of termites getting into your home:
- Keep water away. Termites love moisture; avoid moisture accumulation around the foundation of your home. Divert water away with properly functioning downspouts, gutters and splash blocks. Reduce humidity in crawl spaces with proper ventilation. Repair leaky faucets. Prevent shrubs, vines and other vegetation from growing over and covering vents.
- Be smart with wood. Be sure to remove old form boards, grade stakes and other materials left in place after the home was constructed. Remove old tree stumps and roots around and beneath the building. Keep wood piles away from the side of your house.
- Keep wood off the ground. This is the most important step, the association says, and an 18-inch gap between the soil and wood portions of the building is ideal. Applying mulch? Keep it away from the siding -- six to eight six inches if possible, according to several Lawrence pest control professionals.
Mannes, whose association represents more than 5,000 pest control professionals and others in the United States and abroad, said that termites were among the most destructive of all pests. But she acknowledges that they do play a productive role in nature.
"They're good for the environment," she said. "When they live in the forest and grind up the trees, they're a wonderful thing. It's when they come into your house that they're not."